Today’s Modern-Day Puritan is Will Jones, the Communications and Outreach Associate for Project SAMUEL, a.k.a. Smart Approaches to Marijuana Use Except Legalization.
Will and Project SAMUEL claim in various posts that they are attempting to thwart commercialized marijuana legalization because of their concerns for public safety and the health of children. I simply stated that I would believe their rationale if only they backed it up with two concrete actions: “1) Fight for alcohol to be subject to their demands for marijuana; 2) propose/support the non-commercial decrim of marijuana they claim to want.”
The response I got from Will Jones was so revealing I had to write this article about it:
“The point is to not LET marijuana policy replicate what the alcohol and tobacco industries have done. It is too late to roll back their respective statuses in our culture. We tried that once and that was prohibition. If marijuana were [sic] already there, you might have a point,” Will wrote.
The point is to not LET marijuana policy replicate what the alcohol and tobacco industries have done. It is too late to roll back their respective statuses in our culture. We tried that once and that was prohibition. If marijuana were already there, you might have a point.
— Will. I. SAM (@WillVJones) January 19, 2018
There are four perfectly-encapsulated points Will makes that show just how much this War on (Certain American Citizens Using Non-Pharmaceutical, Non-Alcoholic, Tobacco-Free) Drugs is all a culture war specifically designed to keep a certain type of people corralled and cheap natural competitors out of the marketplace.
1) “The point is to not LET marijuana policy replicate what the alcohol and tobacco industries have done.”
What, exactly, is that policy? In the case of alcohol, it is to allow the promotional marketing of alcohol in nearly every media.
It is to celebrate the youth initiation into alcohol culture in movies and television.
It is to have an entirely different vocabulary when discussing alcohol, so it isn’t even considered a drug in popular conversation.
It is to have alcohol available in all but a few counties in the United States, for sale at nearly every store, for purchase and on-site consumption at nearly every entertainment venue.
It is to be so cavalier about the certainty of 88,000 alcohol-related deaths a year that we not only promote and celebrate alcohol use everywhere for all occasions, we even accept that adults will drive their cars to the parking lots of buildings specifically intended for experiencing the effects of alcohol and just trust them to use their own judgment as to whether they’re too impaired to drive home.
Believe it or not, I agree with Will somewhat on this point. Marijuana use – or any adult activity – should be subject to reasonable restrictions to guard children and protect public safety.
To decide, however, that we’re just going to ignore the 800-lb gorilla of youth corruption and public danger and focus solely on preventing a far safer substance from experiencing the same leeway is nothing but willful disdain for children and safety in the service of a culture war.
Will then explains why we must ignore the 800-lb gorilla: he’s just been here too long.
2) “It is too late to roll back their respective statuses in our culture.”
When I was growing up, there was a thing called “The Marlboro Man.” There was also a stock car championship called “The Winston Cup.” In restaurants, I could play around with the handles of cigarette vending machines as my parents sat us in the smoking section. In stores, I could buy candy cigarettes and bubble gum cigars (complete with powdered sugar on them that you could “blow” like smoke). Anyone 18 and older could buy the actual cigarettes in any state.
When my dad was growing up, soldiers in the military were issued cigarettes in their rations. Doctors explained how Chesterfields or Camels were healthy to smoke. Anchormen smoked cigarettes on their desks during the evening news on television. Smoking was allowed in airplanes, post offices, courthouses, almost everywhere. From that generation through my generation, a solid majority of the public smoked cigarettes.
Somehow, it wasn’t too late in the 1990s to roll back the cultural status of smoking cigarettes, even though smoking had been such an ingrained part of our culture, going all the way back to 1500s. We did so by pointing out the severe public health concerns, both personally and societally, from smoking cigarettes. Then we dragged tobacco companies into court and forced them to settle on new policies that restricted their advertising, tightened up the security of their sales, and mandated their funding of anti-tobacco public education. States then began to further restrict tobacco by means such as raising the purchase age to 21.
3) “We tried that once and that was prohibition.”
Yes, and the result of that was that nobody who wanted to drink stopped drinking. Criminals then stepped in to take advantage of the demand that was no longer legally supplied. Entrepreneurs like Charles Rudolph Walgreen, aided by less-scrupulous doctors, skirted the prohibition by filling “medical alcohol” prescriptions. Other businessmen sold bricks of compressed dehydrated grapes, warning buyers not to add water and sugar to it and leave it in a warm dark place for a few weeks, lest it ferment into illegal alcohol (*wink*). Streets were filled with violence and law enforcement was corrupted. Drinkers suffered when untested homemade liquors blinded or killed them, or when government-poisoned alcohol killed them. Eventually, the public realized that despite some negatives that come with adult alcohol use, trying to extinguish that use led to worse public health and safety consequences than the alcohol caused in the first place.
Will writes as if that same prohibition hasn’t been in effect for eighty-plus years and has been shown to have the same sort of consequences. We seem to agree that alcohol prohibition was a dismal failure, yet he proposes the same policy for marijuana.
See, alcohol prohibition wasn’t like today’s marijuana prohibition. It wasn’t illegal to possess and use alcohol. If you had a stocked wine cellar in 1919, you could freely possess every bottle and drink up every weekend all the way through 1933. It was only illegal to manufacture, transport, and sell alcohol – that’s why your black-and-white filmstrips show G-men cracking open casks of beer at the speakeasy, but not breaking down doors of houses, shooting family pets, and cuffing people and their children in their homes because of their massive cache of wine.
In a sense, alcohol prohibition was “alcohol decrim” – criminally bust the producers and dealers, but (at worst) slaps on the wrist for the users. Which is the same policy Will’s Project SAMUEL claims to support.
That’s why I asked Will my “treat alcohol like marijuana” question. If the policies they propose for marijuana are what will keep the public safe, why are they not proposing them for alcohol? We wouldn’t even have to go back to prohibition. Take just the policy they propose for marijuana users and implement that. Require that anyone police encounter in public who is visibly intoxicated be ticketed, have their booze taken, and required to go before a medical panel to determine if they are alcoholic, and, if so, required to maintain sobriety with random piss tests to verify it and the threat of jail for non-compliance.
We aren’t replicating what alcohol has done by any stretch of the imagination! I can buy all the alcohol I like. Some places sell alcohol 24/7, others until the late evening and early morning. I can consume alcohol in public places. Advertising for alcohol is nearly unrestricted. Alcohol retailers can offer samples and have transparent glass windows. If anything, marijuana legalization has learned from the excesses of alcohol and tobacco and proceeded exceedingly carefully.
4) “If marijuana were already there, you might have a point.”
And that’s the most crystalline distillation of why they go after marijuana and not alcohol. We’re not “there” yet, in terms of being ingrained-enough in the culture. We’re the weakling the bully thinks he can beat.
We both admit that alcohol was too ingrained to stop, being a part of our culture for over 10,000 years. I have shown you how 400 years of tobacco smoking in our culture wasn’t too ingrained to seriously ratchet back. To folks like Will, they see marijuana culture as only dating back to the 1960s, so yeah, just fifty years of culture should be easy to oppose.
Of course, that is just fifty years of white popular culture that’s enjoyed marijuana smoking. African Americans were enjoying their marijuana, listening to known pot smokers Louis Armstrong and Cab Calloway singing about their jive and the reefer man, all the way back to the 1900s. Fifty years before that, Mexican Americans were enjoying their mota while fighting the US Government over their land and white Americans were getting their cannabis in their patent medicines.
News flash, Will: Five straight polls have shown legalization support in the 60 percent range. Even your recent multiple-choice poll found only 16 percent support for continuing to punish everyone who smokes pot. Marijuana’s all over television, movies, and music. Eight states have already legalized it and another six are on the way in 2018. All but four states recognize some medicinal value in marijuana, with two more set to join the 29 that allow for psychoactive medical marijuana in 2018. Not some hippie liberal blue states.
Marijuana is already there.