Friday, August 10, 2012
Politics + Personality: Wanna Toke Up? It Shouldn't Be Any of Uncle Sam's Concern
Fridays at Justin + 6 are Politics and Personality with Washington DC-based gay party guy, and creator and host of Swish Edition, R. Scott Wallis. Expect to be challenged. Expect to be offended. Opinions expressed here are Scott's and Scott's alone.
Hey, boys and girls…what’s better than sex, drugs and rock & roll? Well, besides a big plate of spaghetti and meatballs, I can’t think of anything better.
Except that I don’t do drugs. Sure, just like President Obama, I’ve tried my share, but nothing heavier than pot and I’m most likely going to pass on it when it’s offered to me these days, mostly because it doesn’t make me mellow and cool like it does for most people I know. For me, it’s more like a billowing mess of laughter and fits. (I stick to my vodka drinks or a nice dry Prosecco, thank you very much.)
But, I wouldn’t ever tell you not to toke up, if that’s what you want to do. And I think you should be able to do it legally, to boot. And not just for “medical” reasons, either.
In the last week or so, I listened to interviews with the likes of presidential candidate (yeah, can you believe it?!) Roseanne Barr, comedian and HBO talk show host Bill Maher, and actor and hemp activist Woody Harrelson, all fessing up to lighting up doobies on a regular basis.
The U.S. government even estimates in a recent report that some 96 million Americans alive today have smoked pot at least once in their lifetime.
So, it got me thinking again about a subject I feel very strongly about: Victimless crimes should be decriminalized in this country once and for all and we should seek out politicians that agree.
Plus, I’m so very against the nanny state. I’ll consume as many calories as I want, thank you very much, Mayor Bloomberg.
What I really want you to know—and I bet you already have a general idea—is that we should all be absolutely disgraced with the colossal failure that is the modern “war on drugs.” The United States spends billions of dollars a year on this war effort with absolutely no real results. You know this…for every pot dealer they lock up, there are 20 more around the corner.
Even if you’ve never touched an illegal substance in your life, I am confident that you know someone who does and you have most likely witnessed people using drugs at some point. It’s everywhere. And you’ve got to know how absurdly easy it is to obtain. High school students know this. Grandmothers know this. Joan Rivers knows this. Michael Phelps knows this. Obama knows this.
And yet, we spend and spend and spend money (that we don’t have) that could be going towards more worthwhile causes. Or better yet, put back into our wallets.
The number of people in state and federal prisons for drug possession is staggering. And the billions of dollars we are paying in taxes to house and feed these people? It’s more criminal than the supposed criminals.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, some 30-40% of currently incarcerated prisoners are behind bars because of so-called victimless crimes. Meaning, there was no one purportedly hurt because of their crime…except maybe themselves, if even. There are over 1.5 million Americans behind bars today, compared to just over 200,000 in the early 1970’s when the war on drugs began. Decriminalizing drugs would reduce this number by half and save the American taxpayers over $20 billion a year on incarceration costs alone.
Will legalizing—then inevitably regulating drugs—save lives? Absolutely. Will people still abuse them? Probably. But likely not at the same rate as today. Researchers believe the number will actually drop.
(For an example, look at the legal drinking age in Europe. Most countries over there don’t have an age limit at all and their rate of teenage and young adult alcohol abuse is vastly lower than in the United States. When the state demonizes and restricts something, we tend to want it more. Let kids have wine with dinner at 16 years old and they won’t be stealing six packs of Milwaukee’s Best from the super market and wrapping cars around trees.)
Study after study finds that recreational marijuana use is no more harmful than drinking alcohol or smoking tobacco. Many believe it’s even less risky to the human body than our most widely used legal substances. Hell, seventeen U.S. states and the District of Columbia allow the sale of marijuana for medicinal reasons, even though it’s still against federal laws to process and use the drug.
I’m not advocating drug use; but that doesn’t mean that I think it should be illegal. It’s called personal responsibility and having dominion over your own body. Want to drink like a fish, smoke like a stack, and have sex with everything that moves? Have at it. Marry your sister for all I care. Go ahead and pay a prostitute for sex and buy a mixed drink in a restaurant before noon on a Sunday in New Jersey. It should be YOUR choice. Not the states’.
Let’s also cut off the $30 billion annual lifeline to drug cartels. Let’s not take otherwise productive members of our society out of commission and put them in jail for years because they had an ounce over the legal limit in their car. And let’s stop telling people what to do with their own bodies.
Put that in your pipe and smoke it.
- R. Scott