November 1, 2002
THE CLOSING OF THE AMERICAN MIND:
The pot war boiling
(William F. Buckley, Jr., November 1, 2002, townhall.com)
As often as not, democracy sucks.
That's the scatalogical opening sentence of the latest column by one of the most erudite pundits of the last 50 years. Mr. Buckley
, this is your mind on dope.
Posted by Orrin Judd at November 1, 2002 7:54 AM
Erudite, in punditry, is not necessarily a
virtue. It wasn't with him.
And he never much liked democracy, not after
his white-haired boy Joe couldn't get re-elected.
What's so great about democracy?
Alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana are all roughly similar in their harm to public health (except that drunk drivers kill 30,000 people a year); They should all be legal, or all be illegal. I lean towards legal, but either way's fine with me. Additionally, federal and state law enforcement agencies fill prisons with non-violent dope offenders, instead of chasing those pushing harder drugs, who are also harder to catch. That's blatently hypocritical, and insulting to the voting public. Furthermore, why can't doctors prescribe marijuana to those they think it could help? They can currently prescribe much more addictive and/or harmful substances, and there's already a system in place to catch abuses. I certainly hope Nevada's marijuana legalization initiative passes.
Marijuana serves no useful medical purpose that is not amply filled by other legal drugs. The medical marijuana movement is ideological, not scientific.
As for the effects of tobacco, alcohol and drugs, you are of course right. But alcohol and tobacco are ingrained in our culture in a way that drugs aren't. In an ideal world we'd ban all three. In the real world we ban drugs, phase out alcohol, and drink and drive.
Anybody who wants to engage in this debate ought to spend a few mornings at his local district court following the cases of a dozen or so petty criminals. Many of the cheerful statements you hear, on both sides but mostly on the let 'er rip side, would be harder to maintain after that.
We don't know if marijuana has no useful medical purpose, because researchers are barred from investigating that very question. Even if such research did find that marijuana did not have greater effect on any problem than current drugs, it may still be worth prescribing based on lower cost, fewer side effects, or greater efficacy in specific individuals, just as doctors now choose among competing legal drugs.
The medical marijuana movement is ideological in part because the currently dominant ideology will not allow it to become scientific.
As to the problem of petty criminals: Although their stories are often heart-wrenching, I would argue that it is the addiction to harder drugs that drives crime. Who ever held up a bank to buy weed? Furthermore, the illegality of marijuana stops few from being able to purchase it; High school kids in urban areas find it easier to buy marijuana than tobacco. That's ridiculous! By legalizing pot, one could strike four blows: 1) More resources would be freed to control hard drugs 2) Organized criminals would be deprived of income, domestically and internationally 3) Marijuana would be harder for underaged kids to obtain, and D) The proceeds of the sale of marijuana could be taxed
Michael, my point was that if you go to district
court and listen to the stories, you will find
out two things: 1) as far as inciting to crime
goes, there is nothing much to choose between
the various kinds of mind-altering substances.
Alcohol is overwhelmingly the culprit; and 2)
that these crimes, even the petty ones, are
not inconsequential. Not just the criminals
but their families and friends are having their
lives wrecked by this behavior.
I don't much care whether drugs lead to crime
or crime leads to drugs: they proceed hand
I do care about the pollyanna attitude. I
really don't care if some person wants to
ruin himself, if he can arrange to do it solo.
In district court, you soon find that it almost
never works out solo.
I am not, however, opposed to decriminalization
of any and all drugs. If you can ingest 'em
and keep functioning, fine. But if I were king,
we'd shut down all the publicly-funded
rehab clinics, we'd cut off the checks for users,
if they were also committing crimes.
If I, a teetotaler these days, steal hubcaps
and get caught, what's my excuse? In
district court, you will find that the system
accepts drug use (alky included) as a
justification for antisocial behavior.
Don't take my word for it. Go to work a few
hours late for three days and spend 8:30
to 10:30 a.m. in district court.
Seems to me the problem is less a matter of stupid things done on drugs as it is courts forgiving
stupid things done on drugs.
I think vandalism, reckless behavior, and other "broken window" indicators should be punished more seriously than they are.
I work the front desk at a private dormitory across from a party school. I see lots of druken students.
The kids who break shit and cause public disturbances get slaps on the wrist, while the Nigerians quietly smoking marijuana upstairs have the cops called on them.
I think the behavior matters a lot more than the substance that caused the behavior.
In my regime, drug use (alcohol or otherwise) leading to a crime would increase
the penalty, not mitigate it. Deterrence works better on the sober.