MEMORANDUM TO A POLITICIAN
From: Dick Evans
Date: April 20, 2010
Re: What about marijuana?
As you know, the conventional response from conventional politicians, for decades, has been to look stern and spout bellicose rhetoric, and promote harsher laws, usually in the name of protecting children from “wrong messages” (as if criminal justice policy should be based on how it might be misconstrued by the young). I applaud you for refusing to join that mendacious charade.
If there’s anything we can all agree on, it is that stern looks and bellicose rhetoric and harsh laws have gotten us nowhere except to perpetuate this endless war against pot, accomplishing nothing, and draining the public treasury to pay for it, and, in the process, messing up too many lives in our misplaced zeal to punish.
It’s time to get real.
Getting real means:
- Acknowledging a blatantly obvious fact, namely, that marijuana has become a part of our culture, and no amount of money for police, prosecutors and punishment is going to change that.
- Acknowledging the shameful fact that marijuana was outlawed early in the last century for the purpose of oppressing minorities, and enforcement of its prohibition has continued to serve that function.
- Being seriously disturbed:
- That marijuana violations provide an easy tool for the government to insinuate itself into the personal lives of people and families.
- That once ensnared in the criminal justice cybergulag, good people often find no escape, haunted by stained records of past violations that keep them out of jobs, schools, and even housing.
- That we are propagandizing children in the name of “educating” them about drugs, not preparing them for the normal challenges of adulthood
- That marijuana prohibition seems utterly hypocritical in the light of the fact that both alcohol and tobacco, despite their health risks, are available to adults in a regulated, taxed system.
- That prohibition divides us--parents against teens, employers against employees, doctors against patients, and citizens against police—and if there is anything we need today, it is fewer things dividing us, so that we can come together and find the collective strength to tackle the really big problems like climate change, health care, the Wall Street oligarchy, and the national debt.
- That those who claim to be leaders typically run away from this issue, and are afraid to confront it.
I suggest you respectfully challenge anyone, anywhere, who disagrees with any of this to come forward and tell us all how many more people will have to be arrested, prosecuted and punished for marijuana before it will go away, how much money that will cost and where it will come from.
And, of course, invite those who share your concerns to contribute their ideas and suggestions on this topic and their support for your candidacy. Let the conversation about repeal begin. Now. On your website. I’d start with a short poll, where people can vote on a few things, and maybe a comment box. Of course, I’d be happy to suggest a few questions.
The policy issue before us in 2010 is whether marijuana prohibition should be repealed or perpetuated.
The human issue before us is whether we can face the truth and come to grips with it.
Your challenge is to lead us there. I suggest beginning with a quest for broader and broader acceptance of the fact that marijuana is here to stay and that it is ineradicable. That is the bedrock premise upon which any serious discussion of reform is constructed. You will find, I believe, that very many people will readily so stipulate in private, but fear justifiably keeps them from voicing that view publicly, lest they run into problems at work, or with their kids. The good news is that once you have gotten their attention on this issue, you can give them cover because of all the other big issues your candidacy is about, like health care and green industry (we should talk about hemp).
It’s useful, I think, if you identify the bogeymen, the necessary bad guys in any struggle, not as today’s intransigent and uneducable law enforcement officials (who inevitably emerge to oppose reform), but rather the lawmakers who conceived this policy—prohibition—early in the last century. It is the duty of any generation to correct the mistakes of previous generations. Had our predecessors not taken such steps, women would not have the vote and racial segregation would still be the rule of law. It is the correcting of old mistakes that breathes new life into a democracy, that it may more perfectly establish justice, secure domestic tranquility, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity. And that’s ultimately what it‘s all about, isn’t it? (or so I told the crowd in my speech at that recent event where we met).
The marijuana prohibition laws were conceived three or four generations ago in a cultural and racial climate very different from our own, and very different from that to which we aspire. They are an obsolete legacy of the past that we don't need and can't afford.
P.S. Of course it’s always a good idea, when this topic comes up, to be prepared for a question about your own marijuana use.
Here’s one possible response: “I don’t use marijuana, but coming to terms with it is not about merely accommodating those who do; rather, it’s about not squandering the public treasury on non-predatory offenses, it’s about not propagandizing children, and it’s about not giving the government an excuse to insinuate itself needlessly into people’s personal lives. One doesn’t need to be a user to oppose prohibition.”
Then ask your inquisitor: “How about you? Have you smoked it? Do you think people should be arrested for it? Should you have been arrested?"