So, do you ever drink a glass of Cabernet to relax? You know, kick back in the most comfortable chair on your deck, put your feet up, raise some Dead music on your iPod, and just take a break from it all? Or maybe a double shot of Jack Black and spring water over ice. Or two of those. Okay, maybe several. Whatever. The object is not to get slobbering drunk or feed an urge to binge on alcohol. The object is relaxation, some quiet time, reflection maybe, an attempt to shake free from all the hideous sh*t that seems to be seeping from every corner of existence right now. Just a break, for god's sake.
Now, what if in drinking an alcoholic beverage you were violating the law? There was a time in this country, about 90 years ago (a time initiated by, yes, religious right-wing nuts and their Fascist cohorts in government) when having a drink, buying alcohol, manufacturing it, transporting it, in fact anything to do with alcohol that didn't involve using it as an antiseptic could result in a jail sentence or a prison term. The era of Prohibition that lasted for 12 years in the U.S. not only made criminals of countless numbers of ordinary people, but also gave birth to a crime wave of such tsunami-like proportions we are still - nearly a century later - dealing with the aftermath.
How about reefer? Instead of a reticent yet mildly saucy Cabernet, how about a nice fat doobie? Kick back on the deck with one of those and a couple of hours of The Dead and everything just sort of mellows out, right? Add a nice, friendly bag of Cheetos, an ice-cold liter bottle of sugar-free lemonade and, mmm-mmmmm, bliss.
Of course, if you do that, you are breaking some ridiculous, goddam law encouraged by - yup - religious right-wing nuts and their Fascist cohorts in government. And, of course, this is not a joke. Marijuana laws are responsible, in part, for the fact that we in the U.S. now imprison more of our own citizens (both in terms of percentage of population and actual raw numbers) than any other nation on earth. By this one measure, we have, as a nation, gone crazy and truly are living in an asylum.
The families that have been destroyed by the prison time that results from violation of marijuana laws are innumerable. Who keeps track? Who cares? The anguish of children separated from parents who are sentenced to decades in a lock-up for growing or selling or just smoking reefer is horrific and from which the kids may never recover. And the parents who see their children jailed for having dope in the car, in their pocket, in their back-pack? How do you recover from that? And that is not to suggest smoking dope is a permissible activity for kids. It is not. Neither is smoking death-dealing cigarettes, or drinking alcohol, or any other behavior that might put a young person's physical, emotional, or psychological development at risk.
Marijuana laws - all marijuana laws - are utter bullshit and most rational people understand that. And yet we continue to allow them to exist. Well, maybe not too much longer. Maybe we should stop allowing the arrest of "responsible marijuana users," Rep. Barney Frank said today, announcing a proposal to end federal penalties for Americans carrying fewer than 100 grams of the substance.
As reported by CNN, Frank said during a Capitol Hill news conference, "The vast amount of human activity ought to be none of the government's business. I don't think it is the government's business to tell you how to spend your leisure time."
Allen St. Pierre, spokesman for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) likened Frank's proposal to current laws dealing with alcohol consumption. Alcohol use is permitted and the government focuses its law enforcement efforts on those who abuse booze or drive under its influence. "We do not arrest and jail responsible alcohol drinkers," he said. (The complete CNN article is here.)
Bill Piper of the Drug Policy Alliance Network adds, "The U.S. stance on marijuana is one of the most destructive criminal justice policies in America today."
Frank's legislation is titled HR 5843. It is not a cure for the reefer madness that is now rampant in our criminal justice system. But, it may be a start in an effort to stop the right-wing religious freaks and the Fascist wannabees who now infest our government in their century-long effort to prohibit activity that is simply none of their business.