Gone to Pot
I had planned to kick things off with a sweeping introductory post, but it seems William Brafford has already taken care of the intellectual heavy-lifting. For now, the essentials of my biography can be found here. I’m very excited to join such an infamous blogging project, and to start, I thought I’d respond to Scott’s defense of Obama’s foray into stoner comedy. He writes:
Listen, there was a time in America where the suggestion that prohibition laws around marijuana ought to be revised would be met with bug-eyed, spittle- launching, vein-bursting retorts of indignation and outrage — there are, in fact, some areas of the country where this remains true. But the fact that the President of the United States and most of the mainstream media felt sufficiently comfortable to outwardly express their amusement with issue at hand signals, as Freddie indicates, a substantial shift in perceptions about marijuana usage amongst a not insignificant proportion of Americas and indicates that, as Andrew points out, there we are in the midst of a generational shift in the people making major decisions about the direction of the country.
There may be some truth to this, though I don’t think marijuana use has ever evoked the sort of cultural panic we associate with harder drugs (Cheech and Chong blazed a trail for Harold and Kumar, if you will). I’m also not sure if Obama’s humorous condescension is a boon for advocates of legalization. Acknowledging the prevalence of casual marijuana use – a nod and a wink to the stoner demographic to keep the natives from getting restless – while simultaneously dismissing its political relevance suggests a certain comfort level with the status quo, which can’t be encouraging news to anyone who’s encountered the business end of drug enforcement.
This, I think, is a function of a certain kind of privilege. The kind that is so thoroughly insulated from the unintended consequences of the drug trade that any suggestion of reform is immediately dismissed with a clever joke and a raised eyebrow. The kind that can sample “pot, . . . and booze; maybe a little blow” without undue consequence. The danger, then, is not that drug enforcement has become an unbearable imposition. The real worry is that our Great American Middle has become so acclimated to the status quo that we can’t even be bothered to discuss reforming laws that are so manifestly unjust and counterproductive.
To me, the most insidious element of drug prohibition is that it gives lie to the notion that we are one nation, governed by one set of laws. For some of us, the legal system is the sharp end of the stick. For others, it’s a protective blanket, a process whose harshest outcomes rarely exceed community service, drug counseling, or a short stint in rehab. The problem is that most Americans are only familiar with the latter option, which explains why Obama’s oh-so-polite dismissal is par for the course when it comes to the drug war.
I’m not sure legalization is a panacea, and I’m certainly open to any intelligent discussion on the future of drug policy. But I’m equally convinced we need to initiate that debate sooner rather than later. Though I can appreciate a politician with a sense of humor, I worry that Obama’s wit does more to delay this discussion than to acclimate the public to the reality of drug enforcement.
My belated apologies for starting things off with such a dour post. On a happier note, my alma mater’s top policy debate team just reached the quarterfinals of the year-end National Debate Tournament, losing to Kansas on a close decision. The NDT is the NCAA tournament’s distant academic cousin – qualifying is incredibly grueling, and making it to the “Elite Eight” is quite a feat. For a small school like Mary Washington, it’s damn near unprecedented. Congratulations are due to Matt and Kevin – go Eagles!