Know Your Potheads



In his much-discussed column last week, David Brooks admitted to getting stoned in high school, but dismissed legalization, calling for a government that “subtly encourages the highest pleasures, like enjoying the arts or being in nature” and discourages people from getting stoned. I’m all for government that extols the virtues of the arts and nature, but decriminalizing pot is hardly tantamount to encouraging people to smoke it.

Blacks are four times as likely as whites to be arrested for marijuana, even though usage falls evenly across different racial demographics. As travel-guide author and TV personality Rick Steves points out in his statement on the NORML site:

“Last year over 750,000 Americans were arrested on marijuana charges. Many of them were sentenced to mandatory prison time. Our courts and prisons are clogged with non-violent people whose only offense is smoking, buying or selling marijuana. While our nation is in a serious financial crisis, it spends literally billions of dollar annually chasing down responsible adults who are good, tax-paying citizens in all regards except for the occasional use of marijuana.”



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  • Susan Montgomery

    http://reason.com/blog/2014/01/10/brickbat-how-bad-could-jail-be#comments

    Still want to turn your life over to the government?

    • GaryKleppe

      Are you reading the same cartoon I am? Because it looks to me that this one is anti-criminalization of marijuana and anti-incarceration of minorities. Getting from that to being pro-government is a leap of logic that could carry one over the Grand Canyon.

      • Susan Montgomery

        She’s pro-government in pretty much everything else. What she’s advocating for here is not for a right but government permission. If the subject were tobacco, do you think she’d be as libertarian?

        • Jen Sorensen

          I’m not “pro-” or “anti-” government. I’m pro- smart policies.

          • Susan Montgomery

            Jen, you’re pro-government when it comes to wanting it to enforce your own personal beliefs and prejudices. It’s convenient that the things you think are smart are the ones you agree with already, yes? No better or worse in that respect than the conservatives you despise, I suppose.

            And that’s the thing. How far are you willing to go to achieve these smart policies? The War on Drugs was though of as smart and right-thinking. But it’s led to a point where it’s an excuse to violate and even ignore the concept of civil or human rights. How many police abuse stories do you need to see where the cops involved excuse their abuses by saying “I thought he was hopped up on the goofballs” before you start thinking that the “smart” policy is just an excuse for abuse?

            It’s like that with every government policy. Give them power and it will be abused. Accept a philosophy, a principle, that people can attempt to persuade but never use force against another and Progressive Liberalism and Social Conservatism become impossible.

            FWIW, I do like your work, Jen. I don’t agree very often and when I do it’s for different reasons but you’re worth reading.

          • Susan Montgomery

            http://reason.com/blog/2014/01/13/officers-in-the-beating-death-of-kelly-t

            And here you go. Again, I have to ask if you trust the system to hold this much power over you.

          • Susan Montgomery

            https://m.ufhealth.org/news/2013/uf-study-one-quarter-female-drug-offenders-report-experiencing-police-sexual-misconduct

            Just the people we need to make sure we’re using fluorescent bulbs, eating veggies and making sure we’re insured!

        • GaryKleppe

          The subject *isn’t* tobacco. Tobacco kills hundreds of thousands of people per year and causes harm even to those who don’t use it. If your world view is so black and white that you can’t see the difference between government acting to protect people’s rights and government acting to limit them, then maybe you aren’t ready for adult conversation.

          • Susan Montgomery

            Marijuana has pretty much the same risks of emphysema and heart disease. Why is the one good and the other not?

          • GaryKleppe

            I never said marijuana was good. Only that it’s innocent until proven guilty, meaning that it doesn’t need to be banned until there’s proof that it’s a significant health hazard. If you can point to actual peer-reviewed scientific studies showing that it’s as unhealthy as tobacco, and especially if it can be proven to have harmful effects on second-hand users the way tobacco has, then it would make sense to regulate it in the same way as tobacco.

          • Susan Montgomery

            I’d rather let individuals choose what they do with themselves then rely on scientists who depend on government (or corporate) money. In any case, have you ever actually read any of these studies or just taken the word of banhammer-wielding politicians?

            I mean this. The next time you hear a politician shouting about stopping the scourge of ::BLANK:: for “the children”, look at the actual numbers when he shouts “studies say…”. And then look back at the politician who is – according to himself – the only one who can head off apocalypse but only if you give him a nice, high-paying job with generous benefits. Do you really see someone selfless and brave or someone who wants power over you.

          • GaryKleppe

            Yes, I’ve seen the evidence that tobacco is harmful. It’s been around for quite some time.

            The problem with saying that individual choice can decide everything is that eventually you run into conflict. It’s that old saw about how my right to swing my fist ends where your nose begins. Should people have a right to smoke cigarettes if it poisons air that I need to breathe? Should “Freedom Industries” be allowed to contaminate West Virginia’s water supply? These things can either be adjudicated by a government that is at least somewhat accountable, or by big-money interests that are not at all.

          • Susan Montgomery

            There’s truth to that and certainly larger environmental issues can’t be solved individually, but then there is the “infinite regression/unlikely probability” danger. As in, exactly how many iterations and post-first-order effects do we take into account? Do you ban smoking on airplanes? Given the nature of air travel it makes sense, however little I like it. But where do you end? Does it make sense to ban tobacco everywhere because of increasingly smaller chances of danger and increasingly nebulous causality?

            And, smoking bans particularly are just easy, low hanging fruit to politicians. Imagine walking through Manhattan, one of the most polluted, densely populated cities on the east coast and thinking “my health is safe because NYC does so much to fight smoking”. Doesn’t make much sense when you think about it, does it?

            To the larger issue, I really wish we could strike the phrase “there oughta be a law…” from common usage. Every side uses it, so I’m not pointing fingers, just saying that Americans should learn how to bear with the unavoidable and engage issues themselves without wishing they could use force.

          • GaryKleppe

            Of course there are dangers, and many gray areas. That’s why there’s a political process to work things out. It’s an imperfect solution, certainly. Our current one suffers from legalized bribery, a dumbed-down corporate-dominated culture, and other problems. But if there’s a better solution, I’d like to know what it is.

            And again, what I want and think I deserve might conflict with what you want and think you deserve. Maybe I claim that my bank — I don’t actually own one, but bear with me for the sake of example — loaned you money to buy your house which you failed to pay back as promised and therefore your house now belongs to me. Maybe you claim that this is rubbish. In such cases if we can’t come to an agreement then inevitably someone will end up using force. It’s only a question of whether the force is used by a democratically elected authority which is at least theoretically responsible for following the law, or whether it’s just you shooting it out with my rented mercenary troops.

          • Susan Montgomery

            Maybe, but you and I will have voluntarily made an contract clearly stating the terms (unless you snuck something in in the fine print, you devil!) so by failing to live up to my end I have essentially committed force against you (theft) which you can then redress through the courts – or your private mercenary army if need be.

            When dealing with the legal system in general, having a rigid and verifiably objective standard which the government is bound by is essential to minimize abuse. That’s the first solution I have to offer. The second is not relying on some grand plan to solve all the problems. Saying that DC can solve everything and concentrating power there only removes the accountability we need to make any form of government work in a manner respectful of individual rights. Most importantly, we need to understand that the idea that there’s only the Politburo or Lord Humungus is a false choice.

Jen Sorensen is a nationally-published political cartoonist. She is a 2017 Pulitzer Finalist and recipient of the 2014 Herblock Prize and a 2013 Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award.

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