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Friday, I dropped this item into the Open Thread…

bullet image Santa Monica Mirror has a really stupid piece by Steve Stajich: Five Reasons We Won’t Be Legalizing Pot. This may be the five most moronic reasons I’ve heard to date.

“Hello, Governor? Please explain how legalizing marijuana will reduce teen pregnancy. (PAUSE) Our lines our open. (PAUSE) Governor, please call with that answer. (PAUSE) Again that phone number…” Apparently the Spliff-inator has looked at the stats regarding teen sexual behavior and teen pregnancy and concluded, “What’s needed here is more access to marijuana.” Will Bristol Palin bring her baby to Sacramento and explain how life might have been different if only she’d been too (legally) stoned to have sex?

Steve Stajich responds:

Pete… I was delighted to get into [Salon.com], even by way of your critique of last week’s column.
I guess I could accept that my Five Reasons would be “lame” or “soft” because I’ll readily agree that they don’t, any of them, justify a drug “war” or the resources invested in a drug war. And the waste of a drug war seems to be the drive of your page, so I understand your reaction or practical need to harvest content that buoys that angle. I certainly agree that drug war-mentality government efforts are troubling to say the least.
But I think it was inaccurate to call the points I made “stupid.” I don’t think they are empty-headed or so without merit that they meet that criteria. The headline did not suggest that these were the only five reasons or top reasons in any way… just five aspects of legalization that might be considered in the “debate” the governor was proposing. Perhaps you would consider adjusting your posting… although please continue to drive people to the Mirror’s online edition.
Yours, Steve Stajich

I really am grateful for the fact that Steve took the time to respond, and appreciate his acknowledgement that a government drug war mentality is troubling. It’s often surprising to hear from someone I have mentioned, particularly when I have done so in a somewhat unflattering way. It’s slightly disconcerting, because I have been raised to be polite to people, and now that I’ve heard from Steve, I feel like I, in some way, know him, and feel a tiny but guilty for denigrating his work in such an off-hand way.
So instead of the glib reaction I gave Friday, let’s take a moment to analyze Steve’s piece in greater detail.
First, I didn’t say that his points were stupid. I said that the article was stupid and the points were moronic….
…OK, that doesn’t really help.
Let’s try again. Steve admits that the points aren’t the only ones, and that they might be “lame” or “soft” because they don’t, by themselves justify a drug war. But the problem is much deeper.
In the context of having a debate about legalization, the only points brought up in his article are, in fact, false arguments based on dis-proven and exaggerated stereotypes (perhaps intended to be humorous, but falling flat) and other meaningless and incorrect ideas.
They’re really no different than…

  • In a discussion about homosexual marriage, a columnist suggests that we’ll need to discuss the impact on health care from the cost of removing all those gerbils from peoples’ asses.
  • In a discussion about ending segregation, a columnist suggests that we’ll need to assess the zoning impact of accommodating all of the watermelon patches.

In the example at top, I can’t really even tell from the sarcasm if Steve is calling up the stereotype that marijuana causes increased teen pregnancy or that marijuana causes the inability to have sex (thereby decreasing teen pregnancy), but either way, that has absolutely nothing to do with legalization.
As far as the rest…

While opening up access to intoxicants is not quite the same as realizing revenue gain from state gambling, information on gambling addiction and its destructive impacts is always neatly left out of ads for state lotteries and Native American casinos. Would we do the same with legalized pot? At a certain point, state governments and voters must own-up to the fact that realizing revenue gain on a legalized activity means the people‰s representative government is socializing and endorsing the behavior involved. We‰re already playing a hypocritical game of pretend with state sponsored gambling; now we‰re going to run “Hey Kids, Don‰t Get High at School!” spots on TV with money realized from marijuana sales!?

Don’t we get revenue from alcohol, tobacco, and a million other things that the government taxes, but doesn’t necessarily encourage? Isn’t, in fact, the whole notion of “sin” taxes a kind of recognition that government discourages it? The only way that government would be endorsing pot is if they gave it away for free in schools.

Theoretically, making it illegal for younger teens to have alcohol prevents any teen drinking problemsá right? Drunk driving and teen drinking statistics seems to show some holes in that. Does the governor wish to publicly address school teachers and say ‹Best of luck with more dope on the streets, you know, because now we‰re selling it at Walgreens.Š Go ahead with any ‹They‰ll get it anyhow if they want itŠ responses; one way they won‰t get it is by having their older brother or sister buy it from the responsible adults of California. Jeeze, Arnoldá we‰re having problems keeping diabetes-inflicting sugar and fat out of schools! Do you hang with school teachers at all?

Does this make any sense at all? Making alcohol illegal for teens didn’t stop teen drinking problems so making pot legal for adults will cause teen pot problems? Steve cancels out his own argument, showing that making pot illegal doesn’t keep it away from teens (which we already know). Sure, maybe we should have a discussion as to whether it’s better for teens to get pot from criminals who don’t card, or from their brother who skirts the law, but there’s certainly no evidence that selling it at Walgreens is going to make it easier for teens to get.

What‰s holding back American manufacturing and productivity? That‰s right: Our workers don‰t have any state-endorsed pot to smoke during lunch breaks. How different the stories of GM and Chrysler if only we‰d had the good sense to make it easier (and revenue producing!) for line workers to smoke a ‹fattyŠ with their morning coffee. Of course it would be against company rules and policy, just like drinking on the job, which has never been a problem.

“Smoke a ‘fatty’ with their morning coffee?” Really? And state-endorsed pot again? Steve’s got a pretty poor view of American workers if he thinks that just because marijuana is legal, all our workers are going to be constantly stoned on the job. Sure, there are some who get drunk or show up hungover or are stoned or tired regardless of the laws, and you know what? Good managers fire those people and hire people who work during work hours and enjoy themselves during other hours.

Destructive behaviors don‰t necessarily fluctuate by substance. A drunk driver or husband can bring the pain, whether it was beer or wine or bottle goods. My local hardware store locks up the spray paint so that kids can‰t just boost a can and go huff it somewhere. So let me say that it‰s not specifically about marijuana. Our nation‰s experiments with legalizing the drugs tobacco and alcohol have been less than successful. Drunk driving deaths and alcohol-fueled violence, disease and death from tobacco; the state realizes revenues from these substances yet no one is arguing we should widen access (for more state funds) to either of those. Sorry, Arnold. It‰s not really a ‹debate.Š It‰s more like, uh, you just talkingá again.

What does any of this have to do with marijuana? These are just nonsense and distractions from the debate. The last two sentences are apparently really about Steve, not the Governor.
Sorry Steve. Happy to send more readers to the Mirror’s online edition, though.

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