Cynthia: Yes. When I was a student at the University of Vermont I smoked pot sometimes before I ran 6 miles to Leddy Park, in between school and working. Moderate use was part and parcel to a healthy, active lifestyle. I also voted for Clinton and Obama.
What about you?
Mike: Never have. Thought I would probably like it, but I made other youthful choices instead. And I wasn’t old enough to vote for Clinton.
But who knows — Portland voters expressed their will, other cities in Maine may do the same this fall, and even the New York Times now supports a state-driven approach to marijuana. Are we on the cusp of a major change in the law?
Cynthia: Let’s hope so. It makes absolutely no sense to arrest and imprison someone for smoking a weed, while christening U.S. Navy destroyers with bottles of champagne made from grapes. And what about Maine potato vodka?
The prohibition against marijuana is vegetable discrimination pure and simple, and it must be stopped.
Mike: Some vegetables deserve discrimination. You ever try to kill knotweed?
But we digress. So how do you think this will play out politically? It creates some strange tensions — libertarian Republicans versus law-and-order Democrats, prospective commercial growers versus the medicinal community, and federal laws versus states’ rights. This might be an issue that creates new alliances with significant far-reaching changes to our political landscape. It could be great!
Cynthia: Yes, a kumbaya moment could be upon us now that even some Republicans have figured out the Controlled Substances Act is an old, dumb law that is enforced unfairly and needs to be changed. Kids in their districts are arrested and jailed for smoking pot, straining the justice system, while banks that launder billions of dollars for drug cartels selling the pot get a slap on the wrist. And then there’s the liberty thing. Live free or high.
But as ludicrous as it is that marijuana is treated like heroin by the federal law, the best we can expect from our just-say-no Congress is a silly stopgap. “Don’t Laugh, Don’t Smell?”
It will take states to experiment, brainstorm and synergize to get any real reform, don’t you think?
Mike: Absolutely. It is going to take states to find the best way forward on this issue. I’m fine if the feds want to say that transporting marijuana across international borders is illegal — border control is something they should be doing — but once you’re in the U.S. of A, then our states can make the right decisions.
But I need to go back a second. Before you lie this at the feet of just the Republicans, what about all the Democratic governors who sidestep the question with mealy-mouthed status quo answers? Heck, most of them are considered top-tier 2016 candidates…if Hillary doesn’t run. “Don’t rock the boat” doesn’t really constitute leadership on the issue.
Cynthia: The ghost of Willie Horton haunts risk-averse Democrats. Leading the reform of marijuana laws for all the right reasons will instantly be contorted by GOP opponents if something bad happens that’s remotely related to pot. The mere suggestion one is “soft on crime” is a death sentence for candidates, especially Democrats, caricatured perennially as pansies. It’s safer and “stronger” to wait and see what happens in states where the legislature or a citizens’ referendum has forced the issue. Only then will these governors and presidential hopefuls take credit for the outcome, whatever it might be.
“Victory has a hundred fathers and defeat is an orphan,” said JFK, another great Democrat rumored to have inhaled. But necessity is the mother of invention. The groundswell of grassroots support for marijuana legalization is an invitation to bold lawmakers in places like Maine to get it right. We do local agriculture well, after all.
What do you think, Mike? Are we are up for the challenge?
Mike: That’s one of the nice things about being a Republican — we’re having the intra-party fight over marijuana publicly, while standing together on other issues on which we agree. But yes, I think Maine is up to the challenge of finding a reasonable way forward that supports our local economy, protects public safety and health, and makes course corrections as they become necessary.
However, it is all predicated on the point I’ve been harping on throughout most of our columns: we just need to get the feds out of the way! Agreed?
Cynthia: We lost the war on drugs, and Republicans want to save face by supporting marijuana legalization in the name of “states rights?”
Sure, dude. Whatever.