conservative is at war with my libertarian. I and myself are having
a conversation about Question 2, the initiative petition on the
November ballot to decriminalize marijuana.
vote would replace the criminal penalties for possession of one
ounce or less of marijuana with a new system of civil penalties.
Offenders would no longer risk arrest, jail, loss of driver's
licenses; they wouldn't have a criminal record. Instead, a $100 fine
would be imposed, and offenders under age 18 would also have their
parents notified and be required to complete a drug awareness
program. If they don't, the fine is raised to $1,000.
Conservative Barbara: Taking drugs for recreation is dumb. Why would
anyone want to reject God's gift of a sharp, reasoning brain and
turn it to mush, even temporarily? Decriminalizing marijuana sends a
message to already dumbed-down Americans that marijuana is more
acceptable than is currently implied by the criminal penalties.
Libertarian Barbara: I agree with you that smoking pot is dumb. But
it's none of the government's business if people want to do dumb
things, as long as they don't hurt someone else. How would you like
to have been arrested the two times you tried marijuana in your
misspent youth was entirely yours, buddy. You were the one who
experimented with pot, I was the one who didn't know enough to
inhale the first time, and who inhaled so deeply the second time
that I got a wicked sore throat and never tried it again.
right, being arrested and getting a criminal record would have been
overkill for such a minor offense. But what about people who like
it, overdo it, sometimes drive under the influence, and use their
contacts with dealers to move on to worse drugs?
People make bad choices, none of the government's business, except
the driving-under-the-influence part. If caught, a stoned driver
should lose his license and have the car confiscated. The fact that
this won't happen even under current law is a problem with
government — we can't always count on its courts to protect the
with myself: Government is generally so dumb that you'd think it was
smoking something. It's time to move outside myself for more
reading the red Secretary of State's Voter Information booklet, I
went with my partner Chip Ford to a Beverly cable forum on the three
ballot questions, sponsored by The Salem News. Chip was debating for
"Yes on 1," and having made up my mind on that, I wanted to learn
more about the other two issues.
for "Yes on 2" was our good friend and Georgetown attorney Steve
Epstein. "No on 2" was represented by Peabody police Chief Robert
Champagne, who is the image of what we all want law enforcement to
be. Both made the best possible arguments for their side; I need a
called my son Lance, who is a licensed alcohol and drug counselor in
Nevada. Having been a teen-age marijuana smoker himself, and a law
enforcement officer later, he understood all the arguments for Yes
and No votes.
first thought was facetious, sort of: Stupidity is legal, so why not
Seriously, he sees the "zombies" who are sent to him for treatment,
but who can be turned around when the fat-soluble marijuana is
finally out of their system. He doesn't think that pot itself leads
to more serious drugs, but notes that it draws the pot-smoker into
the society that sells them, making it easy to be tempted.
wonders why the proposed law draws a line at 18 years old; why not
21, like alcohol? And he suggests that if marijuana is
decriminalized, users should be able to grow their own small supply
rather than support the evil drug cartels both here and in Mexico.
concerned that this change in the law would increase the use of pot
by kids and adults, and worries that it would increase the number of
stoned drivers. Lance describes the "thinking" of a stoned driver as
"Red light! Crash! Brakes." This scares me.
on 2" campaign cites studies showing that those who smoke pot don't
decide based on whether it's a misdemeanor or a civil infraction,
that decriminalization in other states didn't increase the number of
users. Dumb, I guess, is also impervious to penalty.
said that he would vote "Yes" despite concerns, liking the part that
gets kids to counseling instead of into the criminal justice system.
Chief Champagne says that the police rarely arrest for this
misdemeanor; but it seems to me that laws should not be arbitrarily
enforced, that it's better to decriminalize.
could have been arrested as a teenager for marijuana use when I, the
impervious parent, was focused on discouraging alcohol and tobacco
use. I'd have rather gotten parental notice and a fine, with Lance
sent for counseling.
decided, reluctantly, "Yes on 2." Then I'd support a law that would
severely penalize anyone caught driving while stoned.
The comments made
and opinions expressed in her columns are those of Barbara Anderson's
and do not necessarily reflect those of Citizens for Limited Taxation.