Perhaps a little bit of common sense is finally beginning to seep into our national drug policy. Some states allow medical marijuana, but those who followed their state laws strictly could still be busted thanks to the conflicting federal drug laws. But President Barack Obama has loosened guidelines, essentially telling medical marijuana suppliers that the feds will look the other way as long as the pot people follow their own state laws. This is a baby step in the right direction.
Perhaps a little bit of common sense is finally beginning to seep into our national drug policy.
Some states allow medical marijuana, but those who followed their state laws strictly could still be busted thanks to the conflicting federal drug laws.
But President Barack Obama has loosened guidelines, essentially telling medical marijuana suppliers that the feds will look the other way as long as the pot people follow their own state laws.
This is a baby step in the right direction, but there’s a long way to go before we really begin to free ourselves of the clutch of “Reefer Madness”-style hysteria about pot smoking.
Jack Daniels and cheap white wine are my drugs of choice, but it’s an accident of history that while my vices are legal, those who prefer marijuana break the law.
Ask any coroner or cop how many times they deal with death and violence due to alcohol, and they’ll tell you it’s a routine part of the job. But you’ll never see anyone who died from a pot overdose. And unless a pot smoker gets behind the wheel of a car, the rest of us face little risk from this person.
Anyone who has spent much time in the Netherlands has likely been struck by two things. One, how easily marijuana can be obtained at coffee shops, and two, how most Dutch people don’t give a darn about it. I was struck by how many of the Dutch told me they had never once felt the inclination to try marijuana even though they might live a block or two away from a coffee shop.
As a matter of fact, marijuana use is higher in the U.S., where users risk every conceivable punishment, than in the Netherlands, where adult marijuana smokers face no penalty harsher than a case of the munchies.
The coffee shops function much like a bar, except the drug available there is not alcohol but marijuana. You have to be 18 to enter. Unlike here, where marijuana sales don’t raise a dime in taxes, coffee shop owners in the Netherlands pay taxes on their profits.
And that brings us to California, where at least a few loud whispers are being heard about how quickly legalizing and taxing marijuana could fix that state’s deficit.
That whisper is not being heard in Illinois, which is in much the same money mess. We’ve instead fixated on the vice of gambling as the way to finance all our needs. We’ve seen gambling ruin so many lives that I’m not sure anybody could claim gambling to be less harmful than marijuana use.
Let’s get real. Drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes or marijuana, and gambling can all be harmful.
Most people who are attracted to any one of these vices will partake moderately with no harm done to anyone (except cigarettes, which by any objective measure cause much more harm than any of the others). It makes no sense to outlaw any of them, and a great deal of sense to regulate and tax them.
The really ironic thing is that, to my knowledge, the marijuana plant is the absolute only plant it’s illegal for anyone to grow, even in their own backyard, even inside their own home. You can grow poppies — yes, the very plant from which opium is derived — all you want. Your grandma probably has them in her garden right now, and if she wanted to she could easily manage to get high on opium with her totally legal poppies.
But one marijuana plant will get you in a whole lot of trouble. Even one hemp plant — which absolutely will not work to get anyone high — will get you into trouble.
That’s because our drug laws are just plain silly, and anyone with a perfectly clear, drug-free mind ought to be able to see that.
Pekin Daily Times editor Michelle Teheux can be reached at (309) 346-1111 or firstname.lastname@example.org.