I live in Portland, which means I have to put up constantly with the scent of weed and stoners with dreadlocks in their hipster gear drinking Pabst. But I also am the daughter of a retired cop, which means I grew up knowing that illegal = not good and drugs = even more not goodness.
Pot seems to be the current obsession of America, but I’ve heard about it so much in this week in particular, that I’m going to explode if I don’t rant and rave about it. And I’ve already ranted once, so that really tells you something.
I am no stranger to the “pot should be legalized” argument. Rather against my will, I hear it all the time. See, kids, unlike most people in my high school, I didn’t do pot in high school. I also didn’t do it in college. I didn’t do it in middle school. I do not do it at a party, I do not do it in a box, with a fox, I do not do it, Hipster Marty (aahhh, it was Seuss Week at work). So I have never smoked pot. Nor cigarettes. Nor drugs of any kind. The only underage drinking I did was the legal kind, where it’s with parental consent and supervision. But if I had friends over, they were not allowed any, as that WOULD have been illegal, and I was horrified when my best friend in high school told me she had started drinking.
People try to normalize illegal behavior in teens and point out that “They grew up alright.” This frustrates me, because I so rarely see that happening. Let’s just take an example of that best friend. She didn’t even graduate high school. Is the connection then that all drunk teenagers don’t graduate? Of course not. But then again, I DIDN’T drink in high school, and I graduated from a private university early with honors. There are other factors at work there, but I’d like to thank the fact that I didn’t waste my time drinking, smoking and f–king throughout my school years as a part of my success. Because I certainly had plenty of acquaintances that did – and they usually flunked their classes.
But let’s focus on the issue at hand. Marijuana, and why it should be legalized. This is a summary of an argument I had with my uncle this last week, and it covered all the standard points that are thrown at me every time one of my friends feels like lecturing me on the wonders of drugs.
His point: Tax revenue from legalizing marijuana.
My counterpoint: People always try this one as a very PRACTICAL reason for instituting marijuana in daily life, and I never buy it. Usually I’m just told that I’m wrong (because that’s winning a debate), but here we actually discussed the point. Taxes are not free money. They’re actually rather expensive money. Because let’s consider the fact that when you legalize a previously illegal substance, it’s a TREMENDOUS amount of work and capital; you must build the infrastructure of dispensaries, you must train civil servants to dispense and supervise it, you must train IRS agents to create and then implement the proper tax on it. Taxed items are also generally more expensive than their privatized counterparts, and throughout our history, America has been GOOD at avoiding taxes whenever possible. With such a well entrenched black market, people will have every opportunity of sticking it to the man, albeit less dramatically since what they’d be doing would be sort of legal ish.
Let’s also remember why we tax such “vices” as cigarettes and alcohol – to discourage their use. Occasionally it will make people go out of their way to avoid the tax or simply pay more for their addiction, but a great many people stop their bad behavior when the price goes up. The idiocy of legalizing marijuana and then taxing it is such that we really stand to lose more than we stand to gain.
His point: Marijuana is “safer” than cigarettes/alcohol, and those are legal.
My counterpoint: This is another one I’m disgustingly tired of. I’ve been told my a registered, practicing nurse that this is not the case, so I don’t know why Jo Blow who hasn’t even taken a class in medicine keeps telling me this. For starters, the weed you’re smoking is not the same as what your idiotic parents were smoking during the 60s (mine too, but one stopped after trying it and the other is allergic). It is much, much, MUCH more potent and destructive. Also, it isn’t grown in government overseen soil where everything’s all nice and clean (as clean as soil is) and, you know, battery acid isn’t leaking. That isn’t the case with weed. It’s chock full of metals your body wasn’t really meant to take. Because hey, who’s going to stop them?
It is true that marijuana doesn’t have the same types of evil that cigarettes do, but I had a ranting/informative discussion with Hanna on this subject while stuck in traffic this week. People are selective when it comes to the evils of cigarettes versus marijuana. The anti-smoking campaign has long made it known that smoking kills, though taking your first puff won’t ACTUALLY kill you and this will be several decades down the road, depending on your penchant for the stink weed. For whatever reason, long-term effects with pot are ignored. It slows down reactions in your brain considerably after multiple uses, in effect making you more of an idiot than you were before you started. So the argument that people who smoke weed aren’t stupid is not in fact quite true (Hanna will no doubt comment correcting me and adding proper terminology, so please forgive errors in my memory).
In case alcohol remains a cheap target for pro-pot people, let us rectify that now. It is possible to have a sip of wine or a bottle of beer without getting drunk (unless you’re me). It is not possible to have a joint of marijuana without getting high. Also, when I go out with my friends, their drinking does not get me drunk. I’ll pass on the second-hand high, thanks.
His point: Drugs were really only outlawed in 1918.
My counter-point: Even so, the history of use with drugs pales in comparison with that of alcohol. Look into the truly ancient cultures and you will find the beginnings of spirits. Drugs are in there, but not as much and not so prominently. Drugs have been used ceremonially – but not as often or as extensively. Ale was a replacement for water during the Middle Ages, when water supplies were highly unsanitary. Coke was not a replacement for bread. If we may only colloquially use the phrase “Eat, Drink, and Be Merry,” we can point out that it is not “Let’s get stoned off our asses.” Certainly drugs were in use. But not like good, old-fashioned, Mother’s own booze.
His point: Of course there’s violence over drugs now, look at the violence of the Prohibition era!
My counter-point: The idea that drugs are somehow the happy, family friendly alternative to other vices is laughable. America’s appetite for drugs is fueling a drug war in Mexico. Legalize all the drugs you want today, but I can tell you that tomorrow the drug cartels will not set up taco shops. Nor is it truly the same as Prohibition. There has NEVER been the extent of use of drugs in America as drink was before 1920. Except maybe the 80s. Just….the 80s. Once again, it’s a comparison that doesn’t really WORK. Drugs and alcohol and the cultural constructs thereof are not the same. Prohibition is not the same as outlawing marijuana.
My uncle did something that has never happened to me in the drug debate: he conceded. He said “Maybe you’re right. That’s just my position on it.” And we dropped the subject like reasonable adults. That makes him infinitely more mature than the friends who have forced this debate on me, but I did feel satisfied having actually won.
I don’t want to seem completely unreasonable. Naturally there would be SOME downturn in violence SOME places if marijuana were legal. But it would acquire the same social problems cigarettes and alcohol have gained in the last twenty years; no smoking in public or in bars, campaigns nationwide discussing the health implications, and instead of drunk drivers we could look forward to high drivers. Out of the frying pan and into the fire, what?
Now, legalizing prostitution? All for it. Let’s save that for another rant, though.