Wednesday, February 26, 2003

Ashcroft Chasing Bongs not Bombs

We’re still under a “Code Orange” terrorism alert. Tom Ridge is urging us to have emergency food, water and other supplies on hand, just in case. We’re about to (rightfully in my opinion) send our bravest and best to war to keep Islamofacists from bringing the war to us. What is the latest move by the Justice Department to keep us safe and secure? Don’t worry, the Rev. John Ashcroft has laid waste a national network of… internet head shops. Whew… I feel much safer now.

Ashcroft was quoted as saying: "Quite simply, the illegal drug paraphernalia industry has invaded the homes of families across the country without their knowledge."

Here we go… it’s about “the children” again. Our kids are sneaking one hitters into our house and we don’t even know it. Man, if you want to get us baby boomers going, bring up “the children”. Your child is smoking pot because she can get a pipe that looks like a lipstick case over the Internet. I guess we’ll have to pull aluminum foil, aluminum cans and apples from the market next… “For the children…”.

What is it about marijuana that scares the hell out of the government? They seem terrified by it. They have, for the most part, given tacit acknowledgement that the psychotropic effects of pot are not overtly harmful in and of themselves. There have been numerous governmental scientific panels (including at least one formed by Presidential Commission) that have recommended decriminalization or legalization. Most of the negative long term risks, except for the ones related to smoking it (which can be prevented by ingestion by other means), have come up red herrings.

The overwhelming majority of individuals who smoke marijuana never move on to other, “harder” drugs. However, this old chestnut is still all the rage at the DEA. The government uses faulty statistics that support the “gateway drug theory” similar to the way professional “environmentalists” use statistics to support their claim of imminent worldwide ecological disaster. Okay, the overwhelming majority of hard drug users smoked pot before moving on to the hard stuff. Most of them also drank alcohol first… and smoked cigarettes… and drank mother’s milk or formula. Headline: “Heroin Addicts First Sucked Milk… Got Smack?”.

The war against medicinal marijuana is cruel and outrageous. If smoking a doobie helps someone on chemotherapy keep their food down, what is the great negative impact to the nation in this? What is the rational for the heavy federal hand? The stated position of the current drug Tsar that cannabis has no medicinal properties is laughable. It has been used as a medicine for millennia, in various cultures.

The current Republican administration mouths off about states’ rights on issues that it wants to see propelled by state legislatures and initiatives and then had the Justice Department spend precious time, effort and money to pound states that have passed medical marijuana laws into submission?

Judging by what I’ve seen in the anti-marijuana spots on TV, the feds now seem intent on creating or exaggerating secondary effects. If you smoke pot, you’re funding terrorism. Now, assuming that you buy this argument, what’s the answer? Well… I’ll grow my own and thereby not contribute to lawbreakers and terrorists. Oh no, you can’t do that because we’ll put you in the pen for five years. Hey, break into someone’s house and steal their stuff, you may not get ANY prison time. Grow some weed for your own consumption and you’re GONE baby. What are they so afraid of?

The latest spot I’ve seen is my current favorite. The ad leads you to believe that it’s a gritty new commercial for a home pregnancy testing kit. The potential parents are white, middle class, look to be in their late 30s and they are concerned. Maybe, they were not planning on having a child this late in life. Maybe they can’t afford another child. We see the parents looking pained as they see that the test is positive. The camera pans to a girl, presumably their daughter, (cast to look like a 15 or so year old) in the next room. The girl is sitting ashamed and humiliated on her bed. Voice over: “Marijuana can make you lose your inhibitions and lead to bad judgments. It’s not as harmless as we thought.”

Oh my God. Marijuana makes good, middle class girls go WILD and copulate like minks in heat. Smoke pot little lady, start to quiver and quake and then it bonin’ time! It’s Sexual Reefer Madness for our impressionable youth and Reefer Sadness for us poor parents.

Okay, before anyone blows a head gasket, I do not approve of anyone under the age of 18 doing any alcohol or drugs. Despite my disaproval, it happens all of the time. I did it in high school. I suspect that my sons will experiment before they are 18. However, 18 is where I draw the parental line for MY kids. If I catch them in my liquor cabinet or smoking pot, there will be swift, effective and reasonable consequences. Most of all, I will tell my kids that the legal consequences for getting caught by the authorities are HUGE. The legal and associated financial ramifications are the biggest risk that kids (and adults) face today if they choose to smoke pot.

That being said, the hypocrisy of baby boomers on this topic is mind boggling. The prevailing opinion of parents seems to be: “Sure, I did all of that stuff (and had a GREAT time, by the way), but for my kids… NO WAY!” The excuses for this hypocritical attitude seem to be: “Well, pot is much more powerful than it used to be.” or: “You’ll have sex and get AIDS.”, or the general (and meaningless): “It’s a different world today kids.”

Bullshit. What scares parents is not that things have changed. It’s that things haven’t changed and that their kids are they same as they were. They’re curious. They’re rebellious. They want to branch out, experiment, explore. And this scares the hell out of most parents.

When I went to school in the 1960s, there were anti-drug and anti-cigarette programs in place. I still remember seeing a film in the 6th grade. It was hosted by Sonny Bono and featured a guy, tripping on pot, looking in the mirror and convinced that his face was peeling off. I remember seeing pictures of the dissected lungs of smokers. The results…? I was a pack-a-day Marlboro smoker by my 16th birthday and an occasional pot smoker by my 17th.

Do I want my two boys to become addicted to cigarettes? No. Cigarettes are physically addictive (I know, I quit smoking habitually when I was 22… it was hell.) Do I want them to try pot? Only if they want to and only when they are “ready”. What do I mean by ready? How much control will I have over it? I’ll answer the second question first… precious little. All I can hope is that the work that my wife and I have done with them over the past 15+ years has taken and that they will not be pressured into trying it before they are mature enough to exercise control and self respect.

Why is the government so scared of marijuana? I do not know. But I DO know that I have not heard a rational, reasonable explanation why cannabis is illegal.

Meanwhile, back at the DOJ and DEA:

"People selling drug paraphernalia are in essence no different than drug dealers," said John Brown, acting DEA chief. "They are as much a part of drug trafficking as silencers are a part of criminal homicide."

Excellent, non-inflammatory analogy, Mr. Brown.

"This is a great victory for the DEA," Ashcroft said.

Yeah… okay Mr. Ashcroft… now would you please busy yourself with rounding up some more of those Al Queda sleeper cells please.


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