Young: Weed vs. ‘white lighting’
April 17, 2014
Everyone has experienced the oddness of meeting up with a long-lost acquaintance after many years, only to find impressions downright strange.
So it is with me and marijuana.
At least the smell of marijuana, that is.
Though long an advocate of its legalization, I've never inhaled it, except in the ambient sense.
This is no Clintonian dodge. I don't smoke, haven't smoked, won't smoke — anything.
Even the thought of directing smoke down this ol' windpipe makes me gag.
That doesn't mean I think the smell of pot smoke isn't heavenly. I do. Or at least I did.
One of the odd impressions of a nonsmoker, now that recreational pot is legal where I reside, is that it doesn't smell like it used to.
I used to associate the aroma of cannabis with rock concerts and laid-back gatherings. The smell made me smile.
And now? It's less earthy and more skunky. Today's pot is stronger, or so they say. My nostrils agree. It's more stout to the snout.
Whatever the case, Colorado and Washington state are getting acclimated to a new ambiance. It's about time.
A new day? The Denver Post now has a marijuana editor and a spin-off site called The Cannabist.
All of this might alarm you, Bubba, but what I'm seeing out my window affirms what was always evident to me. Pot's no crime.
That hundreds of thousands of lives are derailed and disrupted every year by pot-related detours into the criminal justice system is indefensible.
Pot's prohibition is one of many examples of how so-called conservatives are far from the libertarians they claim to be. Indeed, they are addicted to the most costly forms of state authority. They deride "big government," but venerate it when it comes with bulging prisons and insatiable military machines.
Anyone who ventures into the new territory of legalization has to be concerned about having more stoners, but at its root, simple, 40-proof hypocrisy underlies this prohibition that's still the law in 48 states. (Encouraging: Several states, Maryland the latest, have dropped possession of small amounts from a felony to a misdemeanor.)
In those states, weed is a vice and "white lightning" is nice. It's an obscene double standard when one way of mellowing out is a jailing offense and the other is the communion cup of lawmakers and lobbyists.
Add the physically addictive nature of the latter, the abusive and dangerous behaviors associated, and there's no question in the world which of these vices is more destructive.
Now, get ready for this:
Two things have happened since Colorado legalized recreational pot. One, the state is already raking in millions of dollars in tax revenue from regulated pot sales. The governor's projection: $70 million in Year 1.
The state gets that money. Who doesn't? Organized crime — the neighborhood pusher, the killer cartel.
Second, and most important, by and large, one can tell no difference. The state hasn't seen a surge of pot-related DWI cases. It hasn't seen a surge of people testing the prohibition on toking up down on the corner. It really hasn't seen anything different. I take that to mean that most pot smokers were lighting up regularly before this happened.
What's also happening is that law enforcement and the courts aren't expending limited resources enforcing an unjust law.
Heck, it's a conservative's dream: If you really support less government and free enterprise, you support what Washington and Colorado just did.
We know, of course, that today's authoritarians can't control their urges, whether it be their addiction to tough-on-crime slogans, to prisons, to military might, to firearms, to the never-ending quest to carve Bible verses into government walls.
Other states will join Washington and Colorado in the years to come. Rest assured, however, a wide swath of proud red states will continue to imbibe in the old hooch.
Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:firstname.lastname@example.org.
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