Thursday, June 5, 2008

The War on Drugs

First off, I do not do drugs myself. I just need to get that out of the way. Whenever there's someone advocating the legalization of drugs, I (and you, probably) tend to think that what they're really saying is "yes I do drugs, and I don't want to go to jail over it." I did smoke pot, but that's behind me now. Even still, I want to talk about the legalization of marijuana.

Yes, marijuana. Not cocaine, not meth, not crack. My problems with those drugs lie in the differences between them and marijuana: the high addiction rates, the tendency towards violent behavior in its users.

Let me get right to it: one of two things is true. Either marijuana is bad for you, harms your health, and causes long-term damage, or it doesn't. Studies have been done intending on proving one or the other true over the years.

If it's true, and marijuana is bad for you, harms your health, and causes long-term damage, then it needs to be legalized. Now wait - follow my logic. I'm not suggesting that a harmful substance be 100% legal and packages in Happy Meals. I'm saying, it needs to be inspected and regulated by the government. The fact that it's harmful shouldn't make it necessarily illegal. We have plenty of harmful, health-threatening things that are legal: alcohol, tobacco, guns, cars that pollute, etc. Alcohol and tobacco would be the two most closely paralleled with a legal marijuana: not sold to minors, not to be consumed in public or while driving (like alcohol), inspected and taxed, the whole magilla. My reasoning: people are going to smoke pot whether it's legal or not. We know this. All the drugs laws in the world won't stop it. But making a substance that's already potentially harmful illegal as well means that those who are going to do it anyway are then going to have to resort to going to some shady drug dealer. There's the chance of getting ripped off, having them not show at all (which only makes us seek out even shadier dealers), getting slipped a "mickey" (having the pot laced with something truly harmful, like PCP) etc. If it's legal, or partially legal like alcohol, tobacco etc., then we don't have to worry about any of that. Also, think about this: if pot were legal, pot dealers would be out of business. There isn't an anti-drug crusading soccer mom in America who wouldn't love that. What happened to the speakeasies of the 20's and 30's when they repealed Prohibition? They simply went away, and with it the bathtub gin. Problem solved.

And finally, if it's not bad for you, harms your health, and causes long-term damage, then it needs to be legalized. The laws and the campaigns to criminalize marijuana had very little to do with actual marijuana. The motivations behind the marijuana laws were always suspect. William Randolph Hearst sought to outlaw the plant because hemp paper was cheaper and easier to produce than wood paper. And as Hearst had major investments in the lumber industry, not to mention major pull with the politicians of his day, and major influence over the American public's thinking by way of his publishing empire, he manipulated and coerced until he was able to affect his will on a nation. But in all of his crusading, there was never once an ounce of proof that his "demon weed" really had any more potential to harm than alcohol. Similarly, as marijuana use was often associated with immigrants, marijuana laws were often particularly harsh in areas eager to cook up reasons to deport Mexicans. I think it's safe to say at this point that marijuana is enjoyed equally by all races and ethnicities. To use anti-pot laws as a way of targeting law enforcement towards one race or nationality would be a misguided effort.

Folks, we spend roughly $40 billion each year on pot laws. Enforcing them, housing the offenders, "anti-drug education" all costs our taxpayers money that would better be spent elsewhere. I'm sure our nation's health care system would benefit from such an infusion of funds, or perhaps our border patrols, or maybe the educational system...? Make your list of how we should more prudently spend $40 billion. Got any ideas?

Obama vs. McCain - Let the Games Begin!

This coming Saturday, Hillary Clinton will announce her support for Barack Obama, essentially making him the Democratic presumptive nominee. And as McCain has been the presumptive nominee for the Republicans for months now, the stage is now set for the Main Event, the One for All the Marbles.

Let me say first that I am a little sorry to see Hillary go. True, she's still a senator, and there's still rumoring about a possible VP spot for her. And while she was never my first choice for Democrats (that was Biden, then Richardson, then Edwards) I think even now that she'd make a good President. She carries the Clinton brand name, which is an accolade by my standards. And regardless of what other shenanigans Bill would have gotten into while Hillary was minding the store, one cannot dismiss the brutal intelligence of the man, and the obvious advantage of having said intelligence at one's beck and call.

Much has been made of the fact that the Democrats didn't get their collective act together vis a vis a nominee until so late in the game, comparatively speaking. With that in mind, there is speculation that those people who spent so long in Hillary's camp have become so entrenched in the "defeat Obama" mindset that now they'd rather vote for McCain than change mantras. I think this ignores the fact that the election isn't for another five months, which is an eternity in the world of politics. The American public has chronic long-term amnesia on most politicians' transgressions, which might also explain how so many of them continue to get re-elected. In November, the Democrats will vote for the Democratic candidate, and the Republicans will vote for the Republican candidate. This is a generalization, and while there will be exceptions, they will be notable only for how infrequently they occur.

To those of you that supported Hillary and now face the prospect of supporting Obama for the next five months, I say: if you truly support the ideals of her candidacy, you are best served by supporting Obama. He and Hillary agreed on 95% of all issues, and that 5% difference is what made it so difficult to choose, hence the long drawn out primary campaign. But that's over now. And if you want to see 95% of what Hillary advocated brought to fruition, go with Obama.

So now we have it, the showdown: McCain vs. Obama. And really, you couldn't have asked for a more symbolic match up: McCain represents much of what Republicans are: rich old white guys with trophy wives and an aversion to change. Obama is young, urban, a little bit angry and definitely a threat to the status quo (see: rich old white guys). Rich white guys have run things for so long, well pretty much since we got started as a country. I think it's a testament to our nation that fifty years ago, Obama wouldn't have stood a chance, and that's we've progressed as a nation to this point. It makes you wonder where we'll be in another fifty years. But I digress.

If McCain wins, it's a safe bet that all the policies and procedures set in place and kept in place with George W. Bush will find another four years of shelf life. Foreign policies, domestic policies, all would receive the cursory re-varnishing that would distinguish them as "new", but basically we'd be looking at business as usual. The question we must ask ourselves as voters is, what will that mean for America, four years hence? Is the path we tread now the same path we want to find ourselves on then? Or has our current idiot in chief so damned us as a nation that to pursue his course of action any further would spell doom for the republic? I tend to think the latter is the more likely. I have ranted at length about the sins of the George W. Bush administrations, and I believe that to pursue his twisted logic as a matter of policy for another four years in any facet of our nation's dealings would ultimately destroy us. We are at war, and for nothing. We are broke, with no plan to remedy our deficit. From health care to education, from the war on drugs to war on terror, Bush's track record is a comedy of what would be errors were they not so mind-numbingly tragic for us as Americans.