Pubdate: Thu, 13 Nov 2014
Source: Albuquerque Journal (NM)
Copyright: 2014 Albuquerque Journal
Author: Justin Moyer, the Washington Post
Page: A7


Legalization Is Not About What State Condones but Rather What's Allowed

This past week, D.C. advanced America's 21st-century war on its 
20th-century war on drugs. Now that marijuana is somewhat legal, the 
city's African-American residents are less likely to be 
disproportionately arrested for a victimless crime.

If the cannabis industry stays out of town, D.C. Council members, who 
should spend time fixing the city's public schools, won't be 
preoccupied with regulating a substance arguably less harmful than 
alcohol. And police officers who should be chasing bank robbers and 
murderers will no longer bust college students carrying dime bags.

All that's great. But none of these leaps forward will correct the 
real problem with marijuana: It is lame. Though the culture this drug 
fosters should not be banned, it should be avoided because it is tacky.

After Congress outlawed weed with the "Marihuana" Tax Act of 1937, 
bud occupied a place on the outlaw edges of American culture. 
Marijuana became the drug of choice for jazz musicians and Beat poets.

"We always looked at pot as a sort of medicine," Louis Armstrong 
said. "It makes you feel good, man. It relaxes you, makes you forget 
all the bad things that happen to a Negro."

A drug powerful enough to soothe the pain of Jim Crow was bound to be 
popular. Since the absurdity of anti-marijuana propaganda was 
apparent to anyone even marginally suspicious of authority, the drug 
was championed by a creative underclass. Jack Kerouac was a 
relatively early adopter.

"To drag on this thing was like leaning over a chimney and inhaling," 
Kerouac wrote of smoking "the biggest bomber anybody ever saw" in "On 
the Road" in 1957. "It blew into your throat in one great blast of 
heat. We held our breaths and all let out just about simultaneously. 
Instantly we were all high. The sweat froze on our foreheads and it 
was suddenly like the beach at Acapulco."

Kerouac's prose is about as good as marijuana culture gets: 
uplifting, vaguely transcendent.

Then something went horribly wrong. Baby boomers adopted the drug, 
making it a symbol of 1960s unrest. Marijuana went mainstream and 
spawned a lot of terrible art.

Buoyed by hippies turned yuppies, legalization became a social issue 
worth ballot initiatives, but the quality of the films, literature 
and schwag deteriorated.

Once everyone wanted to get high, it wasn't cool anymore.

Of course, you may or may not find the dated artifacts sloughed off 
by marijuana culture absurd: the meandering Dennis Hopper film "Easy 
Rider," the unfunniness of Cheech and Chong, the later records of Cypress Hill.

But an argument against marijuana as pop culture is about more than 
taste. When anything that whiffs of revolution gets coopted and 
commodified, that's a tragedy.

Weed became a generic symbol of teen unrest. This was misguided and bizarre.

Then marijuana became a big business. There are now companies chasing 
billions selling weed and related products over the counter in 
Washington and Colorado. But not long ago, there were entrepreneurs 
chasing millions hawking marijuana hats, High Times magazine and 
one-hitters in head shops.

Even as THC levels in marijuana skyrocketed, the drug showcased in 
pop culture seemed less potent than the one Armstrong enjoyed.

As marijuana went Top 40, it became less dangerous. When candidate 
Bill Clinton denied inhaling, he seemed sly; when candidate Barack 
Obama admitted he'd smoked choom, no one really cared.

If the drug is, as legalization proponents claim and more and more 
Americans agree, little more than an herbal remedy, it's not worth 
the vast attention paid to it in the past four decades. Imagine a 
band, book or movie devoted to chamomile.

Even drug-dealing, once the realm of the Mafia, became staid. In the 
mid-1990s, my college roommate sold weed in Ziploc bags from our dorm 
room while listening exclusively - I wish this was an exaggeration - 
to Phish and the Dave Matthews Band. This shouldn't have been 
illegal. But it definitely wasn't cool.

Now that toking up may be permitted in the District of Columbia, one 
can only imagine how pathetic a D.C. pot scene will be, bolstered by 
D.C.'s Type-A dorkiness. I'm talking about Capitol Hill wonks revved 
up after a subcommittee meeting, kicking it at the Palm, taking a toke.

Ideally, marijuana will one day be legal everywhere, but scorned by 
everyone but glaucoma patients and the terminally ill in need of 
comfort. Legalization is about what the state permits - not about 
what it condones. After all, it's also legal to read Mitch Albom, 
watch Steven Seagal and listen to Katy Perry.

That doesn't mean you should.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom