Monday, May 2, 2016

Marijuana laws — you've got to be joking

       Eeyore's Birthday Party has come and gone in Austin again without scads of arrests. This is testament once again to the fact that our nation's marijuana laws are silly.

Not just silly. Sillier than your Aunt Vidalia on the wacky weed.

If marijuana laws were serious, the nation's jails this week would teem with newly incarcerated humanity. Oh, the humanity – and ambient smoke – since another 4/20, the day when millions of Americans annually flaunt the ever-absurdity of marijuana prohibition.

We're not sure why 4/20 became a day of peaceful pothead disobedience. Peaceful -- well, there's an understatement.

Not sure about the significance of Eeyore's birthday in Austin, either. Just call it pretext for April's inhale-abration to continue.

Oh, and it's only 344 days until April 14 and Austin's next Marley Fest – peace, love, reggae, and nobody getting arrested for doing something for which nobody ever should.

So tell us why some sad sack somewhere in Texas this week will get smoked -- six months (two ounces or less) to a year in jail depending on how someone in power tips the scales.

It's worse in Oklahoma: an abominable year in jail for any amount whatsoever.

This for a substance now legal in four states and the District of Columbia, and legalized for medical use in 24 states.

This for a substance the federal government is studying as a potential aid to veterans who suffer post-traumatic stress.

This for a substance that increasing numbers of former NFL players say should be legal for treatment for their lingering ills as an alternative to addicting and debilitating opiods.

This for a substance, or the oil from it, which even the Texas Legislature this year authorized for the treatment of epileptic seizures.

Stop this reefer madness. Putting people in jail for marijuana is idiotic and destructive. Foreclosing medical applications of marijuana is inhumane.

` Federal laws about marijuana are caught in a time warp – a 1970 time warp. That's the year Congress declared it a Schedule 1 drug alongside heroin and PCP and LSD.

Here's the result of that decision: untold commerce and riches for organized crime.

The old "gateway drug" canard owes itself to said classification. The only reason pot has any connection to other drugs is because its illicit status puts it on the same shelf and hence in the pusher's repertoire.

In 2013, after one year of pot legalization in Washington state and Colorado, Time magazine reported that those developments had cost Mexican drug cartels $1.4 billion.

Where did that money go instead? Into those states' economies. Colorado reaped $76 million in tax revenue from recreational and medical marijuana in 2014.

But don't let anyone convince you that this is about money. This is about decriminalizing something that shouldn't be a crime.

Racism is at the root of marijuana prohibition, the 19th century notion that invaders from south of the border were inserting it into our idyllic culture.

From those roots, laws against marijuana, and drug laws in general, have been used to oppress and imprison the poor, particularly people of color, for indulging in the same practices as their more fortunate white brethren.

How harmful is marijuana? No one can call it harmless. However, it can't hold a candle to the pathology of addictin to alcohol and nicotine. Of course, producers of said vices can be expected to campaign hard to keep pot illegal.

I've never smoked – anything. The idea repels my bronchioles. However, the notion that smoking an herb would put you in the slammer is more repulsive.

The fact that people who hurt can't use it to ease their pain, depending on where they live, is even more repellent. And silly.

Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:

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