Marijuana Legalization – The Civil Rights Battle It’s Still OK to Mock
by Russ Belville | June 7, 2012 7:38 am
UPDATE: Chez Pazienza has replied within his blog – I’ll address that on Page 3…
I’m the epitome of the marijuana legalization “movement” that Chez Pazienza mocks and demeans in his latest Huffington Post piece entitled “Reefer Madness”. Pazienza seems to think those of us fighting to end our War on (Certain American Citizens Using Non-Pharmaceutical, Non-Alcoholic Tobacco-Free) Drugs are just unabashed hedonists hiding behind lofty rhetoric to get our wacky tobaccy legal so we can get doped up in peace.
Here are some of the relevant excerpts from Pazienza:
A couple of weeks back, though, Bob Cesca and I had a little debate going on our podcast and radio show about the merits — or lack thereof, in my opinion — of the “culture” of marijuana….
You know, the “movement” full of people who basically take the diametrically opposing side of the argument to those who feel that pot is the devil’s weed, mythologizing it rather than castigating it, claiming that it heals all wounds and has near-magical properties that can be used in the service of mankind if the closed-minded politicians would just give it a chance.
Here’s my issue with the marijuana culture — the, ahem, “fight” to gain national acceptance of pot beyond the fact that a hell of a lot of people use it or have used it at one point in their lives: it’s for the most part disingenuous…. for God’s sake be honest about why you like weed. You like to get high. That hemp-is-beneficial-to-mankind and I-need-it-as-medicine horseshit is exactly that: horseshit.
Yeah, sure, I like to get high. That doesn't make marijuana prohibition any less evil.
Pazienza goes to great lengths in the piece to indicate that he actually does want to see marijuana legalized. He accepts that it does have medicinal properties and that hemp is an amazingly valuable crop for its myriad of industrial uses. He even posits that its none of the government’s business to police the habits of citizens so long as they are doing no harm to others.
So why the vitriol toward those trying to get marijuana legalized?
It seems to me that marijuana legalization is the only civil rights issue in America where it is still acceptable to mock the oppressed by questioning the selfish motives of those fighting for equality. Can you imagine the uproar if Pazienza were questioning the motives of those fighting for acceptance of equal marriage rights for gay people by observing “You like to get laid, and it’s very likely nothing more noble than that. Admit it.” Or if Pazienza castigated a woman fighting for health insurance coverage of birth control as just “She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex.” Or if he demeaned those fighting against “English only” laws as just “too lazy to learn English”.
Yes, indeed, many people who support marijuana legalization just want to get high without having the police, clad in body armor and toting automatic weapons, breaking down their door in the middle of the night, throwing flash-bang grenades into their living room, and shooting seven times inside our homes, killing our family pets while our children are asleep in the next room. How disingenuous of them to want an end to that, just because they like to smoke weed.
Certainly, many of the people getting their medical marijuana recommendation in California are doing so to treat Arrest Anxiety Syndrome – who wouldn’t take the opportunity to avoid arrest, incarceration, and seizure of their assets for the “crime” of choosing to get wasted on a drug whose advertisements don’t fund Super Bowl telecasts and is far safer to use? But Pazienza seems to think that’s the case in the other 16 medical marijuana states, where, in fact, it takes a whole lot of medical documentation to qualify under an extremely limited set of medical conditions.
Part of the reason medical use is limited in sixteen other states and forbidden in the rest is people like Pazienza who seem to understand the need to end prohibition but mock the people who are fighting for that “important, necessary or admirable work”. Pazienza demands that legalization proponents abandon the larger societal points regarding the devastation of prohibition and base their arguments on a single selfish right to get high without government interference.
OK, Chez, you got me – I like to smoke pot and I don’t want to be put in a cage over it. You’re right, my motivation is extremely personal. Kind of like how a black man marching with Dr. King in the early 1960′s probably had a very personal motivation to not be firehosed, attacked by police dogs, or lynched by rednecks. Kind of like how a gay man protesting in the 1980′s probably had a very personal motivation to not die from HIV while a president ignored an epidemic. Kind of like how a student protesting with Occupy in the 2010′s probably has a very personal motivation to just be in the center of some public civil disobedience for the fun of it. Regardless of the personal motivations, they do not make the societal cause any less just or those fighting for it any less noble.
Whether you’re the twirling hippy at the hempfest for the high or the suit-and-tie activist at the hempfest for the chance to organize voters, standing up to fight injustice still carries the same personal consequences. Because I like to get high on marijuana and proclaim so openly and fight for the same right a beer drinker has, I will be discriminated against in hiring, housing, and many other aspects of daily life. Few corporate employers are going to look past my dirty pee test because I’m cognizant of the greater devastation of global cannabis prohibition; to them, I’m just a guy who breaks the law and their “drug-free workplace” policy.
Marijuana prohibition in America has contributed to the torturous murders of over 50,000 Mexicans and the terrorization of Latin America. It has denied to our farmers our heritage crop of hemp that could ease many of the environmental and energy problems of this nation. It has contributed to the suffering of millions by denying them “the safest therapeutically active substance known to man”. It has enriched criminals, gangs, and terrorists and imprisoned mothers and fathers whose only crime was choosing marijuana over martinis, Marlboros, or Midol. All these things are true even if the tattooed, pierced, dreadlocked kid protesting at the marijuana march for a solution to it all just wants to get high.
The right to one’s own consciousness and self is the most personal of civil rights. This isn’t about getting high, it’s about who has the jurisdiction over my brain and body. If a woman has the right to do with her uterus as she pleases, why is it any less a right for me to do with my brain and lungs what I choose? Whether that woman uses a “morning after” birth control pill because of an honest mistake and desire to prevent an unwelcome pregnancy or because she’s a careless nymphomaniac with six abortions in her past is irrelevant; we recognize her right to control her own body. So whether I’m fighting for my civil right to be as stoned as a beer drinker because I’m trying to commit police resources toward actual crimes or because I simply prefer a marijuana buzz, it is irrelevant – I’m fighting for a just cause.
One final thought, Chez. You seem like a reasonable guy, so try to understand that what you’re railing against is a “tip of the iceberg”. There are 26 million people in America who will consume marijuana this year, about 17 million of them this month, with about 2.5 million of them consumers like me who use marijuana almost every day. The “movement” you see is that tip of the iceberg that have nothing to lose by being “out of the closet” for ending marijuana prohibition – either the “alternative” crowd with artistic or low-wage jobs that don’t care about pot smoking or the “professional activists” like me whose jobs are about ending prohibition. You don’t see the part of the “movement” who can lose their careers, kids, assets, businesses, friends, and family for espousing an end to prohibition, because they are forced into silence for self-preservation. I think if you could see them, you’d be less likely to dismiss their concerns over the Prohibition War as just a bunch of stoners “pushing for the legalization of pot because it makes you feel good.”
Chez Pazienza takes issue with my characterization of the fight for marijuana legalization as a civil right:
…to call marijuana legalization a civil rights issue is a laughable conceit; to compare it to the fight for African-American rights in this country, or gay rights, or the rights of women to be the people they were born as and be granted equal acceptance is fucking ridiculous. You don’t have a right to get high; getting high is a choice you make and not all choices you make are going to be legal, nor should they be. A black person can’t change the color of his or her skin and a gay person can’t become heterosexual, regardless of what some asshole Christians think, and therefore neither should ever be persecuted for those qualities about themselves. They have a right to exist; they haven’t made a choice that would warrant discrimination.
In other words, maybe in your mind you do have a right to get high — but don’t ever think it’s an honest-to-Christ civil right, on par with the civil rights so many have risked their lives to defend throughout history. I realize that some will consider this argument nothing more than a matter of semantics, but when you put your desire to get high — admittedly without fear of arrest and prosecution — up against the right of a black guy not to be killed for the color of his skin, I tend to instantly take you a hell of a lot less seriously.
Well, then, I’d have to ask this (speaking of Christ): is anyone born Catholic?
Pazienza seems to hinge his support of civil rights on the inherent physical characteristics one possesses and whether one is discriminated against on those grounds. A black person’s skin, a gay person’s sexuality, a woman’s ovaries, all to be protected from discrimination. And I won’t dispute that getting high is a choice one makes, unlike being black, gay, or female.
But what about being Catholic? Or Muslim? Or an atheist? Is anyone born that way, or is that a choice one makes?
Of course it is a choice; however, we protect people from being discriminated against for their choice of religion because we recognize (through our First Amendment) that we have a freedom of (and from) religion. A state of consciousness or a “high”, if you will, for I have seen my share of Charismatics, Evangelicals, Hindi, Muslims, Buddhists, and other “persons of faith” in states of trance or euphoria (don’t click that) that make my daily wake and bake seem quite pedestrian.
But that’s easy, because right there in the Constitution it says there’s a right to religion; it doesn’t say there’s a right to getting high, now… or does it?
The Ninth Amendment to our Constitution states:
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
So, just because the Constitution doesn’t specifically say you have a right to something doesn’t mean you don’t have a right to, well, anything. The Founders couldn’t possibly have written down every right the people retain – the right to breathe air, the right to drink water, the right to have sex with your spouse, and so forth – because the Constitution would’ve been eighty pages long and the inevitable fights over every single right would’ve paralyzed the drafting process.
But do you think, perhaps, that a bunch of hemp farmers writing a Constitution for an agrarian society might have thought the people had the right to cultivate hemp? That maybe the idea that the government would ban the planting of the crop that the author / cultivator claimed was “…of first necessity to the wealth & protection of the country” would be so beyond their capability to imagine that they never would have written “Congress shall make no law violating a person’s right to plant a seed.”
In fact, more so than the civil rights fights for racial tolerance, gay acceptance, and women’s equality, the fight to end the Prohibition War, the largest segment of which is marijuana prohibition, affects all of our civil rights. Consider the incredibly racist disparity in drug war arrests, prosecutions, convictions, and incarceration that Michelle Alexander has righteously described as “The New Jim Crow”. Consider the great numbers of gay people without access to medical marijuana to help moderate the symptoms of HIV/AIDS. Consider the women whose newborn infants are taken from their breast because of some THC metabolites discovered in the baby’s excretions. Because marijuana is illegal, that is used to discriminate against people now when outright bias over skin color, sexual orientation, or gender are forbidden.
To be sure, being black or female is something you can’t hide easily, and being black, female, or gay has subjected you to a greater and broader degree of discrimination than a pot smoker who, if forced to, can simply stop smoking pot and “closet” themselves to avoid discrimination. I get that. I also get that there are many other issues one should consider when making a choice in a presidential election besides just a candidate’s stand on legalization of marijuana. I get that, too. And believe me, in my job I’ve dealt with more than my share of “Hemp Can Save the Planet!”1 and “The Miracle of Marijuana: Cannabis Cures Everything!”2 starry-eyed true believers. But to say that it isn’t a civil rights fight to have jurisdiction over one’s body and mind baffles me.
When alcohol was prohibited, it took a Constitutional amendment. In the first dozen dozen years of our Republic, it was well understood that government had no place telling citizens whether they could or could not drink. In other words, it seemed established that people had a Constitutional right to get high… of what other use is alcohol, at least in the tavern and not for its limited medical utility? When the 21st Amendment repealed the 18th, that right to get high was restored to the people.
The Controlled Substances Act, that commerce clause perversion of Tricky Dick’s, does nothing to diminish this right to get high. It merely prohibits access to some of the substances one might use to get high, based on the idea that Congress can control interstate commerce and prevent people from selling you “snake oil” that is either dangerous or ineffective or both. But you can go to any store right now and buy nutmeg3, and prepared correctly, trip higher and harder than any mushroom or LSD experience. We’ve recently legalized absinthe, with its thujone constituent that can give one quite a nice high. And there are any number of legal chemicals you can “ask your doctor about”4 that will mess you up far worse than a doobie.
As for the Controlled Substances Act placing marijuana along with heroin and PCP as chemicals without medical benefit, too dangerous for a doctor to prescribe, and too much of an addiction risk to allow, you’d be hard pressed to find any government policy more detrimental to our civil liberties. To wit:
1st Amendment: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;
Unless you’re a Rastafarian or Coptic Christian who uses marijuana as sacrament. Catholics can have their wine and give it to kids, certain tribal nations can use peyote and ayahuasca and “see God”, but folks who believe their Creator wrote “I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat” are out of luck, because their sacrament is too popular with non-believers.
…or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press;
Unless you’re wanting to advertise for your medical marijuana dispensary in a newspaper.
…or the right of the people peaceably to assemble,
Unless they’re college students who may smoke pot on 4/20 in Boulder.
…and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Which will be promptly ignored the nine times you try and make it the #1 petition submitted by you and your fellow citizens.
2nd Amendment: A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
Unless you’re a medical marijuana patient (until recently) or have been a felon convicted of growing a flower in your home.
3rd Amendment: No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.
Well, it’s not often we think of the Third Amendment, but the idea seems to be that government can’t station its agents to invade the privacy your home. But they can put a GPS device on your car in your private driveway on your property without a warrant.
4th Amendment: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Unless you’re a black kid on the street who might have a decriminalized baggy of weed in his pocket. Or if you’re a dispensary in one of the medical marijuana states, where the warrants “particularly describe” money, marijuana, and assets to be seized, but police never bother to arrest anyone for any crime.
5th Amendment: No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb;
Unless you consider being charged with the illegal sales of marijuana and being charged with not paying the taxes on your illegal business as “the same offence”.
…nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself,
Unless you consider a drug test positive as “self-incrimination”.
…nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
Unless you consider civil asset forfeiture (an undue perversion of law), where pot users lose their homes, money, and assets even when they are not charged or found innocent of pot crimes.
6th Amendment: In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed,
Unless you consider that anybody who espouses marijuana legalization in person or online or in print is immediately disqualified in the voir dire process from serving on any jury that is considering charges in a drug trial – only people who believe marijuana use is a crime are considered “impartial”.
…which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him;
And how exactly do you confront the witness who claims you had pot in the trunk of your car when he’s a canine? “Your Honor, I call Officer Fido to the stand. Fido, woof woof woof actual marijuana smell? Or bark bark bark pleasing your master?”
…to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.
Who is often a Public Defender simply trying to shuffle the overload of pot cases on his to-do list with plea deals for probation and rehab the pot user really doesn’t need. Over a third of the people sentenced to marijuana rehab haven’t even smoked pot in the month prior to admittance.
7th Amendment: In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.
Unless the value in controversy is your weed dealer ripping you off for money or a criminal ripping you off for weed – you can’t exactly sue people under common law over something that is illegal. That’s why rival cannabis distributors shoot each other over disputes and cops in Juarez have to leave their homes and bunker down against better-armed criminals.
8th Amendment: Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
Putting people in cages for decades over growing flowers is the very definition of cruel and unusual punishment.
9th Amendment: The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
I already covered the 9th Amendment, which is the crux of my entire civil rights argument. You’ll not find a right to birth control directly mentioned in the Constitution, either, but the Supreme Court ruled that it was implied in “the provisions of the First, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Ninth, and Fourteenth Amendments” which “had “emanations” that cast “penumbras” implicating a right to privacy.” I still believe a document written by hemp farmers who regularly drank wine, cider5, and ale to excess must cast some penumbra over my pot smoking. Maybe they just thought they had already covered that with the whole “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” part.
10th Amendment: The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
Ah, yes, the hoary old “states rights” amendment that conservatives always trot out when it’s Mexican immigration or school prayer or abortion we’re talking about, but conveniently abandon when the subject is legal pot or gay marriage or physician-assisted suicide.
There it is. If you can find me a black, gay, or female person in the United States today whose 1st-10th Amendment rights are impacted as thoroughly as today’s cannabis consumers, you can convince me my issue isn’t as serious a battle for civil rights as theirs.
1) OK, if hemp can save the planet, and every industrialized country on Earth except the USA has made it legal, why hasn’t it saved the planet just a little bit? Is it really just America’s failure to plant hemp that is destroying the planet?
2) Yes, yes, cannabis is an incredible medicine that just may hold the secrets to curing cancer. And yes, it has remarkable medicinal properties for a wide range of ailments and conditions. But it is not a magic bullet that cures everything.
3) DO NOT DO THIS! Nutmeg has a therapeutic index of 1:7. That means 1 does gets you high, 7 doses kill you. For comparison, heroin is a 1:6 and alcohol is a 1:10. Cannabis is somewhere between 1:20,000 and 1:40,000.
4) When a trained professional uses his observations of your medical condition to evaluate which chemical in his arsenal of well-researched remedies will aid your condition, that guy is called a “doctor”. When you go to somebody and tell them what chemical you’d like to aid your condition, that guy is called a “dealer”.
5) President John Adams would have a tankard of hard cider ready at his bedside when he awoke in the morning to quaff before breakfast. So my morning wake and bake is my tribute to our 2nd President.
- Chez Pazienza has replied within his blog: http://thedailybanter.com/2012/06/and-the-hits-just-keep-on-coming/
- Huffington Post piece entitled “Reefer Madness”: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/chez-pazienza/reefer-madness_b_1568957.html?ref=marijuana
- [Image]: http://radicalruss.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Hempfest-2007-019.jpg
- “You like to get laid, and it’s very likely nothing more noble than that. Admit it.”: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/chez-pazienza/reefer-madness_b_1568957.html?ref=marijuana
- “She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex.”: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/29/rush-limbaugh-sandra-fluke-slut_n_1311640.html
- “too lazy to learn English”: http://www.cbsnews.com/2100-500156_162-1028058.html?pageNum=2&tag=contentMain;contentBody
- killing our family pets while our children are asleep in the next room: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/russ-belville/columbia-missouri-swat-ki_b_567172.html
- proclaim so openly: http://radicalruss.com
- “the safest therapeutically active substance known to man”: http://www.druglibrary.org/schaffer/library/studies/YOUNG/young4.html
- Chez Pazienza takes issue with my characterization of the fight for marijuana legalization as a civil right: http://thedailybanter.com/2012/06/and-the-hits-just-keep-on-coming/
- states of trance or euphoria: http://www.flickr.com/photos/romanywg/3905931761/
- The Ninth Amendment to our Constitution: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ninth_Amendment_to_the_United_States_Constitution#Text
- “…of first necessity to the wealth & protection of the country”: http://www.ronpaulhemp.com/pages.php?pageid=15
- Michelle Alexander has righteously described as “The New Jim Crow”: http://www.newjimcrow.com/
- women whose newborn infants are taken from their breast: http://freemybabies.org
- Constitutional amendment: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eighteenth_Amendment_to_the_United_States_Constitution#Text
- our civil liberties: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Bill_of_Rights#Amendments
- who believe their Creator wrote: http://bible.cc/genesis/1-29.htm
- advertise for your medical marijuana dispensary in a newspaper: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/12/marijuana-ads-attacked-by-feds_n_1008072.html
- college students who may smoke pot on 4/20 in Boulder: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/18/cu-boulder-420-shut-down-_n_1434918.html
- promptly ignored the nine times you try and make it the #1 petition: http://stash.norml.org/president-obama-taking-questions-via-youtube-again-and-marijuana-legalization-is-dominating-again
- until recently: http://stash.norml.org/us-supreme-court-rejects-appeal-on-medical-marijuana-patients-gun-rights-case
- can put a GPS device on your car in your private driveway on your property without a warrant: http://www.theweedblog.com/despite-supreme-court-ruling-cops-can-still-put-gps-on-your-car/
- a black kid on the street who might have a decriminalized baggy of weed in his pocket: http://ccrjustice.org/stopandfrisk
- a dispensary in one of the medical marijuana states: http://photos.sgvtribune.com/2012/05/04/photos-glendale-medical-marijuana-dispensary-raided-by-dea/
- police never bother to arrest anyone for any crime: http://townhall.com/columnists/debrajsaunders/2012/04/08/obama_the_happy_drug_warrior/page/2
- charged with the illegal sales of marijuana and being charged with not paying the taxes on your illegal business: http://www.baycitizen.org/marijuana/story/irs-oaklands-largest-pot-dispensary-owes/
- civil asset forfeiture: http://fear.org
- disqualified in the voir dire process: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voir_dire#Use_in_the_United_States_and_Canada
- Or bark bark bark pleasing your master?: http://stash.norml.org/drug-dogs-false-alert-over-200-times-in-uc-davis-study
- Over a third of the people sentenced to marijuana rehab: http://stash.norml.org/drug-court-forced-rehab-is-a-gilded-cage-and-ineffective
- cops in Juarez have to leave their homes and bunker down: http://stash.norml.org/drug-war-murders-force-entire-juarez-police-department-from-their-homes
- “the provisions of the First, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Ninth, and Fourteenth Amendments” which “had “emanations” that cast “penumbras” implicating a right to privacy.”: http://www.bsos.umd.edu/gvpt/lpbr/subpages/reviews/johnson305.htm
- hemp farmers who regularly drank wine, cider5, and ale to excess: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/stanton-peele/alcohol-addiction-were-th_b_610598.html
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