This Bud’s for You

According to statistics that many national and international publications consider reliable, almost half of our adult population, around 100 million Americans, have “experimented with” or continue to use marijuana.

Given the ordinances against marijuana on most municipal books, some of which are enforced assiduously in certain regions of the nation, we are largely a republic of criminals. Various law enforcement agencies make more than 700,000 arrests each year for possessing a weed that will grow in your backyard as easily as cherry tomatoes, and something like 40,000 folks are actually imprisoned for pot-related offenses. Those that are convicted but don’t get put behind bars face public humiliation, decreased job prospects, and permanent exclusion from political office. We’re reminded every election cycle that marijuana use is an enormous blot on the campaign resume that must be equivocated away in best-selling autobiographies filled with ashamed and apologetic claims of youthful indiscretion. 

Confirmation to the Supreme Court, as a nominee like Douglas Ginsburg, the former Harvard Law School professor discovered, becomes impossible. Being a professional athlete “role model” becomes impossible — even on the PGA Tour, where the drug of choice is alcohol. Never mind that playing golf or any other sport while stoned is more difficult than solving Fermat’s last theorem. The “character” defect can’t be overlooked.

When it comes to marijuana, the government’s official policy and the actual experience of the people it governs suffers a massive disconnection. Studies say that half of high school seniors have tried pot, a percentage that remains unchanged since the impressive sounding but utterly ineffective “War on Drugs” was launched many billions of dollars ago. Indeed, if anyone doubts the dismal failure of this wretched campaign, he need only look to the marketplace, the great American fixer of everything, where prices have held steady or dropped while the quality of everyday bud has skyrocketed. Hippie friends report that now, in the age of hydroponic cultivation, they need to consume about a quarter of what they once did to achieve a nice high — and these are Woodstock-era folks with decades of tolerance built into their blood. Most estimates, including our own federal drug czar’s, predict that worldwide production will soon outstrip demand, and that prices are poised to drop. (God bless that efficient marketplace!)

As the great Hendrik Hertzberg wrote in the opinionated and sage Comment section of The New Yorker, where sanity and reason tends to outstrip hysteria and pandering, “Of all our country’s ongoing wars — poverty, cancer, Iraq, Afghanistan — none is a more comprehensive disaster than the war on drugs.”

The numbers are indeed staggering: billions from our treasury wasted, millions of lives harmed, and a zero percent chance that we will ever “win” this futile fight. But just as the imperial Bush administration refused to bring our troops home from the Middle East for fear of looking like losers to the rest of the world û which already views us as losers simply for having re-elected such a dunderhead û our politicians, Republicans and Democrats alike, live in mortal fear of advocating the obvious: legalizing marijuana and making America a demonstrably better place.

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