Saturday, December 31, 2011

Fire on the Mountain

It appears that for the first time in the history of the United States, the majority of the public favors the legalization of marijuana. A recent Gallup poll showed that 50% of Americans favored legalization while only 46% opposed it, marking the first time in the polls 40-year history this has occurred. Shockingly, the highest support came from men in the 18-29 demographic while the lowest was senior citizens, which is ironically the group most likely to suffer from cataracts.
This is one of those issues that I was never really sure where I stood. On the one hand, the recreational use of perception-altering substances can often have serious, if unintended, side-effects. On the other hand, Friday was a really funny movie.

From what I understand, the argument against weed is anchored in the idea that it is morally reprehensible and decriminalization is the equivalent of legitimization. It would essentially be the government validating the pot-head lifestyle. Doing so would also become a slippery slope and the umbrella of legalization would soon grow to encompass cocaine, methamphetamines, and Canadian Prilosec until the entire nation was engulfed by a drug-fueled haze.

I can certainly understand these concerns and, unlike Ron Paul, I cannot get onboard with legalized heroin so I wish to avoid the slippery-slope pitfall.  Another argument is how the drug’s effects could compromise the safety of the greater public relating to, say, operating a motor vehicle. From what I have read, the level of impairment resulting from ganga use is on par with, if not slightly less than, alcohol consumption.

There is also the idea that crime rates will skyrocket once half the nation’s able-bodied youth fall under the deviant spell of hash. I could not locate any reliable statistics directly correlating marijuana use with violent crime, but then again you are unlikely to participate in a heated confrontation if you are unwilling to extricate yourself from the couch. In the majority of the cases, it appears that the user simply forfeits whatever ambitions they had in search of empty calories.

Proponents of legalization argue that the regulation and taxation of grass would reduce public safety spending while actually generating revenue through mandatory tariffs. Many point out that the addiction rates and destructive patterns of Mary Jane are no more troubling than alcohol which we regulate and tax to moderate success. Plus, your co-worker at Abercrombie & Fitch can stop pretending that he suffers from seasonal allergy attacks every time the Pink Floyd laser light show hits town.

It seems disingenuous to categorize marijuana with life-shattering substances like heroin or crystal meth. I can envision myself becoming accustomed to the sight of an employee getting baked behind the store with the nicotine addicts, but I am not libertarian enough to be comfortable with my mechanic tying off so that he can get dry while he checks my brakes. We do have a responsibility to prevent undeniably destructive substances from ensnaring the general populace; I am just not convinced that marijuana is any more destructive than vodka.  

While I myself have never partaken of the devil’s lettuce, I feel that the funds utilized to police, prosecute, and house marijuana offenders would be better served fighting much more destructive substances like crystal meth or canned BBQ. Plus, the commercials resulting from the inevitable corporatization of cheeba will be priceless. Can you imagine the TV spot featuring Willie Nelson where he looks gravely into the camera and proclaims, “When it comes time to blaze a fattie, there is only one choice: Willie’s Spanish Angel!”

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