See that Budweiser commercial during the Super Bowl, the one about the end of Prohibition? It was meant to be – and it was – an attempt to stir our emotions about how wonderful a nice, cold beer tastes, and how silly it was this all-American beverage was kept out of the hands of normal, law-abiding people due to a lunatic law.
Well, it got me thinking about a lunatic law currently on our books, and how one day we’ll look back at it through the same emotional, old-timey prism Budweiser took us through.
Yep. It’s time for my annual “I Can’t Believe Marijuana is Still Illegal in America, I Mean, How Stupid Can We Be, It’s Only Weed” column.
Let’s start here: Over 50 percent of Americans support legalization – that’s the highest ( heh heh ) percentage ever – according to a recent Gallup poll. When Gallup first asked the question in 1969, a measly 12 percent of Americans supported legalization. Clearly, demographics are shifting, with old fuddy-duddies dying off and being replaced with a new batch of old fuddy-duddies. Chief difference? These new fuddy-duddies have gotten stoned in their lives and have lived to tell about it.
I wonder what this same Gallup poll is going to show in 10, 20 years. Is 75 percent out of the question? Maybe even 90 percent?
So right off the bat – or bowl, bong, whatever – we’ve got a majority for the first time on the legalization front.
The next front I’d like to quickly explore is criminal justice.
I talked to Det. Lt. John Dehart of the Trenton police department, and in 2011, Trenton’s VICE and TAC squads confiscated over 75 pounds of marijuana. And while 75 pounds isn’t exactly a monster number, consider how much time must have been spent by Trenton’s finest, from patrol on up, on battling the demon that is mary jane.
You ask me – and especially in this impossible budget era – any time spent on keeping marijuana off Trenton’s streets is a colossal waste of time, energy and money. There are a near-infinite supply of bigger problems out there. I’m not telling police how to do their job; but if I was mayor, I would.
Besides, taking pot off the streets does absolutely nothing to stem – or seed, whatever – the tide of people who smoke marijuana or the ease with which you can acquire it.
I haven’t smoked pot in over a decade, but I’m pretty confident that by the time you finish reading this column, I could get my hands on a dimebag. ( Do they still sell dimebags? I have no idea. )
Check out this duo of statistics, courtesy of the U.S. Department of Justice: In 2006, over 2.6 million pounds of marijuana was seized in America. By 2009, that number swelled to 4.3 million pounds.
Clearly, with a 65 percent increase is seizures, marijuana use must have cratered, right?
Not so much, as it turns out. Actually, not at all. In 2006, 10.3 percent of Americans 12 and over copped to smoking a doobie in the previous year, while by 2009 that number had risen to 11.3 percent.
So yes. Seizures up 65 percent, usage … up 10 percent.
Can I get a “I rest my case” up in the house? Eh. let’s pile on. According to a study done by Dr. Jon Gettman titled “Marijuana in New Jersey,” and published by drugscience.org, the war against marijuana cost New Jersey taxpayers $352 million in 2006, from street arrests to trials. Think that money could be used better? And furthermore, 87 percent of marijuana arrests were for simple possession. Enough is enough. The prohibition of marijuana is A ) a losing cause, B ) not supported by the majority of Americans, C ) doing nothing to stop people from smoking pot, D ) costing a fortune and E ) giving otherwise law-abiding citizens a police record.
Shame on us. As a society, we deserve an F.