Saturday, November 13, 2010

14 down, 36 to go in the push towards legalization of marijuana


But what does this all mean? What does it mean when we're rapidly heading towards a surveillance state, let alone a police state? Will we be able to smoke pot in a police state? Consider that. What does this mean? I have no idea, it just boggles the mind, but you have to realize that many states of existence and social trends can live alongside one another simultaneously. Some things can be true and false all at once.

Is this all Huxley' warning, the phantom of "soma," and a populace that could find itself under some serious illusions of personal freedom while simultaneously narcotizing themselves, and not merely by television and the Internet (the unimaginative misuse of the latter)? I don't know, but it sure looks like it. There are many illusions and conceits in the counterculture and the outlying one these days, too many myths, too little reality.

California nearly passed Proposition 19 this election cycle, which would have all but decriminalized marijuana with a mere fine for up to the personal possession of one ounce of marijuana, similar to Ontario's experiment with decriminalization beginning about (or "aboot") a decade ago thanks to the ruling of an Ontario Superior Court of Justice (like our own higher Federal District circuits). But the fun didn't last long in Ontario and later rulings have pushed back the right to personal possession of marijuana. Tell 'em that in Toronto's Kensington Market, or even parts of Los Angeles and Oakland and the neighborhoods around the University of Toronto.

Local custom often trumps the law, which in the case of marijuana, is fine since it's not someone being lynched. That's what the drug laws are for.

As a criminology professor in college told me, "We never learn in America, because we don't want to." The truth has been plain for ages: Prohibition just empowers cartels and gangs, it doesn't make society a better place to live, and in fact is one of the sources of social disintegration. But it serves narrow interests, some who are in-collusion with drug lords. Without prohibition, there would be almost no potential for bribery and similar forms of corruption, especially with a decentralized model granting private citizens the right to grow set amounts for personal use, never mind medical marijuana dispensaries.

Meanwhile, the executive branch is enjoying the ability to conduct unrestrained surveillance of everyone under the rubic of the war on terror and the war on drugs. The states are moving one way, while the federal government is moving another. There could be no greater example of counter-trends of the democratic versus anti-democratic other than the newfound freedom and ease of communication created by the Internet, but the legalization movement is surely another one when juxtaposed with the ever-widening surveillance state. This isn't simply a states' rights battle, though there is certainly a fear of opening that door. It underscores that there are natural tendencies towards the democratic and anti-democratic in all nation states.

What if we do witness the virtual legalization of marijuana for personal use in the United States? Will it be a blow against anti-democratic trends? That would be a major affirmative. American drug laws were first formulated as race laws and the statistics of who gets sentenced to the most time are implicitly clear: Minorities suffer the most for the same amounts as their Caucasian counterparts, and class is also an issue, the ability to pay adequately for one's own defense at trial. So, yes indeed, this will be a step forward for civil rights across the board for Americans if we can end prohibition of marijuana since it will lead to and end in the case of the other substances to interdiction and the punishment model.

"But who's going to sell it?" is the usual question. In the case of marijuana, it should be nobody. Again, it's a hardy and easily grown plant. Yes, there will still be a market for the "best," there always will be, but any good law decriminalizing the plant will have to include the right of private citizens to grow their own. The other substances? The government should be dispensing them for tracking and statistical purposes, just like Canada does with "The Beer Store," albeit I have no answers as to manufacture, though my preference would be by the government. The money made from these sales could just as easily go to addiction treatment programs.

Would we want corporations to manufacture heroin as a commodity? I don't think so, and believe that that would be the true road to Huxley's Brave New World. Corporations are only capable of being held-accountable through the power of government because nothing else is powerful enough to. Before we knew it, we could all truly be addicts were they to have complete control over the process. But a part of me wonders: Where is this all headed? Will legalizing marijuana make a big difference? I believe that it can, and likely will, offer a "third-path" model, but Americans are going to have a big fight on their hands with--no surprise here--corporations, and the people who service, defend, and have an abiding interest in them.

Will we be smoking pot in a police state? Stay tuned...