April 2015

Making Pot Legal. Good or Bad?

Author: Barry Kaufman & Courtney Hampson | Photographer: Photography by Anne

Barry Kaufman
In the interest of full disclosure, I should probably lead with the fact that I don’t smoke pot. I know, I know. You can all pick your jaws up off the floor; I promise my propensity for spouting off nonsense and plowing through munchies is simply a property of my own innate chemical imbalances and poor impulse control.

That’s not to say I hold it against anybody who does. I happen to know quite a few extremely intelligent, outgoing, professional people who can’t make it through a day without a toke. I also happen to know quite a few people who are about two puffs away from being horrendously annoying to be around. (I get it, man. You think Dave Matthews Band is great. Talk about something else, please).

In both cases, these people would most likely be that way with or without the pot.

So why am I, a proud abstainer from da ganj, here in support of legalization? The bigger question is, why was it ever illegal in the first place?

Well, if you’ve ever been around a stoned person, you’ll know that William Randolph Hearst, in an effort to protect his extensive timber holdings, used his vast media empire to paint a false image of marijuana as a dangerous drug that led to violent crime. And if you’ve ever fact-checked a stoned person, you’ll know that story is stone-cold bull ploppy.

It was actually Secretary of the Treasury Andrew Mellon, who had invested heavily in the DuPont family’s new invention, synthetic nylon, a material whose success was heavily dependent on the failure of commercial hemp, who pulled the plug on legal weed. So don’t let the fact that the stoners got the facts wrong distract you from the greater point that pot was made illegal under some pretty shady circumstances.

But once it was illegal, it’s hard to argue against making it legal again, right? I mean, this is a drug. We spend millions fighting drugs. We teach our kids that drugs are bad. What are we gonna do? Just tell the kids never mind? You know how many D.A.R.E. coloring books we’d have to revise? We make pot legal, we’ll have to make heroin legal. Next thing you know, we’ll be giving our kids McSmack Shakes in Happy Meals.
Well hold on there, ridiculous straw man argument I just concocted.

There are a slew of reasons why pot should be legal. Let’s start with the fact that, if you’re reading this, odds are pretty good at some point or another you’ve puffed the magic dragon. (Especially those of you reading this on the island; just sayin’.) Now factor in that 609,423 people were arrested in 2013 for simple possession. You could have been one of those people for that joint which you bogarted, my friend.

Think about what an arrest for marijuana possession would do to your record. Think about your face on the cover of that creepy mugshot newspaper they sell at the gas station. Think about losing your job, paying out the nose for legal fees, spending time in jail. Think about all of that coming about because of that one hit that you, statistically speaking, probably took. It’s silly how many people we’ve put in jail over a smokeable opiate no more dangerous than liquor (but infinitely more likely to lead to marathon Mario Kart sessions).

And let’s talk economic impact. As I write this, Vermont is in the process of possibly legalizing pot. The meteoric impact on sales of Ben and Jerry’s aside, a study by the Rand Corp. published in January stated that the Green Mountain state could raise between $35 million and $50 million in new revenue just by taxing marijuana.

And that’s just taxes. You know how much of a tourism impact marijuana has had on the four states that have legalized marijuana? Me neither, because it turns out stoners are super bad with numbers. But I bet it’s a lot.

The point is, we’ve reached a point in our history where we can all kind of agree that maybe pot isn’t the treacherous gateway to hard drug use we all grew up believing it was. And maybe we were misled down the path to criminalization. And maybe there are more important duties to which we could commit the brave men and women of law enforcement. And maybe an extra $50 million in the state coffers would be pretty sweet.
As long as we can all agree that Dave Matthews Band kinda sucks, I say legalize it. 

Courtney Hampson
It’s Sunday night. I am knee deep in home renovations. Up to my eyeballs in work. And, generally stressed out. All. The. Time. So, as this topic weighs on my mind—actually, it isn’t the topic; it is my deadline weighing on my mind—for a glimmer of a second, I thought, hmmm, now I get why people smoke weed. Imagine actually being relaxed? I wouldn’t know what to do with myself.

It is probably important to note that like my favorite president, I’ve never inhaled. I’ve also never had sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky. I tried once (to toke, not to get down with Monica), but couldn’t quite figure out the hold it in your lungs and release thing. And I am impatient, so I gave up. Plus, everyone I knew at the time who was on the weed wagon was kind of an idiot, and I pride myself on not being an idiot.

I’ve never lied to you before, so I am not going to start now. You see, I don’t really care all that much about this issue, which is likely why I am wasting time trying to be funny. I tried to care. I really did. I let Barry pick his side and agreed to argue whichever side he didn’t. (I’m cool like that.) You know I love a good fight, so I figured on hutzpah alone, I could come up with something brilliant.

But, I’ve got nothing.

So I thought the next brilliant move was to ask our editor to send me Barry’s argument to get me fired up (no pun intended) and launch my counter-offensive. And she did. And I read it. And I laughed hysterically. Then I read it again. And laughed even more. Yep, ironically I had the giggles. Barry is pretty darned funny, and I’ve been sufficiently entertained; but have I started to care?

No. Nothing yet.

Slowly I realized that the reason I don’t feel passionately about the legalization—or not—of marijuana is because there are easily a half a dozen more important issues on which we, or more importantly, our elected officials should focus.

Sorry, Spicoli, but I’d prefer that our elected officials spend their time (and my tax dollars) thinking about the 22 veterans who commit suicide every day. Or the more than 10,000 soldiers currently deployed, fighting for our freedom and my right to write this column. Maybe, I think our attention is better focused on the 2.670 people who have been killed this year (it’s only March 22) by gun violence, or the more than three times as many gun incidents. Perhaps the 876,170 dogs euthanized in our country so far this year (Have I mentioned, it’s only March 22, and yes, dogs win over weed every time) might be of interest to someone. Will no one react to the fact that the Kardashian-Jenners have a television show and are getting another one? Is anyone else concerned by the fact that voter turnout in 2014 was the lowest it has been since World War II? And, is it too much to ask that we spend a little time on cancer, lest we lose another 7.6 million people this year?

I know. I know. I am overgeneralizing a bit. And, I apologize to the stoners, who may have some trouble with my math. But, my gawd people, surely there are more important things.

Of course, I am always willing to admit that I might be wrong (actually, that is not true. What are you, high?), so I spent a little time surfing Facebook for some of the burnouts with whom I went to high school, and I am happy to report that many of them are still working at 7-11, living in their parents’ basement, and binging on Hot Pockets, whilst secretly growing the ganja in the converted laundry room.

Hence, while I am pro-munchie (in fact, I could totally go for some Cheetos right now), I’m not in favor of the legalization of marijuana until we take care of some other more pressing issues. 

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