COMMENT: A dumb drug for a dumb species
Ah, the eternal marijuana debate. It was a cliche a half a century ago when beatniks raged against men in grey flannel suits, and it’s a cliche today when trustafarians rage against Born Again neo-liberals.
But still, every time we post a story on this issue, as my colleague Mona Mattei did recently, the Lone Sheep comment boards go berzerk. Indeed, the debate seems destined never to be resolved.
But the interesting question here isn’t ‘should pot be legal?’, but rather, ‘why can’t we resolve this issue one way or another?’
After all, it’s not like it’s anything complicated or ambiguous. Quite the opposite, in fact.
Equal treatment under the law
First, we should all remember that allowing things to be legal doesn't mean that we actively endorse them. Pot is dumb. Dumb fun, some would say--dumb and dangerous, others maintain. But in either of these senses, pot finds itself not as some sort of alternate, ‘edgy’ activity, but smack dab in the mainstream of Simpson-esque North American life.
Allow me to elaborate.
"The Housewives of Vancouver" TV show is legal, but it's horribly destructive--as are Twinkies, pork rinds, stock market speculation, cigarettes, booze, and so on. Make up your own list of idiotic activities and bemoan their legality. Despise those who enjoy them. After all, it’s fun to judge others!
So condemn skydiving and plastic bags. Decry mountain biking or driving a car over 50kmh. If you can’t think of an activity to despise on your own, here’s a tip: pick someone you just don’t like, observe them enough to learn what it is they like to do with their days--and pick that.
“That redneck jerk jet skis! It should be illegal!”; “That stupid hippie smokes grass clippings! There oughtta be a law! Oh, wait--there is.” Ah, the simple-minded joys of life.
Pot is great, really. It’s a multi-purpose idiocy, a Renaissance Idiocy. Pot intoxicates like guzzling booze, damages the lungs like smoking cigarettes, lowers motivation like watching TV and induces psychosis just like playing the stock market. But it’s not fundamentally different from any of these absurd activities and should be treated the same as them.
For my money this means either legalize pot or make a whole raft of dumbo pastimes illegal. For the sake of expediency, if nothing else, it seems logical to legalize the stuff.
So why don’t we do that?
Mostly because we're bullies. Pot is a relative newcomer on the scene, arriving at the party long after booze and greed got their hooks into the Western soul. Addicted as we are to all that old school nonsense, we gang up on those who self-medicate with poor old marijuana in order to make ourselves feel better about all our other addictions--to money, status, self-righteousness, sex, shopping, etc.
But that's not right! Bullying is wrong--I know I saw a pamphlet on that somewhere!
Shouldn’t we, instead, restrict ourselves to making things illegal because they harm others? After all, laws exist specifically to protect us from one another, not to protect us from ourselves, otherwise hitting yourself on the head with a hammer would be a crime and we’d be having a War On Cracked Skulls instead of a War On Drugs.
Things like theft and murder deserve to be illegal; pot harms only the hapless pothead. Criminalized pot, on the other hand, results in murder and theft through gang activity. That’s right--by keeping pot illegal we actually foster the growth of crime! Hooray for our team!
Stupidity heaps upon stupidity. Thanks, Mr. Stephen tough-on-crime Harper.
Is there any hope for dope?
We’re just too dumb as a species. That, at least, is my conclusion after four decades spent studying the human condition (first earnestly, then disgustedly, and now bemusedly). And I mean literally dumb as in ‘our IQs aren’t high enough to allow us to make rational decisions on a consistent basis’.
At root we probably despise marijuana because stoned people look stupid. The sight of some frazzled fool stumbling around a 711 at midnight in search of a bag of Jalepeno Doritos reminds us most uncomfortably of ourselves of what we must look like as we shop, work, climb the corporate ladder, troll the bars, pollute the air with our SUVs, act all greener-than-thou, etc.
And don’t go feeling all holier-than-thou, you potheads. You know you feel superior to the wage slaves and consumers. You’re probably on the ‘right’ side of this debate due to a taste for THC more than anything else.
Anyway, now at least you know why this discussion never ends.
We’re lucky in that we’ve stumbled upon the concepts of constitutional democracy and the court system (which allow for reason to occasionally hold sway), so we’ll probably fumble our way out of the marijuana muddle one day. But we won’t be smelling like roses as we do: we’ll be smelling like something else.
And I wouldn’t bother holding my breath if I were you.