Waaaaaay back in April (4.20 to be exact) I interviewed a marijuana user, and I thought it might be fun to add a few questions to that, now that there has been so much change on this issue recently. Nothing major, just a few new questions in the beginning, and then re-posting April’s interview below it. [Or you could read it in its original form here http://alabamaliberal.com/archives/2032 ]
1. Welcome back “Bob,” and under the best of circumstances. Now, Alabama still hasn’t legalized marijuana (and is probably tied with Utah in the running of “Which State Will Be Federally Forced to After All the Others?”) and may not ever do so in our lifetimes, but Colorado and Washington have. Can you believe it? Less than eight months ago, we did an entire interview about legalization and that moment is now here.
Bob: It’s better than I could have hoped for. I had my fingers crossed for one of them to legalize it, but the media kept making it sound like it wasn’t going to happen. And then BOTH of them did! I was glad to see Obama’s re-election, but honestly this is a much bigger deal for me personally, even though I don’t live in either of those states, but am thinking about moving lol.
2. We talked earlier in the year about how Obama’s justice department had not been very liberal on medical marijuana and really cracked down on it more than Bush did, but now he’s won a second term, and hasn’t officially said whether or not they’ll work to overturn Colorado and Washington’s sales and taxing system (which they have one year to set up properly).
Bob: All we can do is sit back and hope. My feeling is that he’s waiting to see how much of an uproar there is about it before he really does anything one way or the other. I really, really hope he just says nothing and does nothing.
3. I know a lot of progressives are disappointed with him on this issue, but is there really any doubt that he’ll be better about these state’s rights to sell weed than Romney would be? I mean, Mitt doesn’t even drink and said he rarely consumes caffeine. If someone won’t drink a Diet Coke, and has gone on the record dozens of times saying he’s against legalization in these states, is there any doubt Obama’s re-election isn’t better for the legalization movement?
Bob: Oh, no question. I don’t know what Obama will do, but the fact that the federal government isn’t saying anything is already a step in the right direction. The best we can hope for is that they keep saying nothing, and the whole thing becomes kind-of a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” thing where they don’t like it, but they don’t go out of their way to stop it either.
4. Washington’s actual legalization went into effect Thursday, and they showed parties where people were getting high on the street with The Space Needle in the background. The Seattle police have been told, for the weekend, not to arrest people who are outside getting high because it’s such a celebration and overdue. That almost brought tears to my eyes. For some people, this is the equivalent of Obama’s first election and how profoundly that impacted black voters.
Bob: I read those stories and I couldn’t stop laughing. It looks like a great time and I wish I could fly up to Seattle right now, but can’t afford it. I’ll bet this will be good for their tourism, if nothing else. It looked like a great time, and in that way it probably was like Obama’s election, where there was partying in the streets and everyone was just feeling so good. We need more moments like that, not less.
5. [Speaking of more moments like that] What state do you think will be the next to legalize?
Bob: I have no clue. It seems like the Western states are a lot more ahead-of-the-curve on this, so it could be some weird state with ten people in it like Alaska, or maybe Oregon will come to their senses and try to vote it in again. I know Nevada’s kind of a red state but this would be perfect for Vegas. And if California ever gets its shit together, then they would make a fortune since their grow is supposed to be the best in the country. I just know it won’t be Alabama lol, that’s the only prediction I’m willing to bet money on.
[Note: That ends the updated questions, but below is the original interview that ran. If it seems a little dated, that’s because it was posted April 20th, and, as you can see, a lot has changed since then, but it’s still worth a read.]
Interviews with the Invisible: The Marijuana User
Today brings a short(er) interview than what most people are used to from this section, partly due to short notice and partly because potheads don’t want to talk that much. I’m kidding. Actually, I’ve known today’s interview subject for a while and thought it would be a good idea to talk about one of the ultimate third rails in American politics: the drug war. Specifically, our asinine policy that says grown adults can’t buy marijuana if they want to, something liberal activists can’t shut up about but liberal politicians hardly ever mention. So what better way to celebrate 4-20 (get it) than talking to “Bob” (as in Marly, obviously not his real name…as I wouldn’t out someone as breaking the law even if it’s a stupid law).
1. Thanks for coming Bob. Let’s just dive right in and get to talking about the weed. I know that April 20th (4.20) is some stoner holiday, but I’ve never heard why. Share it with us [Insert fake name here.]
Bob: Thanks for having me, and wow, right off the bat we start with the drugs? Narc much? lol. No, 4.20 is a good question but to be honest I’m not sure about the correct answer. I guess we just needed a date and that was as good as any, but here lately it’s become fucked up as part of Hitler’s birthday and the Columbine shootings and just a lot of real negative stuff. I think it has more to do with the time of day than the actual date. Supposedly, 4:20 in the afternoon is the best time to get high because of something with the gravitational pull and you can feel the effects more. I can’t say for sure if that’s true or not, but I’m willing to devote years of my life to research it lol.
Note to readers from Alabama Liberal: After this interview was done, I looked up the answer and apparently it has to do with an H.P. Lovecraft story from all the way back in 1939 where the hero smokes a marijuana-like plant, loses track of time, and when he looks at his watch it’s, you guessed it, “4.20.”
2. Why do you think liberal politicians refuse to talk about this issue? It’s like this is a Democrat issue where the Democrats refuse to take issue with it. Pretty much every liberal I know (and more than a few conservatives) thinks marijuana should be legalized, but the Democrat Party’s not united on this, particularly Democrats from purple or red states. The general attitude seems to be “We hope this issue that we support goes away,” which is very strange to me.
Bob: I guess they’re just worried about losing their jobs about like everyone else right now and they’re trying to take the chicken shit route hoping it goes away, like you said, same as they do with a lot of things. Democrats are totally spineless right now and that’s why a lot of liberals are hoping for their own Tea Party-type movement. I know I’ve gotten frustrated that Obama won’t do more to stop arresting people trying to get high, and actually he’s worse than Bush was on this same issue.
[An updated question after I read his answers] 3. I never thought I’d see you defending George Bush.
Bob: Oh, I’m not at all lol. I’m glad you gave me a chance to clarify, because I don’t want to seem like I’m backing him up on anything. I’m just saying that technically his administration was more lenient on medical marijuana than Obama’s being, kind-of the same way he was actually a better, more liberal president on the issue of illegal immigration than Obama is. Not to give him any credit, more to say that Obama isn’t nearly as liberal as I thought he would be.
4. Politics makes strange bedfellows. One of the most noted backers of marijuana legalization is Ron Paul, one of the most conservative politicians around, and he sponsored a bill to get marijuana legalized with Barney Frank, one of the most liberal politicians around. It seems like this issue is really gaining in broad appeal.
Bob: Totally. The country is clearly shifting in the right direction. Every year the polls reflect that change and I don’t think people can stop it. We’re a majority right now and the system can’t ignore it much longer.
5. Were you surprised that California—-a state that is flat broke and in desperate need of new revenue besides taxes—-didn’t legalize it when they voted last year? Do you think similar measures in Colorado and Washington will pass? And if not, then what state do you think will be the first to legalize it?
Bob: I was surprised that California didn’t legalize it, because, as you said, they’re nearly bankrupt and it costs them more to enforce all these stupid weed laws than they have the money to do it. To me, it seemed like a win-win for everybody, but Cali’s not as liberal as everybody thinks it, keep in mind they also voted down gay marriage while 8 other states were way ahead of them in passing it. So I actually don’t use them as the “first” state to do much of anything. As for Washington and Colorado passing it…you never know, but I think there’s a good chance, particularly in Washington. If not either of them…whew, it’s a good question. I would say one of the northeastern states that legalized gay marriage first, but they always seemed a little too stuffy to be the very first ones to legalize.
6. There has been a lot of big money flowing into this cause lately. Liberal cause backer George Soros and especially Progressive Insurance founder Peter Lewis has spent a lot of money trying to get this thing passed. Lewis even said he was sitting this election cycle out for conventional races in favor of donating money to legalize weed in Washington. Given that American politics now seems dominated by big money and only the rich can get anything done, do you think this is the right way for the cause to progress?
Bob: I think it might be the ONLY way it can. Look, I’ve been to the Occupy stuff and protested with them, and I think they’re doing good work but I can’t say it’s really changing much. I feel like a bunch of pot heads sitting out on the street for 4.20 is just too easy for the system to dismiss. But a billionaire saying “Legalize it,” and putting a lot of money into that, that’s something else. So yeah, I think a guy like Warren Buffet saying “legalize it,” probably means more than a thousand guys like me saying it.
7. People always say “If they could tax it, it would be legal,” and that’s probably true. But I also think “If they could corporatize it, it would be legal.” It’s very hard to control a plant like marijuana not just for tax purposes, but also for corporate profits…big pharma wouldn’t like mary jane sales cutting into their painkiller business.
Bob: Ding-ding-ding, well said. I’ve also said that if they could tax it, it’d be legal, but seeing what they did with prohibition of alcohol but bringing it into the fold, it can be done. The bigger thing is if a big drug company wants oxycotin to compete with a less harmful, less addictive, more natural substance that is actually much better for you in the long run. And of course they don’t want to compete, so you’re onto something that they’re probably blocking it as much as the Bible beaters out there.
8. The most frustrating thing about this issue are all the people who have their lives ruined by a marijuana arrest every year. We’ve both known people to actually be arrested and get sent to jail over marijuana possession or use. Isn’t it just stupid to be sending more Americans to jail at a time when we already have the world’s highest incarceration rate and 1 percent of all adult men will do prison time in their lives?
Bob: It’s beyond stupid. I mean, frankly, it’s fucking ridiculous that I can’t smoke a joint without being extra paranoid that I’ll get arrested and I’ve never broken another law in my life except for speeding or stuff everyone does. For anyone to actually get sent to jail over any amount of weed is crazy, I don’t care if it’s ten pounds in the trunk. And it’s very expensive to investigate, arrest, process, and incarcerate these people every year.
9. Something I’ve experienced with liberal issues like this is that people act like you want it legalized because you want to smoke it, and people who believe in it but aren’t users are scared to speak out about it. Like I’ve never even smoked a joint, but the second I talk about how other people should be able to people are suspicious, and if you speak out for gay marriage, same thing. It’s like people can’t get that I don’t want to have sex with a prostitute to think it’s dumb to have a law against it.
Bob: Right lol, very true. I just so happen to be a believer in marijuana legalization and an avid user lol, but I’ve met Libertarians who are very nerdy, very straight laced and just believe in it because it’s good business sense. It’s crazy to think that just because it’s legalized, everyone will be smoking it, and people that know criminalization is wrong but aren’t users shouldn’t be afraid to speak up.
10. I think that may be a uniquely conservative thing where they just can’t understand how someone could do something for unselfish reasons. They only think about what makes them money or what rights they want for themselves and don’t get why a white guy wants Civil Rights for minorities and a billionaire like Warren Buffet wants to pay more taxes.
Bob: It’s all about empathy man. I think they skipped that day in kindergarten…if there was one. I guess that’s where the term “bleeding heart liberal” comes from, but what’s wrong with empathizing with others or trying to understand where they’re coming from? It’s never cost me a dime, and even if it did I’d understand that somebody’s better off with my dime lol. But some people are just never going to think that way, it’s all about them.
11. Any closing thoughts? Now’s your chance to make your case.
Bob: LEGALIZE IT! It’s money the government could use. It’s more jobs. It takes all the money and crime from below ground and injects it into the economy. And it saves a ton in not having to arrest and incarcerate people year after year. It just makes so much sense, and last week there was a study that said the health side effects are actually much less than smoking or excessive drinking. So have some sense and legalize it.
Alabama Liberal: Thanks for the interview and don’t forget to vote for marijuana’s legalization if you live in Colorado or (more likely) Washington! [And it seems like that advice wasn’t totally ignored, which makes me happy for the Democratic process.]