Monday, August 30, 2010

Just Stop Already

I'm getting sick unto death of all the "marijuana is evil and causes evil to come forth" nonsense that is plaguing the airways these days. I turned away from the final commercials of the CSI:Miami tonight because the cause of the fatal accident? Hiding MJ under the hood. This led to cutting the power steering line (which I have to say, as someone who has pillaged through an engine compartment with tools and duct tape, is totally bogus with regards to hiding a dime bag) which led his underage sister into crashing a car and killing two people. It's only the MJ that makes it a crime. Otherwise, it's just tragedy.

But really, how much longer do we have to hear crap about the demon weed? I even wrote into the local radio station after 3 solid weeks of hearing about "major marijuana busts!!!!" when we're just **two months shy from pretty well legalizing it. The point of view I expressed what that if the growers are paying for their own water and electricity for plants grown on their own land, as their neighbor, I don't care. I care when someone grows crops on parkland, just as I would be upset with someone growing commercial strawberries or grazing cattle there without permission. And I care when we waste police and prison resources on this.

Giant ass rant after the jump.

The local radio news host kindly wrote back with a nice try. He told me that there's a lot of coverage right now because this is the time when the plants are large and harvestable, and presumably easier to find. Ok, but that doesn't address the waste of resources. 'But 4 of the 5 major busts were guarded with guns'. Well, 1 major bust wasn't. And I'm pretty sure the town's major employer, a pharmaceutical company, has a few armed guards too. Sure, they're not out terrorizing the neighbors, but that's because their products are legal - and arguably more dangerous - not because their products are drugs. So the fact of linking guns and MJ is about the legality, not the product. Which we learned (not well) with prohibition.

The other objection was that these grow houses were so large that they couldn't be medicinal. Well, the town's big pharma player made $1,700,000,000.00 in 2007 from their top 4 products, the first two of which are the same product in different delivery vehicles. Yes, that's 1.7 Billion Dollars. And even so, their number 1 product was only the number 49 brand name drug moneymaker that year. The top 37 brand name drugs, and the top 9 or so generics, all made over $1 Billion each. So that's $50 Billion in the top legal drugs, so why would the size of a growhouse discount it's likelihood to be medicinal?  Last I heard, the pot market for US users buying from Canada was only $15 Billion.

Marijuana's not perfectly safe: it's a mind altering drug. But it's a relatively mild one compared to everything else, including asprin and Tylenol which probably 90% of households have and take.  Even more, any doofus can grow it and get it to a useable state, just like any doofus can make drinkable, if not good, alcohol. The reason I object to all the crap marijuana laws lies in those two realities, coupled with the fact that people like mind altering substances. We know, through hard lessons, that people will go to extraordinary lengths to get such things. Most people are in fact fine with the easiest ones to get. And that's why the over-the-top prohibition of MJ is such a good correlate to alcohol prohibition. When literally anyone can make or grow this product, even by accident, and can do it effectively in secret, you cannot have effective control of supply. For those cases, prohibition is worthless at best and harmful at worst. It's a little easier to spot gigantic fields of poppies or coca which also need funded processors who know what the heck they're doing, but ignoring reality by thinking we can make it all go away is a ridiculous fantasy as well as harmful.

I think doing something that can or does physically hurt someone else should have a bigger fine/punishment if you're doing it drunk, stoned, or coked up. I think workplaces can insist you don't come to work high or smoke up at work. But the fact of your being drunk, stoned, or coked up in your off time is not something I can get worked up over. Particularly if you're not so much one of those things as lightly buzzed. People do all sorts of things that might not be particularly healthful, but don't really impact me, and we allow most of those dumb things to happen without criminalizing them. When we make the average citizen into a criminal (I'm also talking to you, TSA. And speed limits.) then our laws become ridiculous and a society of laws needs to get rid of ridiculous laws that cause people to lose respect to our legal system.

We find over and over that when common, desirable things are restricted, people tend to binge on them rather than use them sensibly. A couple decades of "Just Say No" education has eliminated the idea of use without abuse, when that is actually the most common thing. The other JSN notion that marijuana is bad and should be avoided because it's a "gateway" drug to other drugs, or causing your SUV to crash on TV, is also misguided. It's a gateway in that once people take it and realize the world doesn't end, they think all the bad info about heroin is wrong too, so they try that without knowing that there's some truth to the fact that heroin really can cause some immediate life threatening harm and is physically addictive. It's a gateway when people wind up with criminal network connections to get something that isn't that bad. ("Criminal" connections to alcohol and tobacco tend to grow up and not be criminals 5 years down the road.) Criminal connections to drug dealers may more easily lead to other criminalized drug connections. Don't teach people how to circumvent the law when engaging in normal behaviors like getting buzzed (or taking lotion or water thru airport security).  It's just dumb to do that.

Speaking of which, when we ARE dealing with drugs that have an immediate danger component, do we want criminals telling us the dose and purity? Or if not us, then our neighbors, our kids, or our colleagues? No, the cigarette industry is not the stand out example for how to give out non-addicting doses of mind altering substances. But we do have a better shot if the production is regulated and controlled for dose, type of effects (Munchie vs. artistic visions), age, purity, etc... than if we leave it to cartels and street dealers, one presumes.  And if we make marijuana legal, my local pharmaceutical company will have all kinds of local suppliers, which will be great for our local economy and maybe my condo will be worth money again.

A less ranty treatment of this topic can be found in Jennifer Crusie's book "Charlie All Night", recently re-released, and one of my favorites.

** Honestly, I think that my state will vote to free the weed before we vote for civil rights for gay adults because even the red-staters here get high.


Up My Mind said...

LOL at your ** comment. :) We legalized MJ here quite awhile ago. Now there is a big stink in how many people in MT have MMJ cards and how "easy" it is to get one. Despite the fact your main-stream doc is hesitant to refer you for a card, the anti-MJ club is raging against a group that sponsors licensed yet out of state doctors that do webinar type appts and give people MMJ cards. They say 10 mins isn't enough time. Puh-leeze. My regular doc spends less time with me at our appts!

And the whole JSN! A friend is on MMJ and his daughter freaked out because he's "doing drugs". Never mind the fact the man has a broken back and the legal meds knocked him out for 24 hours at a time. Now the man is functional to some degree! Took him quite awhile to calm his daughter down. She was convinced the feds were going to arrest him.

Saw a great show on one of the cable channels where a volunteer spent a month in Denmark (Netherlands? Amsterdam?) to try out the whole MJ scene. It was amazing to learn how regulated it is, you can't just smoke anywhere, and they had quality controls.

But I'll stop "preaching to the choir". There's all sorts of shenanigans now to make MMJ here hard to get and possibly illegal again.

CrankyOtter said...

Yeah, the minute we actually have mass sentiment behind legalizing MJ, they'll nibble the laws to death, like they do for abortion, to try and make it inaccessible. Of course, that'll fail because as I said, any doofus can grow and use pot. It takes training and committment to help women end unwanted pregnancies - so the things they try will be similar, but it won't work as well.

Honestly, if we were wise, everyone would have a bottle of THC derived meds in their cabinet next to the asprin and tylenol and ibuprofen. We know it's safer than most painkillers, and as in your friend's case, the side effects are generally mild enough that people can use it for what's ailing them without checking out. As someone who got legal opiates after surgery and had them make me pass out, then turn into a rage machine the following day, I have to say that pot sounds like a much more sensible alternative. I was out of work, and needed care, more for the drug's side effects than the healing process.

I'm not naive enough to think that people won't abuse it, but that is insufficient reason not to let everyone else use it.

I sometimes wonder if my chronic pain issues that ate a good portion of my twenties would have been well managed if I could have had get medical mj with proper dosing to relieve pain and help me sleep. Yes, I've felt "10" on a pain scale of 1-10 and every trick in the existing legal toolset was barely enough to dent it. (Electrifying nerves is interesting but causes more pain before less pain, for the record.) I owe my life and career to acupuncture, which was what helped most. But I still wonder.

Of course, I'm sitting here with a bruised bone in my toe thinking "nah, I don't need more advil", so I expect I'd do the same with pot most days too.