Reefer Madness

OK, this has nothing really to do with my blog, aside from it being a rant against the U.S. tendency to embrace puritanism in all its forms, but I’m just really angry right now.

As those of you with a computer/TV/friend undoubtedly know, Michael Phelps was recently caught on film smoking out of a bong. Gasp! A 24-year-old smoking the demon weed? Can it be??? Granted, this particular 24-year-old fitness-buff-cum-drug-fiend is mildly more surprising than, say, Kate Moss was when she was “discovered” doing lines (a model AND a cokehead?!?!), but still…come on, everyone. Take a deep breath, remember that this kid is wildly healthy and, aside from fucking sketchier Vegas barmaids than George Clooney, a pretty good role model. Don’t bring up Obama’s half brother getting arrested for pot either. First of all, he’s one of his Kenyan half-siblings whom he’s likely met at most once. Further, the guy was arrested for having one joint on him. Aside from me thinking it a bit odd to be doing anything munchies-inducing in a country that has a tough time giving its populous enough food to stay alive, I don’t begrudge the man his need to escape either.
So, let’s just relax and look at this. If you’d like, smoke a bowl, cue up a Family Guy, and grab yourself a big bag of Cheetos, cause this’ll only take a minute. That better? ‘Kay, then…

Let’s put aside for a moment the nitty gritty details of the Phelps “scandal.” What I’m really angry about is the outdated and utterly stupid continuation to criminalize and scandalize marijuana. I know I sound like…well, what I am (a native of the town that birthed the Grateful Dead), but, believe it or not, I’m not a huge pothead. Rather, I’m just someone with an ounce (dimebag?) of common sense. In case you are not insomniac addicts of the History Channel and missed its chronicling of the criminalization of drugs, here’s a synopsis of what happened to pot:

Pushed by the late Federal Bureau of Narcotics, “The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937” required taxes, and registration, from individuals importing, producing, selling or prescribing marijuana.
The tax required a yearly fee plus a fee at each point the substance was transferred. Transfer could be made to individuals not registered with a special order form and a tax rate of $100 per ounce.
Under the law, an unregistered person caught with untaxed marijuana could be punished by up to five years in prison and a fine up to $2,000, or both.Be afraid
The bill for the Marihuana Tax Act reportedly swept swiftly through the House of Representatives and Senate with little discussion and attention, drawing only three lines in the New York Times:
“President Roosevelt signed today a bill to curb traffic in the narcotic, marihuana, through heavy taxes on transactions.”

So what started this whole ball rolling? Racism. Yup, that’s right. It was Texan and Arizonan and Southern Californian racist a-holes who were looking for some way to either marginalize, jail, or deport the Mexican immigrants they felt were taking over their towns. Knowing they tended to grow the stuff for private consumption, they proposed a tax they knew they couldn’t pay. Period. There was no sudden spike in marijuana-related deaths or injuries, no rash of crimes committed by addicts. This law was enacted because those aw-shucks-Ma’am-in’ good ol’ boys hated Messicans.

Penalties stiffened when the Boggs Act was enacted in 1951.
Brought forth by Congressman Hale Boggs, the new law called for imprisonment of two to five years for a first-time drug related offense, five to 10 years for second offense and 10 to 20 years for a third offense.
It was also in the Boggs Act that marijuana came to be classified under the theory of the “stepping stone,” later called the “gateway drug.”

And this came about because of typical American prissy hysteria over the fact that the government hadn’t done enough to eradicate the drug’s existence (and, remember, for those of you SAT/Conan fans, “marijuana” is to “Mexican,” as “Lindsay Lohan” is to “star of The Surreal Life XIII”). So, those heavy-lobbying farmers from the aforementioned regions thought up a way to eradicate said scourge from their lily-white, erm, fields. And that way was to send them to jail. As to the nefarious effects of the drug? In the immortal words of Strangers With Candy‘s Mr. Jellineck, “If you’re going to smoke marijuana you have to be prepared to spend a lot of time laughing with your friends.”

So, there. Now we all know the truth of the matter. Back to other hippie pursuits (basket weaving, hackey sack, working in academia).


2 Responses to “Reefer Madness”

  1. 1 Jen
    February 3, 2009 at 20:06

    Okay, I really don’t care about the Phelps thing because well, I don’t care. However, I find it interesting that IOC is supposed to be implementing tougher drug laws extending beyond the normal cheating drugs and into recreational drugs. When they face their first test–Michael Phelps–they immediately back off their hard stance of immediate suspension for four years. Now, granted he wasn’t caught by cops and charged with anything, but this does follow his DUI in 2004 and the IOC has been merciless to athletes who merely test positive for cold medicine. It’s a clear double standard and since I’m sick of Phelps-mania, it irritates me.

    Also all this crap about how we should be lax on him because 1) he’s a kid and 2) he needs the thrill of winning needs to stop. We’re certainly not lax on kids who make these kinds of mistakes (and since when is 23 a kid, anyway). And if he needs a thrill, take up skydiving.

    End Rant

  2. February 4, 2009 at 19:12

    next thing you know, Phelps will be trading in his medals to score something even more hardcore than weed — like a pack of Marlboros!

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