2013-08-27 "Getting high - everybody's doing it"
by Jon Carroll from "San Francisco Chronicle" [http://www.sfgate.com/entertainment/carroll/article/Getting-high-everybody-s-doing-it-4765758.php]:
Well, this is unfortunate: According to Bob Egelko of this very newspaper, the feds have come up with a new way to harass medicinal-pot sellers in Oakland - and probably elsewhere as well.
Marijuana is a fraught subject just now. The Justice Department really doesn't want any high-profile cases, so it's not busting the pot stores. Selling marijuana is, after all, legal under California law - provided that your buyers have prescriptions and provided that your city has not passed a law forbidding pot sales within city limits.
The current state of affairs is something of a mess, although commerce is winning out in many areas. There's gold in them thar buds, friends, and lots of people are aware of that and jumping on the bandwagon. If the Justice Department were to back off, we'd see a vigorous free market at work.
Anyway: According to the folks at Harborside, Oakland's upscale, perky-people, "have a nice day," one-stop-shopping marijuana purveyors, the feds are now pressuring armored-car companies not to do business with the pot clubs, threatening possible prosecution for criminal conspiracy. That doesn't look good on any company's resume.
Previously, the feds - it's not clear which agency is doing this, DOJ, DEA, some other three-letter acronym - had leaned on credit card companies not to accept business from marijuana dispensaries. As a result, it's become more of a cash business, with the attendant dangers.
Hence, the need for the armored cars. But now, I guess, it's "toss the bundles of cash into the old Subaru and hope for the best."
Look, everyone agrees that our drug laws are a mess, partly because we are so confused in our own attitudes. We love drugs - we get prescriptions for painkillers and drink nice Scotch whisky - and yet we also abominate them. Crack cocaine, we hate you; you're a whole different kind of drug.
I wouldn't know; I never tried it. I do point out that which drugs I tried was largely determined by my class and friendship affiliations. Drug laws based on the evilness of one drug over another are bound to be farcical. It's all culturally determined.
Medically, I suppose, alcohol is the most dangerous. Factor in drunken driving and domestic violence, and you've got a pretty nasty syndrome going. But the people who are using it are responding to the almost-universal desire to get a little loaded once in a while.
Either we accept that urge or we fight against it. Personal choice, there. But we can't both accept and fight; it's crazy-making.
There is, however, no large push among the citizenry to reform the drug laws. The people in Washington, which is where the solution has to come from, see no urgency to propose bills or hold hearings or mount an executive-office crusade. Politically speaking, it's a big loser.
So with no relief in sight, what to do? Back in the old days, selling alcohol was illegal in parts of many Southern states, even after Prohibition was repealed. Bootleggers ran through the forests evading federal agents, and that's how NASCAR was born. (A little off the point, that last bit, but it's a fascinating fact - the early NASCAR drivers had grown up outrunning revenooers on bad roads.)
Even though it was illegal, the several states always collected taxes on the profits. Not even the law could stand in the way of sound fiscal practices.
Same deal here. The Justice Department could decide unilaterally to just back the heck off. The pot clubs would be permitted to act like the shadowy companies they are, still technically illegal under federal law but otherwise OK. Tens of thousands of customers would be able to buy what they want to buy, and things would be messed up but a little less messed up than they are now.
I understand that this doesn't make sense. There are pockets of illogic everywhere. But I am not persuaded that we have any chance of rational drug laws anytime soon, and all our closely reasoned arguments about why change is necessary profiteth us not. So please, Mr. Obama, sir, call off the dogs. Let Oakland have its nice revenue stream, and let the people have a little muggles to make the day go smoothly.
I don't think the federal government needs any more wars against its citizens. Those NSA revelations were bad enough. The motto of law enforcement should be the same as the motto for doctors: "First, do no harm." Don't mess with something that's working. Let the state worry about it. Look, people are fracking! Go bother them.
Not to mention all the people who are helped through chemotherapy by marijuana.