I just don’t know if I think marijuana should be legalized at all. Maybe it’s that I’m getting into my 40s. And maybe I’m a hypocrite… But do I think it should be like alcohol? Anyone over 18 or 21 can buy it?
I remember, many years ago, talking to my father about the idea of legalization. And bear in mind, my Dad, God bless him, smoked a decent amount of grass in his day, said he didn’t like the idea. One reason is that he was already a bit older by that time. But he had this very contradictory and hard to rationalize position which was that he was fine with people smoking pot but keeping it at least nominally illegal kept public usage in some check. Again, how to rationalize that in traditional civic terms? Not really sure. But frankly, I think I kind of agree.
This is exactly what Jason wrote about a few days ago:
I wonder how many people are going to vote against California Prop. 19 next week — while rationalizing that their own marijuana use was merely a youthful experiment. That’s one heck of a rationalization, but it’s a fair bet that a lot of people are going to be making it.
To believe in prohibition, you have to believe — in part — that I, Jason Kuznicki, would be a better human being, or that our society would be a more just one, if only I had a criminal record for smoking pot in grad school. I and about 42% of America. To believe consistently in prohibition, you have to think that America is a pretty terrible place.
The above would be bad enough all by itself, because it’s manifestly untrue. But to turn on a dime and say that some pot smoking — specifically your own — is different? That it was just experimenting? Well. If I really thought that the unexamined life were not worth living, I’d be strongly tempted to homicide.
The most important thing you need to understand about your youthful pot smoking is that you’re not alone. You’re not even unusual. If you’re privately making room for yourself, you’d better make room for the rest of us, too.
You — the guy who smoked a few times in college, or with that one group of friends, or at that one party — you are the average pot smoker. You are not special because you escaped marijuana. You are perfectly typical. That’s what most marijuana use is like. You try it for a while, and then you stop.
Is experimenting with pot really worthy of arrest? Take your answer and apply it to your own life before you vote to do it to someone else. Apply that answer to nearly half the country. Tell me you’re ready to throw that book at everyone. Then maybe I’ll take prohibition a little more seriously. But not that much more.
Golly, that could be a letter written to Josh Marshall directly, it fits so neatly in with Marshall’s own rationalization against Prop 19. When I read nonsense like this ‘nominally illegal’ crap, I admit it makes me angry. It makes me a lot more angry than arguments made by people who don’t know much about drugs, who haven’t tried them and fear them based on years of misinformation and fear-mongering. I forgive ignorance before I forgive this sort of…paternalism, for lack of a better word.
A criminal record is not a joke. Even if you don’t go to jail, it might impede your ability to get a job, to rent an apartment, etc.. Just because you got away with it and didn’t get caught doesn’t mean others are so lucky. As Andrew points out,
any illegality is bound to end up hurting the poor and minorities to a disproportionate extent. It’s not unenforced. It’s enforced brutally upon hundreds of thousands of people. It’s okay to sit there mulling how uncomfortable fully legal pot makes you, as long as none of your friends is thrown into jail, or forever barred from employment, or fired for no reason related to work performance. Josh’s view reminds me of the argument of those who backed sodomy laws but didn’t want them aggressively enforced. They didn’t want to throw people in jail, but they wanted the stigma to remain. Yes, stigma. For one kind of pleasure (being stoned) as opposed to another (being drunk).