[AN ASIDE] A Response to Elephant Journal’s “Legalize Pot” Post /// We Say: Don’t Legalize. Decriminalize in Total!

About two weeks ago Waylon Lewis, founder/editor of Elephant Journal, posted an article listing “Ten Reasons to Tax, Regulate & Control Marijuana,” essentially calling for the legalization of the holy herb, making his article one of the more overt calls for an increase of government interference in people’s use of non-harmful plant matter. Interestingly, many people within this debate (like us) have already abandoned the language of “legalization” in favor of the more people-friendly tone of “decriminalization” (see John Stewart’s usage here), which makes Waylon’s suggestion of more State control a curious one.

For some people the distinction between the terms “legalization” and “decriminalization” is a hard one to discern. Less confusing, however, is the difference between “legalization” and “total decriminalization,” which is what we’d like to see. So, for those who could use a little clarity on the matter:

  • Legalizing marijuana makes it a State-sanctioned, mediated, and controlled activity, and takes every ounce of power out of your hands.
  • Decriminalizing marijuana (in total) just means you’ll keep doing whatever it is you’re doing, and a bunch of black kids won’t have their lives ruined every time they step out of their apartment and get “stop-n-frisked by over-zealous cops.

‘Cause let’s face it, laws making marijuana illegal are on the books because of racism, classism, and incarceration capitalism. “Legalizing” marijuana makes sense only when either of these is a non-issue, and only if there is a way to make up the lost revenue from the supposedly soon-to-be-uninhabited prison system. It also only makes sense if you think the government is the best venue for controlling plants.

Below is Waylon’s Top 10 as laid out in his article articulating reasons why giving the State full control of marijuana possession, growth, and distribution makes sense. Below each is why we think this is ridiculous, dangerous, and will further ensconce racist and classist marketing strategies in commerce:

Waylon states that:
Less taxpayer money could be used to house non violent drug arrests [if marijuana was controlled by the State].

This is naive. Incarceration is a HUGE money-making industry, and the money once used to house non-violent pot possessing criminals will quickly be sourced in other more inventive ways. Think: “Prison Industrial Complex,” and you’re looking in the right direction. If you think marijuana is what makes prisons filled to the brim with minorities, you’re grossly mistaken and in need of learning a lot more about racism, preferably from people directly effected by it. Remember, racism will always find a way to put African-Americans and latino/as in jail!

Waylon states that:
More room in prisons would be available for actually dangerous criminals [if marijuana was controlled by the State].

See #1, and perhaps start rethinking the entire concept of the prison and whether it’s still a valid system. Start with No More Prisons for a gentle first ten pages on the matter.

Waylon states that:
The State makes money to help fund…anything. Healthcare, education, police, fire.

Here’s a simple breakdown of where federal tax revenue is headed every time it leaves your pay check:

Having trouble finding all that “healthcare, education, police, and fire?” Yeah. Us too. [Hint: It’s one of the little ones]

Waylon states that:
Regulated drugs means no more kids getting paid to sell on the corner since people can get marijuana at any store, as they would liquor or cigarettes.

Kids sell illegal things on the corner because they’re poor or need the money. Poverty is the problem. Not pot. And, since when is it a problem for kids to sell stuff on the corner? We the Babarazzi only have a problem when kids get arrested for selling stuff on the corner. If it ain’t pot, it’ll be something else. Again, poverty is the problem.

Waylon states that:
The countries that [give the State the power to regulate the marijuana trade] haven’t had negatives come about from it. They have fewer people using and more money to use for public programs.

Cyprus, Czech Rep., Ecuador, India (during religious rituals), Iran, Mexico, Netherlands, Pakistan, and Switzerland have notable and wide-reaching decriminalized cannabis policies on the books. I don’t know about you, but I don’t know enough about the inner workings of any of these countries to really say how these policies have effected the people, economy, and conditions of each State. I also can’t speak as to whether these countries have “fewer people using,” and, if that were true, if it would have anything to do with State-controlled pot use.

Waylon states that:
Affordable medication for a variety of illnesses, with reduced negative side effects and addictive properties [would be made available if marijuana was controlled by the State].

Once the State, and by extension major corporations and pharmaceutical companies, get their hands on marijuana, the whole concept of “affordable” will be a thing made useful only insofar as it is profitable. Meaning: “bad marijuana” (AKA stuff with horrible chemicals in it) will be made “affordable,” but marketed to lower-income populations, paralleling the marketing practices of the US’s current cigarette industry. As a 2009 study published in Public Health Reports states, “cigarette prices do vary by brand, the youth and racial/ethnic composition in a neighborhood, and store type, suggesting that the tobacco industry might vary its marketing strategies based on brand as well as neighborhood and store characteristics.” Face it, there’s a reason why well-off liberal whites smoke American Spirits and blacks smoke menthols. What might be the reason? Just ask the government’s own Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): “The tobacco industry has strategically targeted black communities in its advertisements and promotional efforts for menthol cigarettes.

Waylon states that:
Hemp can be used for almost everything trees are used for on a much smaller plot of land and will grow back in half the time once harvested.

I’m not even sure what this has to do with the argument to give the State control of marijuana production and use. Hemp and pot are not the same thing. Not even close. This is why people aren’t shooting up hemp milk or trying to snort hemp granola in house party bathrooms across the country.

Waylon states that:
[Marijuana is] less harmful than alcohol or tobacco. And, unlike either, it isn’t physically addictive at all. So let’s treat it like them.

This makes no sense as a reason for giving the State full control of marijuana cultivation. Why treat a product that bares almost no similarity to another as if it were the same? If marijuana is as harmless as people suggest, which it probably isn’t, it should be treated the same way we treat, say, chocolate. You know, something “harmless.”

Waylon states that:
The War on Drugs is expensive. It isn’t working.

This is true. The State-sponsored “War on Drugs” is a criminal failure. So, why should we entrust the State with controlling a so-called “harmless” plant that it has for decades used as a means to incarcerate non-violent minorities and poor whites?

Waylon states that:
What’s one more reason to legalize marijuana and hemp? Any good reasons not to do so, please share those, too.

In short: Don’t legalize. Support a total decriminalization of marijuana!

Look, even Obama hints at decriminalization (if couched in classic poltricktian double speak):

So, you know, it must be right!

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8 comments

  1. Canada decriminalized homosexuality back in the early 1970’s when Pierre Trudeau was Prime Minister. There was also talk of decriminalizing marijuana at the time, and the issue never really went away but stayed bubbling right under the surface.
    I say do it, if only to put the drugs czars and street gangs permanently out of business and put the question of demand and supply back in the hands of citizens.

  2. I pressed “like” because I like the depth of your argument. I had not thought so deeply about this discussion myself. Very interesting and thank you for writing a thought provoking piece.

  3. Greenpoint

    Well what did you expect from EJ? Thinkin’ is hard dude!

  4. Harriet

    Waylon is not what anyone would call an original thinker. All his ideas are cut and paste and reposts of ideas from other bogs just like most of EJ is.

  5. Umm, you’re wrong about the difference between “decriminalization” and “legalization.” “Decriminalization” refers to removing the criminal penalties on a substance. For example, in 2009 Massachusetts voters passed a referendum decriminalizing the possession of an ounce or less of marijuana. It was a misdemeanor; now violators are simply fined $100. If pot was legalized, of course, there would be no fines for possession; it would be simply regulated like alcohol.

    As Wikipedia says, “While decriminalized acts are no longer crimes, they may still be the subject of penalties; for example a monetary fine in place of a criminal charge for the possession of a decriminalized drug. This should be contrasted with legalization, which removes all or most legal detriments from a previously illegal act”

    • Thanks, Derek. I’m aware of the difference and specifically the wiki article. This is why we use the term “total decriminalization.” See second paragraph, bullet #2, in a round-about way point #8’s reference to chocolate, and the third-to-last sentence of the piece. Hope this helps clear up any confusion.

  6. The “control” language is code—think you’d be high on that—to get moderates and conservatives to support “total decriminalization.” I’d genuinely have thought you’d be supportive of my call for potheads to stop being treated like criminals.

    But I know your mo is anonymous trolling, and you’re good at it, and I welcome it and more of it, so have at it.

    That said, I love your anonymous trolling about Elena (who I love)’s book. It’d be even healthier for the community if you feel a need to hide, and elephant would be honored to share up your posts, as we did together before, with our community.

    Dialogue is Divine, when fair and open. When otherwise, we do a disservice to criticism and dissent.

    But you’re smart, you know all that, and you must have your reasons.

    Yours,

    Anonymous

    • The term “total decriminalization” means to put something completely outside of government/legal jurisdiction. This in opposition to either legalization or decriminalization. I’m all for helping “potheads” become less like criminals. However, your “potheads” aren’t the ones filling jails. We don’t want fines, we don’t want legalization, we don’t want limits on possession. We want gov’t out of it all together.

      With re. to the idea of using “coded” language to seduce politicians: You play their game and you’re in their pockets. Not the other way around, son. For goodness sake. Think! Laws are written in code (AKA language)! You use the wrong language, and you will find yourself on the wrong side of your “codes.”

      As for being “anonymous.” We critique only what celebriyogis have made public for critiquing. If it is their kitchen they would like us to see, than we will share an opinion on their kitchen. What name we chose to do so under is our own business. It is consistent. What you don’t understand is that we greatly respect privacy. Very much so. Critique what we have willing made public, and we will do the same for others. Remember, a well-known, well-respected, well-loved, and very popular teacher is far different from a celebrity. While they can be one and the same, they certainly do not have to be.

      As for “trolling.” We write and respond always as the same person. And we do 99% of it right here in Winterfell. Enjoy your stay.

      PS- Consistency is what builds the name. Not the name itself. If you remain here as “Anonymous” that will simply become your name. No one here is expected to be any more or less than they want. If you want to be “Anonymous,” than that is your name! Use it well!

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