Sunday, June 24, 2007

On the Legalization of Marijuana

I think I'm going to break a rule today I set out when I found political commentary seeping into my blog. Perhaps I've already discussed it before and forgotten (the irony does not escape me) but as a rule I've tried to avoid discussing the legalization of marijuana. Not to be confused with hemp; as I've said before there is a difference. My reasons why shall become apparent, first let's look at my relationship to the issue.

My high school, The Living Education Center For Ecology and the Arts, had a bad reputation for a good portion of the time I was there as a school for stoners. I've always felt this wasn't very fair since it was the behavior of a few reflecting on the whole. LEC did have a tendency of trying to help kids that other schools had given up on, and the results were probably more than one life saved. I think Ernie (Ernie Reed, the director) made some tough calls during that time, and when faced with trying to get a kid out of a self destructive cycle or continuing to be seen as a school for people like Waldo Jaquith and other youths that were on there way to nice colleges and jobs, he chose the kids over reputation. I have to admire him for that.

(For anyone interested in the school, I'm a generation or so separated from the current lot, but talking with the faculty members in privet on several occasions, they sound like a pretty decent group, and most of the troubles I'm referring to, were resolved before I graduated in 04.)

About six or seven years ago I was involved in a legalization group, the name was something like Citizens for Sensible Hemp and Marijuana Laws. I never officially became a member, but acted like one for nearly all extensive purposes. The group was formed on account of the DEA's plan to outlaw all hemp products in America. This would have meant no hemp seed oil, no hemp granola bars, no hemp beauty products at The Body Shop (which were quite popular at the time) and no rope, paper or clothing products. It was one of the most absurd prohibitions I'd ever come across, and effected me personally on two levels. At the time I had less of a handle (pardon the pun) on my allergy to metals and alloys. That hemp hand cream that The Body Shop sold happened to be the best product I'd come across for dealing with my cracking hands. The other reason was that I was reading a lot at the time that Omega-3 fatty acids were shown to help with ADD (which I have) and hemp is the most abundant source.

So I participated in a few activities with the group on the mall. When they talked about also getting involved with the legalizing of medicinal marijuana for cancer patients, I decided I agreed and stuck around, but found I quickly was backing out when the group decided to pursue legalizing recreational pot. Incidentally, this shifted into the primary focus of the group, and shortly after it disintegrated.

Between that rough spot in my school's history, being somewhat of a mall rat for close to six years and trying to form rock bands till about two years ago, I've found myself around a lot of stoners. My attitude around them has shifted over time, gradually declining from a live and let live whatever spirit to more of a polite greeting in social circles with paranoid distancing to general annoyance. I've encountered people that convince me that there is some kind of addictive behavior happening with pot. Perhaps similar to gambling or addictions to sex if not the more traditional chemical addictions of alcohol, opiates and methamphetamines. Call it whatever you will, but I've seen the behavior in heavy pot users, infantile in their need and furious when deprived. I also agree with claims that it can at least agitate some mental problems such as bipolar and manic depressive behavior. These, however, I'm less confident are being caused by THC and perhaps more by the lower quality of pot that urban kids have access to. Polluted soil and pesticides are hard to regulate with something that is illegal to grow in the first place.

More than some risk of addiction or poisoning though (or the fact that even William S. Burroughs discouraged pot use) what has always turned me away from the substance is the clear effect of apathy it casts on some users. That damn lethargic stupidity.

On one particularly conspiracy theorizing night in early 2001, when I was heavily experimenting with free writes and other prose experiments, I wrote a short monologue on how I'd try to control people if I were an evil totalitarian Big Brother dictator. It was horribly simple: I'd destroy a generation of rebellious youths by using their own spite against them. I'd want every one those hippies to be as high as weather balloons and smelling like road kill. I'd want them all to be unintelligent, idealistic couch potatoes, too busy listening to 12-hour Phish songs to actually embark on any really significant political maneuver to elect an official or pass (or stop) a bill. I'd want to point to these vegetables and say to the nation, "you want to side with them? The tree huggers? The dirty pothead hippies?" I'd make them the mascots of my opponents, and cultivate their anarchist pipedreams to divide the Left and guarantee not only that my opponents could not beat me by leaning the same way with two parties against a more organized one, but that half of them wouldn't show up because they were too busy looking at their toes, giggling stupidly.

To me, spite was the key. Turn it against them.

After September 11, protest rallies against the Afghanistan and Iraq wars were being organized. Some would have record-breaking turnouts. And on the TV were anti-drug ads that told us that smoking pot supported terrorism. Few times have I caught myself so sincerely yelling at a television as if it were a real person. The ads were absurd, blatant insults to the intelligence of every rebellious youth in the nation. Afghanistan exported heroin to America, not pot. Pot supported the guy down the street that was growing it behind his mother's azaleas or some Joe out in the county with some crop in the woods. The ads pissed me off so much that they actually made ME want to smoke a joint, just to spite them.

Then I got nervous.

I've never smoked pot and have no plans to. It was never pressured by others to do it because it was clear to them that I was crazy enough without drugs. I had my own built in drip of some sort, which made me able to out weird the most of them. With that in mind, I'd probably be one of the unlucky who go batshit crazy on drugs. My mind's my most valued asset and, to be blunt, I have no plans to fuck it up. People talk about drugs as a doorway to high spiritual plans, but to me it is simply spiritual masturbation. Not that I hold any grand soapboxes against masturbation mind you, but I do believe that some things are healthier to indulge in a simulated form than others. I don't need a televangelist in a capsule swinging on my synapses like a pedophilic Quasimodo, uh thunk-ya bary much.

Returning to the direct matter of pot though, as it would appear that I'm starting to diverge into my opinions of stronger drugs, my stance on them in practice is, like many things, not necessarily the same as my stance on the government's involvement with them. I've known several friends growing up that had abusive fathers, and alcohol was almost a factor in all of their cases. It is hard these days not to know someone that struggles with alcoholism. I shouldn't need to dig out drunk driving statistics. The fact is, alcohol is a bitch of a drug. Yet it is legal, as I think it should be. Still, no one has ever convinced me, despite all I've said, that it is a less dangerous drug than marijuana. Reluctantly, I do find myself in support of its legalization, but in the most passive sense.

For one, if the above would not seem reason enough, I'm troubled by the notion of a world where pot is legal. Sure, it would be a world with less crime, but when we take pot from the woods behind the house and put it in the hands of Phillip Morris, what then might we face? Joints designed to actually be chemically addictive, filled with carcinogens galore? The prospect of pot in the tobacco companies' hands makes my skin crawl.

Beyond trying to face the pros and cons, since my involvement with such a group, few things annoy me more than a pot activist. I look at them and think, this is what you feel is important enough to get off your ass and defend your right to? Smoking a bowl? There are wars going on, bills in legislature. Everyday issues that affect the way we live, breathe and work, and this is it? I guess everyone has to pick their fights though, but it has always struck me as such a petty thing, a matter of principle over necessity, that is best dealt with in a time of social lax. Maybe there never is such a time, only periods when we would rather not read the paper, but the last few years have seemed to me exceptional times to look around at things beyond the futon. That's why I've avoided blogging on the subject. I'm sure some hypocrisy can be drudged up against me, but, aesthetically, these are my feelings on the matter.

That all said, there is a great conversation going down at The Daily Whackjob about legalizing drugs (all drugs). Weather I agree with them or not, I love how they can facilitate civil, intelligent discourses like this. A lot of valid points are popping up that I'm having trouble disagreeing with, particularly the bits on prison and crime in general. Good stuff!


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