Tomorrow is election day in Los Angeles and beyond the biggest race (for mayor between a pair of dull left of center bureaucrats of whom the less said is better), the most important ballot measures are three that, in varying degrees, are used to restrict the explosion and proliferation of Cannabis Clinics, “pot clubs”, “Chronicatoriums” (OK, I made that one up) or whatever you’d care to call them. Naturally, the most popular of these, according to polls, is the measure that would severely restrict the number of such venues as they are the classic NIMBY, filling up Southern California’s mini-malls with stoners disinclined to buy anything else from whatever shops are there. Which, regardless of what moral trepidation is claimed by shopkeepers, is the source of their objection, as the Brains or Cyndi Lauper could tell you, money does change everything.
That this is restraint of trade in the extreme is an understatement but given the nature of “medicinal marijuana”, what do you expect? While it is true that marijuana does have valid medical use for glaucoma, nausea from chemo, insomnia and some forms of nerve pain, the only reason this half measure exists is as the gateway to the drug’s eventual legalization. As the case with any “moral scourge”, once it is plainly obvious that the world isn’t gonna end because people toke up and enough marginally interested voters switch their positions as a result (see the companion issue “marriage, gay“), end of laws. Which is why I’ve always seen medicinal marijuana as a crock of undiluted crap in the first place–the drug, in fact all recreational drugs, should be legal for adults period. Not incrementally and yes, all of them.
For the weed, that is inevitable and has happened already in Colorado and Washington state (with some restrictions). Marijuana is not seen as a dangerous drug, not responsible for overdoses, not anywhere near as physically addiciting (if at all) as the presently legal alcohol, nicotine or caffeine. While it’s true that some of the affectations that go along with it can be somewhat inexplicable (see “bands, jam“), they tend to be harmless and as is, the legalization of the drug is a slam dunk (or should be). This isn’t exactly a radical idea and does have an unusual array of proponents.
In reality, all recreational drugs should be. Even the “bad” ones. First of all as “bad” as hard drugs are supposed to be, the laws that govern the punishment for their use are far worse, more life destroying, costlier and have made the US the world’s number one prison state. Secondly, despite being illegal and punishment for same being draconian, people still seem to do lots of them at the danger of their health and well being–yet, when heart disease and diabetes are the first and seventh causes of death in the US, there is no similar call for imprisonment for either overeating, sedentary lifestyle or the injection of corn syrup into processed foods which lead to both–seems absurd. And yes–one does have to eat to live, one doesn’t have to eat everything!
It’s true–tweakers are gross, crackheads are whacked and junkies are thieving, scheming troublemakers. But banning their jollies hasn’t changed any of this. What they do is illegal and they still do it–in the case of the narcotic addict, simply giving them the drugs they want plus clean supplies for injection ends their stealing and severely reduces HIV/HCV transmission. As far as the other drugs go, were they legal, they would not be brewed in a bathtub or in a clandestine lab and have the kinds of impurities that wreak misery on them and (as is the case with heroin/opiate addicts) simply giving them their drugs ends the street crime that goes along with it. Most importantly (but generally unknown to non users), once the stigma of “criminal” is gone, the positive effect is two fold–people that want to seek treatment can do so without stigma and much more importantly, the badge of perverse honor that goes with being an outlaw/renegade dope fiend a la Charlie Parker, Keith Richards or Johnny Thunders is history. Junkies are resourceful, cunning people, but it’s no fun to be a junkie when all you do is go to a clinic, fix and nod out all day.
But because our Puritan roots suggest that all “bad behavior” (as if self-medicating is such a thing) can be stamped out with enough force, none of this will ever come to pass, I fear. It is (no pun intended) Johnny’s pipe dream. And I have no personal stake in this–I haven’t had a drink or rec. drug since Reagan was president, the USSR extant and indie rock any good. The binary thinking which leads to “drugs bad, must be eradicated” is what keeps the prison complex alive and well and the murderous Mexican drug cartels in business. Get rid of the “well-intentioned” laws and both disappear. However, my faith in the common sense of people died long before my sobriety was born, sad to say.