drug legalization

Marijuana Decriminalization: A Sketch of the Case in Favor

Fact: a lot of people like to get high. Whatever your position on the issue of Marijuana Decriminalization, I think we can start from a place of agreement on that basic premise: yes, Virginia, a lot of people like to get high. But here's another fact that may be a bit more controversial: Marijuana is good medicine for a lot of people. You may not know this, but this is a fact that's been recognized by the federal courts. There are a couple of people with serious degenerative diseases in America for whom the most effective treatment with the least damaging side effects is smoking marijuana. There aren't a lot of those folks, but there are some, and because of their situation as a result of a court settlement, a couple of people (I think the actual number is four), get regular shipments of Marijuana cigarettes from federal labs that grow pot for them.

Ok, so stipulate to that fact: for some limited, small number of people at least, Marijuana is extremely valuable as medicine. We can have a debate about the numbers, sure, but accept that there are at least a couple and we can have an important conversation.

And that conversation is about what do you do about the intersection of those two uses of Marijuana, on the one hand purely recreational and on the other objectively medically valuable.

How a person participates in that conversation, I would argue, has to do with their answer to a couple of fundamental questions: first, is there something wrong with getting high, and second based on the answer to that question, what do you do about the problems created by a particular subgroup of the folks who like to get high?

Why I Hate Firedoglake

So I just got an email from firedoglake, a blog that I started reading during the healthcare debacle of last year primarily because the editor was appearing repeatedly on The Rachel Maddow Show.

Here's what the email said:

A federally funded drug task force seized as evidence up to 200 petition signatures for marijuana legalization in Washington State in a series of early-morning raids this week. Seizing the petition signatures is bad enough. What's worse is what the task force did on its raids of a legal marijuana dispensary and its owner's home.

Drug agents handcuffed a 14-year-old boy and pointed a gun at his head. Then they took $80 from a 9-year-old girl's Minnie Mouse wallet that she earned for straight A's on her report card.

Now the drug agents - funded by the US Department of Justice - say they can only find two pages of the petition. But they had time to make photocopies of the petition, keeping the names and addresses of residents who signed.

...

The intended effect of this raid is to put a chill on other citizens from signing the petition, who will fear having their names and addresses exposed to a drug task force. It's intimidation, pure and simple. And your tax dollars are paying for it.

Now this all came as a bit of a surprise to me. As someone who follows the drug war fairly closely, I recalled that last year the Obama administration had made the decision that pursuing medical marijuana growers who were in compliance with state law was not a good use of federal manpower and that it would be de-emphasized. So it was surprising to me that this federal taskforce was going after a medical marijuana dispensary, particularly in my home state where attitudes about The Weed among law enforcement are in my experience pretty lax and where the City of Seattle has more or less decriminalized the possession of small amounts for personal use.