Friday, March 27, 2009

United State of Denial

Free and easy to self-administer, denial may be a drug more dangerous than marijuana.

President Obama held an online chat March 26 in which internauts were invited to vote for the question they would most like answered.

According to Shirley Gay Stolberg at the “New York Times,” that question turned out to be about legalizing marijuana and balancing the nation’s books from the resulting tax revenues.

The president, who is a meticulous intellectual, took the economic out offered in responding, “The answer is no, I don’t think that is a good strategy to grow the economy.”

Fair enough. Even a country whose secretary of state admits to its “insatiable demand for illegal drugs,” can’t toke its way out of the hole we’re in.

Ms. Clinton said what she did in Mexico and further asserted that U.S. drug consumption was the cause of much murder and social havoc in Mexico.

Her remarks were made a day prior to the online chat, but they would have made a fair response to the president’s wondering what the question “says about our online audience.”

Obama, of course, knows full-well what it says, not only about the online audience, but about the country generally. It says that millions of Americans have less of a problem with marijuana use than they do with millions of Americans rotting in jail because of that use.

Now highwayscribery, the occasional heresy not withstanding, has stood four corners behind candidate Obama and the presidential version, too. And we realize he has a lot on his plate without having to be bothered with an issue like the legalization of a hippie drug.

But this is what happens when you succeed people not content to leave their misinterpretation of Jesus’ teachings in church and turn them into benchmarks for governance.

Repression begets simmering rage and then, when you decide to no longer raid medical marijuana dispensaries in states that have approved them, expectations rise.

Although it’s better than what came before, the administration’s weed policy has a whiff of the “don’t ask don’t tell” approach that always gets American liberals in trouble.

Rooted in a casual live-and-let-live attitude, it falls easy prey to the moral force of hysterics on the right, while leaving those on the left without a principled policy with which to defend it.

The Obama crowd won’t raid dispensaries for a series of bland reasons such as “it’s not a national priority,” or “it’s a matter that should be left up to the states,” which is not nearly as good or as necessary as saying, “It’s undemocratic to punish such large numbers of people with antiquated and unnecessary drug laws.”

The fear, of course, is attack from conservatives, but they’re already (and always) attacking…so screw ‘em.

In California, we have our fair share of right wing lugnuts, but they are outnumbered. And so Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, a (gulp!) “San Francisco Democrat,” has reignited the debate with a proposal to legalize and tax the “insatiable” habit.

Perhaps because there is a threat of the Mexican drug wars spilling over the border, the normally staid and uptight “San Diego Union-Tribune” took on the issue, and unwittingly gave the pro-legalization crowd a boost by contracting the anti-argument job to a less-than-able advocate.

The “Yes” (we can legalize) banner was taken up by Alex Kreit, an assistant professor at the local, Thomas Jefferson School of Law.

He made it pretty quick and crisp, noting that marijuana is the state’s number one cash crop worth about $14 billion a year (by some estimates).

In case you’re a speed reader with poor retention skills, we’ll repeat: “number one cash crop.” As such it captures no tax revenue and is instead administered by Mexican gangs who behead rivals and dissolve their bodies in giant tins of chemicals.

“Frankly,” he argues frankly, “the idea that something 42 percent of all Americans, including, the three most recent presidents, have admitted to doing is still illegal is almost surreal.”


“Surreal” refers to dream states formed in the unconscious mind. We assert, anew, that this is a case of national denial leading all the way up to our fine young president who thinks a high index of public concern about marijuana is some kind of statistical outlier.

Kreit goes on to observe that 872,721 Americans were arrested on marijuana violations in 2008. He quotes figures and cites an actual study that has our country’s youth claiming they get high more often than drunk because it’s easier to find weed than buy booze.

Putting it another way, he says, “drug cartels don’t ask for ID, but well-regulated legitimate businesses do.”

The “No” argument is advanced by one Jim Gogek, a former editorial writer for the “Union-Tribune” who “has written extensively on drug policy.”

“Extensively” does not, of course, translate into “intelligently.”

Gogek promises not to “go all reefer madness” on the reader and then proceeds to go all reefer madness on the reader.

Unlike Mr. Kreit, he cites no studies or survey, but leans upon tried-and-true tactics of the anti-marijuanites such as conjecture and doomsday prophecy.

The problem with Ammiano’s bill, he says, is that, “California cannot afford more stoned people, especially stoned young people,” even though his opposite numbers has effectively argued that repression fans usage.

For Gogek, there must be no good drunks, happy drunks, violent drunks or bad drunks, because marijuana’s impacts are universal. It saps initiative, increases confusion, and “makes you stupid.”

Like John Lennon or Walter Benjamin or Pauls McCarthy and Bowles…and the last three presidents.

But let’s give Gogek the benefit of the doubt, Marijuana is, as he posits, “the loser drug.”

And so this is the case for criminalization? Could the same argument and classification not be applied to the effects of television? Anne Coulter?

Since we’re speculating here – Gogek started it – we might assume that he spends the rest of his time arguing for the invisible hand and free markets and an economy unencumbered by the weighty hand of government.

What happens in the conservative mind that the same weighty hand they loathe to see mucking about the corporate boardroom becomes so acceptable when rifling through an individual’s stash?

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (916) 319-2013

1 comment:

Barry Lyons said...

I'm not convinced that it's a "don't ask don't tell" kind of policy. I think Obama's taking the longer view. He knows that marijuana should be legal but he also knows that it's political suicide if he says so explicitly. So the way to get around that is to fold his arms, and say the states: "Okay, fine. Show me, California. If your voters favor full-scale legalization in the November elections [Barry: and they will], go right ahead. I won't stop you. Oregon, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, I see there's a strong move toward legalization in your states. If that's what your voters want, that's fine by me."

And then as these other states follow California's lead, the feds will step in and act accordingly (to dismantle the prohibitory marijuana laws at the federal level).