Friday, November 05, 2010

pot legalization

I was pretty shocked to read this from Josh Marshall this morning:
...I just don't know if I think marijuana should be legalized at all. Maybe it's that I'm getting into my 40s. And maybe I'm a hypocrite. I of course know people who smoke grass. And I don't have any problem with it. Decriminalized? Yes, I think probably so. But that's not the same as legalization. It's very different actually. And let me be clear that I think our drug laws are catastrophic. They create endemic violence first in our major cities and now along the borders and it's led to generations of Americans rotting in prison. The whole war on drugs is an unmitigated disaster. And the fact that people can't use marijuana for clear medical reasons is crazy. But do I think it should be like alcohol? Anyone over 18 or 21 can buy it?

Ok, I get that pot legalization may not be something Marshall has thought much about, but this stikes me as shockingly misplaced priorities from someone who's usually a pretty clear thinker.

Andrew Sullivan takes him to task:
How to rationalize the irrational? From the post cited, I'd say Reason One is: I'm older. Reason two: er, see Reason one. What Josh seems to be saying is that he wants pot de facto legal but closeted. But like most closets, this one requires a shame that simply isn't there any more - and has not been for decades now. And any illegality is bound to end up hurting the poor and minorities to a disproportionate extent. It's not unenforced. It's enforced brutally upon hundreds of thousands of people. It's okay to sit there mulling how uncomfortable fully legal pot makes you, as long as none of your friends is thrown into jail, or forever barred from employment, or fired for no reason related to work performance. Josh's view reminds me of the argument of those who backed sodomy laws but didn't want them aggressively enforced. They didn't want to throw people in jail, but they wanted the stigma to remain. Yes, stigma. For one kind of pleasure (being stoned) as opposed to another (being drunk).

Never thought I'd be agreeing with Sullivan over Marshall, but he's absolutely spot-on here.

Atrios used to make fun of people who want abortion to be illegal but aren't willing to carry the logic over to saying someone should actually go to jail or anything over it. As he put it, what they really want is for the state to officially deem abortion "icky." I think Marshall is falling into the same trap here.

At the end of the day, either pot is contraband or it isn't. Contra Marshall, there is no magical middle ground, no official federal designation of "ickiness." It will either be bought in a convenience store and marketed by Philip Morris, or it will be bought on the street and will continue to serve as the golden goose for every cartel in Mexico and the cause of thousands of murders every year across Central America and the southwestern United States. Being caught using it either will appear on your rap sheet, forever branding you a drug user and giving every employer an excuse not to hire you, or it won't.

Decriminalization is a cop out; it doesn't change anything.

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