The arguments for Initiative 502, the ballot measure to legalize and tax marijuana for general adult use, are remarkably impersonal. People make health arguments, economic arguments and legal arguments.
Who will say, “I just want to smoke it”?
A few weeks ago, I smoked it for the first time in 20 years. It was a quiet happening. I lounged by a campfire, entranced by the flames. Bugs gathered on the firewood, spooked by the smoke and heat. Some jumped to safety and some jumped into the flames. I pondered this for quite a while.
Afterward I thought, Why is this illegal? To protect the children? No children were present. And I am 61 years old. Why should I be subject to the laws for children?
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The public concern over children is overdone. In the current “liberal” regime of marijuana for use as medicine, dispensaries are not allowed within 1,000 feet of a school or playground. It is a stupid rule. Within two blocks of my house a 7-Eleven dispenses tobacco, wine and beer directly across the street from a park with play structures and ballfields. There is no problem for children. The 7-Eleven does not entice the children to buy cigarettes and beer. They buy Slurpees.
Is addiction the problem? I know addiction; I was addicted to cigarettes. Marijuana is not like that. The few people who continue to argue otherwise all seem to be in anti-drug work. They are making a living from prohibition, and they are seeing the worst cases. Their world is not representative and their view is not fair.
They are correct when they say that today’s cannabis is stronger than the twigs-and-seeds stuff of decades ago. I had no problem with it: I used less.
The smoking mixture was called Thor’s Hammer, and it had been “diverted” from a medical dispensary. I suspect this happens a lot. It is what people do. During liquor prohibition, when churches were allowed to have wine for communion, the sale of “religious wine” went up.
In the matter of intoxicants, demand creates supply. It has always been so. The question for government is, do you send in the tax man or the police?
It depends on what you want, revenue or prisoners.
It depends also on the drug. It’s hard to imagine a company with liability insurance, tax accountants and a membership in the chamber of commerce marketing methamphetamine. With marijuana you can imagine it. We are practically there now, and in Initiative 502 we are offered the further steps of state licensing and taxation of growers, processors and shop owners. I-502 is the next step toward cannabis as a regulated commercial product. Not the last step, but a big one.
I’m for it. I’ve been waiting a long time for this.
A final caveat. I am not arguing here for a “drug lifestyle.” I had a taste of that in the summer of 1970. I smoked a lot, then not so much and, by and by, none at all. I had other things to do. A marijuana life is a wasted life — but so is a wine life, a beer life, or a chips-and-dip-with-TV life.
We live the lives we choose. And if from time to time I want a bag of Doritos, a schooner of Hale’s Cream Ale or a hit of Thor’s Hammer, what difference should it make to my government, so long as I pay its tax?
Bruce Ramsey’s column appears regularly on editorial pages of The Times. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org