At the risk of alienating myself from many of the liberal and progressive people who I usually try to court with my essays, I am going to spend the next thousand or so words being less that kind to your typical pot-smoking, “legalize it bro!”, cannabis championing American.
There was once a time when I was a big believer in the mantra that, “Drugs are bad M’Kay.” It took some time and some experience for these views to begin to shift, and I eventually changed my stance on that most popular of all currently illegal drugs, Pot. I still generally dislike the idea of the recreational use of even “light” drugs, but not for any more or less of a reason than I dislike most other base vices, such as smoking, drunkenness, and spending absurd amounts of money to obnoxiously tricked out cars and loud sound systems. That is probably more of a byproduct of my misanthropy than anything else. At least I can say that my view of Pot has evolved to the point that I acknowledge that criminalizing its use is entirely arbitrary and inconsistent considering what other legal products exist on the market. I even acknowledge the full legitimacy of Pot’s use for certain medical applications.
In short, begrudgingly, and kicking and screaming the whole way, I have joined the ranks of the “legalize it” crowd.
However, as much as I now consider Pot to be a legitimate and legalizable substance, I still find myself filled with contempt towards my own allies, and wishing I could fight for the enemy just to spite them. The actions and attitudes of those fellows I have found on this side of the battle line sicken me. In short, in this war I find the cause of the legalize it army noble, but the soldiers intolerable.
It is no secret that a great many people outright ignore the laws controlling marijuana, and go out of their way to vilify the police and courts that enforce the laws they have knowingly and purposefully broken. When asked about their illicit activates, the most righteous and intolerable of these toadies will refuse to acknowledge the simple and vulgar truth that they wanted to get high or make money, and instead attempt to paint their actions as a moral stand against oppressive governance. They will cite the time-honored and historically significant practice of civil disobedience and paint themselves amongst the likes of Mohandas Gandhi or Rosa Parks.
This is unacceptable behavior. You do not have the right to simply disobey laws with which you don’t agree, and if you are caught, to cite the traditions of Martin Luther King and Susan B. Anthony in defense of yourself is a massive presumption and insulting to any listener with even a smidgen of scholarly insight. The true heroes of non-violent protest and civil disobedience in our history fought to the betterment of all, and for the elevation of human rights and dignities. They fought for racial equality, sexual equality, and to cast off foreign rule. Pot is a vice, pure and simple. Getting high, and profiting off of others getting high, is not a basic human right, it is not integral to our common dignity, and is not the proper cause to use civil disobedience towards. Can you imagine us even having a Martin Luther King day if he marched on Washington to legalize prostitution? Rosa Parks would be nothing more than a back-record in a police file cabinet if she’s sat at the front of the bus for cheaper cigarettes. Gandhi would have been put down in short order and forgotten by history if he’d been championing the right of India to grow opium to sell to the Chinese. The pro-Pot crowd will try their best to dazzle and blind with polemics about freedom, liberty, and privacy. They will do absolutely anything in their power to keep the conversation far away from the fact that nobody, not themselves, or the government, would care about this plant at all if it didn’t get you stoned. The rest is a red herring.
It is also worth remembering that there have been other times in our history when a popular vice was criminalized against strong public opposition. We should not forget that there was a short lived prohibition against alcohol in this country. At that time various people came forth, decided the law was stupid, chose to ignore it, and actively used, sold, and trafficked in liquor. Who were these people? Well Al Capone was the most famous amongst them. They were the mobsters. Now I am not trying to conflate your typical college pot head with a Chicago gangster, but what I am pointing out is that history does not remember those who chose to ignore the law as the good guys. It remembers them, rightfully, as criminals. The police, who upheld the laws of the land, and the politicians who legally worked to have the Act repealed, were the heroes of the day, NOT the moonshiners and gangsters.
But of course not all Pot proponents are abusers, some stick to the law, and to them I give the highest credit. There is a strong record of their position gaining increased public support year by year, and legal victories in various states resulting in the admission of Pot for specific purposes. This is not a hopeless battle, they are making ground every year. It is no stretch of the imagination to say that pot will, in at least a few US states, be fully legal for personal use by the time my children are old enough to partake. These people are doing it right and should be proud of what they’ve done.
And of course, not all users are Pot-Proponents. As with any vice there are going to be young people using and abusing, not so much as a lifestyle choice, but simply as part of being young. I drank before I was 21, I have friends who have done a few light drugs, and everyone knows that kid who was smoking since they were 15. I don’t want to demonize these people. Kids are stupid and will do childish things, pushing the boundaries is part of defining yourself. I support light sentences and ample opportunities to have the record cleared in these cases.
It is just those who conflate the criminalization of Pot with government oppression, and who turn their smoggy pursuit of a simple vice into an altruistic quest, that I cannot stand. Being in the Legalize It trenches alongside these people makes my skin crawl, and I almost want to help the other side win just to deny them their smug hazy-eyed satisfaction.
But I wont. I will stay the course, I will vote pro-Pot, I will support legalize it candidates, and I will still present the best case I can to the misinformed as to why the laws against Pot are silly and arbitrary, even if it kills me to do it.