Coming Out of the (Cannabis) Closet.


Will Wilkinson has penned a particularly thought-provoking essay about marijuana:

If we’re to begin to roll back our stupid and deadly drug war, the stigma of responsible drug use has got to end, and marijuana is the best place to start. The super-savvy Barack Obama managed to turn a buck by coming out of the cannabis(and cocaine) closet in a bestselling memoir. That’s progress. But his admission came with the politicians’ caveat of regret. We’ll make real progress when solid, upstanding folk come out of the cannabis closet, heads held high. So here we go. My name is Will Wilkinson. I smoke marijuana, and I like it.

I’m not sure how much anyone cares, but my name is blackink (riiiight), I dabbled occasionally during college and in the few years after graduation, and I enjoyed almost every single pull. And I can vouch (not publicly, of course) for the use of dozens of others, none of whom bear a resemblance to Cheech or Chong or any character in Half Baked. We’re talking about a pretty diverse group of people: lawyers, journalists, teachers, nurses, cops, grad students, mothers, fathers, etc.

I stopped mainly because it wasn’t a big deal, and I didn’t feel like going through hoops to get a dime bag. The high simply wasn’t worth the risk.

But even today, I can’t come up with a compelling reason for the criminalization of marijuana. And no, that’s not because of the chronic.

Though President Obama did once call the War on Drugs “an utter failure” and has previously lobbied for the decriminalization of marijuana, he doesn’t seem all that serious about a radical rethinking of our national drug policy. Which is more than a little disappointing. The “war” is not a damn joke for the thousands who have become its victims, a disproportionate number of those whom happen to be black men.

But if Nate Silver is to be believed – and after all he’s done for us, why wouldn’t we? – the push for legalization could be gaining momentum with each successive generation. At some point, the pols will have to answer to the polls.

And laughing it off will no longer be enough.

9 thoughts on “Coming Out of the (Cannabis) Closet.

  1. G.D. April 7, 2009 at 10:38 pm Reply

    Seriously, part of the pot legalization movements problem is that so many of the people associated with it are too easy to ridicule. They’d be helped out enormously if it became associated with ‘regular’ people.

  2. Rick S. April 8, 2009 at 11:47 pm Reply

    I’ve never smoked pot in my life, but have known several people who have. I do not hold it against them, and find it reprehensible that we criminalize marijuana use for medical and recreational purposes.

    Maybe if more stick-in-the-mud old farts like me publicly supported legalization, we could move beyond this sad and wasteful “Drug War” and get some real work done.

  3. Joanie April 9, 2009 at 2:17 pm Reply

    Young black men have been major victims of this war on drugs. I read some stat the other day saying that if you are carrying equal amounts of crack cocaine and powder cocaine, the crack cocaine (the person with crack cocaine) would get a substantially more severe punishment/jail time. On a level of discourse, even, the more negative words and stereotypes of drugs are linked to black youth.

    • Scott April 9, 2009 at 7:26 pm Reply

      Yes, right they are victims. No one makes anyone use or deal drugs. What about the communities and people that are victimized by the dealers and the users that resort to crime in order to fund their habits? I find it ironic that on one hand many minority communities complain about the cops and the war on drugs for looking up black men but then complain that police don’t do enough to keep the community safe and won’t help the police catch the criminals.

      • G.D. April 10, 2009 at 11:58 am Reply

        no one’s taking the bait, scott.

        this is really simple: it’s possible that people in minority communities want the police to lock up violent criminals and not corner boys. Just because someone recognizes that drug prosecutions are draconian and ineffective doesn’t mean they don’t have a problem with other kinds of violence/public safety concerns.

        and you also didn’t address joanie’s main point, that drug offenses more likely to be committed by minorities — even if the drugs are pharmacologically identical — are likely to be much more severe.

        • Scott April 10, 2009 at 3:38 pm Reply

          What bait is that? Yes chemically the drugs are similar but crack sells more cheaply on the street and can be smoked, which induces a briefer, more intense intoxicating effect. This was the reasoning from which a Democratic Congress led by Tip O’Neil and spurred on by press reports of a crack “epidemic” justified the 100-to-1 sentencing disparity by stressing the serious social harms with which crack use was associated. You can argue that the Congress went too far or it was a bad idea but the guidelines have held up under court scrutiny.

          I understand Joaine’s point but my answer is so what. The Democratic Congress didn’t specifically set out to target blacks or any other minority group unless drugs dealers are a minority. In general my attitude towards all criminals is; if you don’t want to do the time, don’t do the crime. I agree there may be smarter ways to accomplish our goal and the Congress should look at them but getting soft on crime won’t help.

          As for as not helping the police, it applies to both the violent criminals and the corner boys. If people don’t help the cops then they shouldn’t complain about how bad their neighborhood is.

          • geo April 10, 2009 at 5:20 pm Reply


    • G.D. April 10, 2009 at 11:51 am Reply

      This has been true since the 1970s in New York, and there have been indications that the federal sentencing guidelines for drugs are going to become more sane.

  4. kaya April 9, 2009 at 3:55 pm Reply

    it’s ironic that there’s such a stigma for this in the medical community…when so many in the medical community have SERIOUS addiction problems. i have mixed feelings about legalization of marijuana but am all for the de-criminalization of it. (if you understand what i mean)

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