Give Grass a Pass

January 23, 2014

Multiple Pages
Give Grass a Pass

The talk is all of pot. Not “pot” the utensil, as in Confucius’s fine aphorism “A man is not a pot,” but cannabis sativa, AKA grass, tea, weed, bud, ganja, Mary Jane, bhang, wacky baccy. States are legalizing the stuff all over, although, since pot remains federally proscribed, there are some tricky matters of jurisdiction to be sorted out.

The president himself has declared his support for general legalization, although of course he put an anti-white spin on the issue: “Middle-class kids don’t get locked up for smoking pot, and poor kids do. And African-American kids and Latino kids are more likely to be poor….”

In fact, nobody gets locked up for smoking pot. You get locked up for dealing in it, especially in the street, and for being in possession of it, usually when the peelers go through your pockets after arresting you for something else. Blacks and Hispanics do far more street dealing than middle-class white kids and also commit much more general crime. The result, as mathematicians say, follows.

“I can’t see much harm in it—not as much as there is in prohibition. Let ’em smoke it if they want to.”

Or as Neil Munro observes in The Daily Caller:

[The 2013 ACLU report “The War on Marijuana in Black and White”] shows that some of the most disproportionate arrest rates occur in jurisdictions run by Democrats or African Americans, such as Washington D.C., New York, Maryland and Illinois, Baltimore and Prince George’s county in Maryland, as well as the cities of Memphis and Philadelphia.

The high ranking for jurisdictions where African Americans are politically influential or dominant suggests that the data merely shows that different behavior by different groups may yield different consequences, not that the nation’s laws are unfair or racist.

One of the best reasons to support legalization, in fact, for those of us at the fascist-hyena end of the opinion spectrum, is the prospect that we may never again have to listen to a Cultural Marxist tell us that the disproportionate jailing of NAMs for pot-related offenses proves that society is racist. The charge is easily refuted—see above—but it’s tiresome to have to keep repeating yourself.

I can’t get much exercised about the issue. It would surely be a healthier world if people didn’t feel the need for narcotics, but you could say the same of any other human weakness. Knowing not to ask too much of people is a key element of political wisdom. Gradual social change removes excesses in time; at least, it removed the widespread drunkenness of the 19th century and the promiscuous tobacco smoking of the mid-20th. In the matter of marijuana, I think the libertarians are correct: The price of continued prohibition is too high, certainly higher than the price (which will not be zero) of legalization.

For those of us who came of age in the 1960s, there is something a bit absurd about continuing prohibition. I can testify that in London student circles in the mid-1960s, the lesser kinds of narcotics were hard to avoid if you had any kind of social life at all. Pot and hash were everywhere, as common as booze and fags.

At the tender age of nineteen I fell in with a North London circle that included some West African students—Ghanaians and Nigerians. They were an amiable and hospitable crowd, though I never could get to like their music—soporific, repetitive soul jazz you could have cut up randomly and sold by the yard.

They all smoked hash, cooked in silver foil over a flame then crumbled into the tobacco of a hand-rolled cigarette. The preparation was accompanied with colorful tales about how the hash had been brought into Britain, mostly via diplomatic immunity. In one tale, a diplomat died in London and his family back in Accra insisted, for cultural reasons, on sending over a massive hardwood coffin for his body to be returned in. The coffin did not arrive empty in London.

I can’t say I cared for hash. I smoked it to be polite, but it worked on my stomach somehow, and I generally ended these West African evenings talking into the big white telephone to the amusement of my hosts.

On one depressingly memorable occasion, determined to show I could be master of my stomach and take my hash as well as the next man, I suppressed the vomiting instinct for much too long. This is not good policy. As Woody Allen did not quite say, the upper esophageal sphincter wants what it wants. The result was a nose barf—a phenomenon which, if you have never experienced it, I recommend you avoid at all costs, especially in company.

Hash did, though, prep my metabolism for marijuana, which is milder, and which by later in the decade was everywhere. I was pleased to find that pot had no emetic effects, and I indulged freely for a while, though only as a social smoker. It’s a social drug, even more so than alcohol: heightening the pleasure of fellowship, but in a relaxed and cheerful way, without alcohol’s maudlin consequences. So I experienced it, anyway.

My only other adventures with illegal substances were during a down-and-out spell in the early 1970s when I was working as a dishwasher in New Rochelle, New York. A fellow wastrel introduced me to acid, which he bought as discolored round patches on paper strips from a gas-pump attendant at the local Hess station. The sensory effects were just as weird as advertised, especially (in my case) the auditory ones. Trust me: You haven’t heard Electric Light Orchestra—not really heard them—unless you’ve taken a tab of acid beforehand.

All right, a misspent youth. I haven’t smoked pot for thirty-odd years, though I suppose I would if it were offered in a social situation and I didn’t have to drive home. My passing acquaintance with the stuff gave me some perspective, though. I can’t see much harm in it—not as much as there is in prohibition. Let ’em smoke it if they want to.

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