Aside from the fact that Arapaho had no competitive races to name, part of me hoped that I was in California simply so I could vote for Proposition 19. The Pot-Prop. Different people have different views on decriminalization in general, and to each their own, but while I do not favor decriminalization of all drugs I do favor it for marijuana. Not out of any desire to smoke pot myself (I tried it; it wasn’t for me) nor any love of pot smokers. Mostly because in the cost-benefit analysis of the comparative virtues and vices of the increased pot usage that would come with legalization and its share of the War on Drugs, I come down on the side of decriminalization. For some it’s a matter of freedom, but not so much for me. I don’t favor the decriminalization of all other narcotics, though I can be convinced on a case-by-case basis using the same criteria for cocaine as for pot.
In addition to the War on Drugs angle, Sheila Tone made a good point about the repercussions the illegality has on reuniting families where one parent or the other breaks that particular law.
Unfortunately, the legalization movement is saddled with, among other things, The Barry Cooper Problem. It’s my view that the legalization movement needs to be spearheaded by reasonable and humble individuals who recognize that rightly or wrongly people have reservations about legalizing pot and it does no good to call them ugly names, insult them, or treat their concerns as utterly invalid. Instead we have Barry Cooper’s antics and apparently people who believe that it’s not just a question of whether pot should be legal or not but a question of respecting the decisions of those who choose to partake. For me, one of the stronger arguments in the pro-freedom side of most issues is “just because something is a bad idea doesn’t mean it should be illegal” and its cousin “just because something is legal does not mean you have to approve.” For a free society to work and to keep Big Brother out of it, I believe we have to condemn behavior we consider inappropriate. Otherwise, given the choice between something being illegal and something being condoned by society at large, a lot more people are going to choose “illegal.”
If Mickey Kaus is right, the people behind Proposition 19 forgot this or simply didn’t care:
The measure seems to have been hurt by a wacky, overreaching provision that would effectively have made stoners a protected class when it comes to hirings and firings. Even the Greenberg poll found a 50-44 majority think employers should be able to fire those who test positive on drug tests even if “they come to work sober and ready to work.” I voted against 19 because of this provision (and wouldn’t trust an initiative that was written by anyone who’d write that provision, even if it were excised). After all, once a new protected class has been created, is it ever un-created? Stoners would have special legal protections against firing, probably forever (with employers having to prove their pot use “actually impairs job performance”). I might have to become one myself
This is… highly problematic. Now, as it happens, I believe that hiring people you know smoke pot but that perform well regardless is good business practice. Those old school Hit Coffee readers will remember Falstaff, my former Mormon-dominated employer that sought to weed out all the weedheads even as we tried to explain that we could be weeding out some of our best performers. If it doesn’t affect job performance, I believe it should be a non-issue. However, it not-infrequently is going to cause problems in the workplace the same way that alcohol consumption does. Adding a layer making it more difficult to fire people that smoke pot compared to people that don’t is highly concerning.
This is a level of protection that cigarette smokers do not get. Nor, I should add, should they/we. I resented the former employer of mine that refused to hire smokers, but I believe that while their policy was unwise, intrusive, and indicative of an employer I did not want to work for… it was also, like a number of their other policies, within their purview*. The same goes for alcohol consumption, though no employer I am familiar with tests for that sort of thing. The only reason that up until recently it seemed bizarre to discriminate against smokers is that they were so large in number and it was such an accepted activity. Ultimately, we don’t want pot to become as socially accepted as cigarettes were. We don’t want cigarettes that accepted, either! Those things I say above about societal disapproval applies to my own vices as well. Easier to keep the cat in the bag, though, when it comes to things currently on the periphery of society the same way that we should wish smoking were.
That the pushers of Proposition 19 felt the need to put this in there shows a pretty significant disconnect with the rest of society. I see it on a number of blogs where “all reasonable people” agree that pot should be legal. The problem is that “all reasonable people” is a minority of the population. It does the movement no good to ignore that. And even among those “all reasonable people” a lot of people feel the same way I do about employment law. Some may hold their nose and vote for it anyway, but a lot won’t. And a lot of people who recognize on some vague level that the War on Drugs (as it pertains to marijuana) is not a fight worth fighting will use that as an excuse to vote against decriminalizing a behavior that they only marginally object to (or, in some cases, indulged in when they were younger).
The point of this exercise should not be to vindicate pot-smokers. Nor should it be, as Barry Cooper is inclined to do, to stick it to the buzzkills that want to stand between you and your weed. The point is to take this minimally-harmful substance and separate it from the substantially-harmful war against it. Because if you’re asking people to line up behind pot-smokers, you’re going to lose just as surely as smokers are losing one battle after another to stigmatize their/our habit.
* - And not just because of the “it saves them money on health insurance” rationale. Bregna, the former employer in question, didn’t care about that. The president of the company just didn’t like smokers. He wanted a certain kind of employee working for him and viewed the overlap of people that fit that profile and smoke were small. There are also issues of smokers having, in general, lower levels of productivity.