Saturday, October 22, 2005


I've never smoked pot. I say that just to clarify that my position on drug policy is driven more by theory than practice. The same is true for harder drugs, and even for tobacco; never tried any of them. I know, I'm a in a freakishly small minority.

Over the summer, there were rumblings about this story, and I didn't write about it because, you know, a liberal writing about gentler drug policy is like taking coals to Newcastle, or opium to Afghanistan, or indictments to Tom DeLay. But the issue of marijuana is actually coming to a head as city officials debate moving marijuana cases to Municipal Court, and at least one (fairly) conservative endorses it.

It's important to note how both of us started off by declaring that we are not potheads, and how I waited for the figleaf of a conservative comment before weighing in. This is the problem with the way association is used in modern political culture. As a liberal, I support limiting government intrusion into people's personal life. Advocating reduced penalties for minor drug possession is not only consistent with that belief, but a nearly unavoidable consequence. Personal crimes that can not be shown to carry serious consequences for society fall under the category of swinging a fist through the air. As j.d. notes, when drug use inspires criminal activity, it falls under the "end of my nose" category (in the old liberal saw: "Your right to swing your fist ends at my nose").

So far so good. This isn't about decriminalization, a discussion I won't wade into. All that's happening in Lawrence is that small possession cases will be treated like jaywalking or parking tickets, not like murder or assault. It will be easier to sentence people to treatment and other non-traditional punishments, and that's all for the best. It'll probably also save the city money, and protects federal financial aid to students, since I think that only gets cut after drug related felonies, not for misdemeanors.

The worst thing that happened was that High Times endorsed the policy. It's not surprising that a group founded by a crazy hippy which has a financial relationship with NORML would support this. The problem is the old guilt by association nonsense. Anyone supporting this policy is now supporting a policy favored by suicidal hippies and drug legalization advocates. If Jim Ryun gets near this, everyone who supported it will be tagged as dope fiends and held accountable for the pie which High Times founder Thomas King Forcade threw at a government official in 1970.

In this instance, I and j.d. will say that, however wrong High Times might be about other issues, on this one issue, we can all come together. Does this mean that the ends justify the means? No. It just means smart people and groups can agree on some issues and disagree on others.

"Rainy Day Women No. 12 and 35" by Bob Dylan from the album Blonde On Blonde (1966, 4:38).