Pop Life: Cannabis not harmful, could help revive ailing economy

David Taintor

I burst into an uncontrollable fit of coughing laughter every time I find another politician advocating pot’s legalization, yet profusely assuring that he himself does not smoke it. Good arguments are made: legalized pot would scoop giant chunks out of the deficit (which continues to rise at $11.1 trillion) (1), not out of users’ brains. Still, it’s as if cannabis is a mere necessary evil in the face of recession, at least in mainstream politics. So, is cannabis like some kind of Agent Orange that is fertile and green?

Until recently, legalization has been sidelined as some overly radical leftist goal, a default tossed in with a slew of other outrageous concepts like attaining true freedom of choice or actually taxing people who have more money than their families could ever spend.

Key in the campaign to ‘legalize it’ is Tom Ammiano, who has made a significant proposition: legalize pot for adult consumption, charge growing fees and tax retailers. It would generate about $1.3 billion in revenue along with countless positive side effects: fewer minor drug offenders in jails, no more sketchy deals and fewer enforcement costs (2). The deal is for California only, but it would be a large step toward nationwide law, considering how politically massive the state is. Federally legalized cannabis would generate an estimated net $14 billion per year (3). That’s in U.S. dollars, not yen.

Yet cannabis contains a sticky stigma, and I’m not sure that it’s still seated directly in the hilariously misguided Reefer Madness or the rest of the conservative politics of the early-to-mid- twentieth century. Plus, it’s not like cannabis is illegal because it’s physically harmful. Saying weed is harmful is a rhetorical riff older than Roger Waters, and the evidence against it is numbered and broad.

Cannabis is illegal truly for social and political reasons. It has nothing to do with health or endangerment. Do your homework.

Even if you’re pro-legalization, you probably don’t see weed in the same light as cigarettes or alcohol. There’s something about legalization that seems strange, as though pot would always be a tool of rebellion. Admit it. Not even the most comfortable user started smoking because they foresaw enjoyment in the occasional joint like it was a pint of beer. People try smoking because it’s a taboo, and it’s exciting. From there, many learn that it’s far less dangerous than both cigarettes and alcohol, and then they start wondering what all the fuss is about.

The other smokers, who eventually quit or “grow out of it,” might later side with the opposing view on cannabis. For them, the plant ought to be nothing more than a dare for kids. The marijuana-leaf-printed tees, the hemp bracelets and the petty paraphernalia don’t become juvenile. They always were juvenile, and sort of funny. Even from the eyes of such people as teenagers, it looked bad to be exposing oneself like that.

Cannabis’ stigma no longer comes directly from the old thought of the 1930s, but it has certainly been allowed to carry over as a standard, albeit in a new shape. We have been making progression, but somewhere in all this ‘enlightenment,’ cannabis was left at the whims of ignorance and


However, I don’t smoke weed. Seriously, I don’t. I never have, and I never will. I’ve never inhaled or been in the same room. In fact, I don’t even know what buds look like. But I agree with legalization. Besides, didn’t you hear? It’s youth’s turn at the wheel. (Disclaimer: do not smoke cannabis before driving.)

1 www.federalbudget.com

2 www.tomammiano.com; Rolling Stone issue 1075

3 The Budgetary Implications of Marijuana Prohibition (paper available at www.prohibitioncosts.org)

My Music Revue:
(Using your brain: AWESOME!) Peter Tosh “Babylon Queendom” – The 1977 studio rehearsal on Youtube = lo-fi gentle giant lanking back and forth over a trench-digging clavichord. Also, Tosh is a riot to hear during the intro interview.

(Glass: OK!) Joao Gilberto Joao – Bossa Nova was cornered, beaten up and robbed of its theory and complexity earlier this decade by American artists like Jack Johnson. Nobody really likes jazz. Right? This compilation disc sits Joao on a cajon, re-thinking some standards by outfitting them with orchestras (the huge arrangements are a slight turnoff for old school fans such as myself). You can pick this one up in McIntyre after I’m done with it.

(DEA take-your-daughter-to-work-day: NO!) Bat for Lashes “Sleep Alone” – While “Glass” and “Daniel” get rightful review as beautiful and true, some popular press talks about this track as if it were the next crack, when it could easily pass as a Bj”rk lame duck from the stash.

Waldbillig is a senior english major, with a creative writing emphasis, and guest columnist for The Spectator. Pop Itself appears in the Showcase section every Monday.