By Jeff Girod
Not in my food court, Mary Jane! That’s the message California voters delivered Tuesday, voting down the controversial Proposition 19, which would have legalized marijuana and turned this state into one giant Rastafarian love-in.
Even if Prop 19 had passed, California wasn’t going have its pot brownies and eat them, too. The U.S. Justice Department—aka “the no-fun police”—announced recently that it planned to “strongly oppose” Proposition 19 and would “vigorously enforce federal marijuana laws had it passed.” Man, talk about “uptight.” If anybody needs to get high, it’s the U.S. Justice Department.
The “no” vote was especially strong right here in the Inland Empire prior to election, according to The Press-Enterprise, with 57 percent opposed to Prop. 19 and only 35 percent for it. (It’s probably why you haven’t seen a lot of Rastafarians at the Riverside Plaza. Another reason: Shitty parking.)
Prop. 19 once again illustrates the double standard this country has when it comes to controlled substances.
I can chain-smoke a crate load of Pall Malls and chase it with a bathtub’s worth of Thunderbird. And as long as I don’t operate heavy machinery or stumble out of my front yard and demand that my neighbors bow down before me as the Underpants King, it’s perfectly legal.
I don’t have to tell you what happens when you drink too much alcohol because most of us have a story that starts with “The last time I drank tequila . . . ” and ends with “. . . and that’s why I’m banned from the petting zoo!”
Every eight seconds, a human life is lost to tobacco. That translates to approximately 5 million deaths annually. Someone driving under the influence of alcohol kills seventy-one people every day. And it’s estimated that, during his or her lifetime, one of every two Americans will be involved in an alcohol-related accident.
Still . . . cigarettes and booze remain legal. Pot isn’t.
Long-term effects of alcoholism can include stroke, heart attack, diabetes, cirrhosis and even death. Long-term effects of pot smoking include smoker’s cough, Cheetos breath and really, really liking Dave Matthews guitar solos.
You ever tried to have a conversation with an alcoholic? They’re surly, abusive assholes. You ever tried to have a conversation with a pothead? They watch a lot of Cartoon Network and have a surprising amount of theories about dryer lint.
Don’t for a second think I don’t enjoy the occasional Macanudo cigar or a strong shot of single malt whiskey (or three). We’re all adults here. Drink and smoke what you like. But let’s fess up to the Great American Hypocrisy.
Marijuana is this country’s dirty little secret. We smoke it practically everywhere, from college campuses to Tom Petty concerts to suburban backyard barbecues. But we prefer to keep it illegal for appearances’ sake. And maybe it’s better that way. No, in fact, it is better that way.
Everything feels better when it’s just a little wrong. For teenagers, smoking a joint is a rite of passage; their first break with the bill of goods their parents, teachers and after-school specials have sold them; their first taste of life as an outlaw. And for the older set, cribbing a joint at the Hollywood Bowl is an affirmation that they are not as old as their hairline, waistline and their own teenagers are constantly reminding them.
Beyond that, not legalizing pot is a good idea in the same way not winning the lottery is probably a good idea. Because both provide an essential set of checks and balances that require all of us to take a shower every morning and put on pants. I’m not saying if pot was legal I would get high every day. Then again, I’m not saying I wouldn’t. And ultimately, maybe that’s what California voters were afraid of: Like a fat guy wearing stretchy pants to a buffet, if pot were suddenly legal, Californians weren’t so sure we were capable of self-control.
So keep buying your Acapulco Gold from your nephew’s friend’s former math tutor. And stash it in the bottom of a spice rack in a second bottle suspiciously marked “Oregano.”
Prop. 19 didn’t pass. So what? You know it’s better this way.
Smoke ’em if you got ’em.
Contact Jeff Girod at firstname.lastname@example.org.