A few quick words on the reefer madness

The results of Resolution 20 were, for me at least, a clear indicator of where the Associated Student Government stands and where it is going in terms of progressive, student- oriented politics. That is, splattered like a dead dog on the side of the road. I could be wrong, and geez, who talks in depressing tones about carnage and student politics anyway?

The details, at least where the specifics are concerned, aren’t important here. Read Jonathan Crabtree’s news article for those bits of information. I know it’s fair and objective because several times during the ASG debates, I tried to get him to place bets on the resolution’s outcome. He refused and I feel cheated in a way.

But I’m getting off topic.

The most fascinating aspect of the entire debate over the resolution was that it revealed how pigheaded most of the politicians-in-training actually are and for those who spoke out against the bill, there was a frightening display of ignorance and the embryo of fascism.

The issue of drugs and, specifically, marijuana is complex. Only a fool or an idiot would make overreaching statements about one side or the other. And I am no idiot.

The Pot Problem has progressed from being a monster that rapes our women and steals our lives to a more civilized debate. Evidence of this can be found with Jordan Dickerson, president of the UA chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).

Dickerson addressed the ASG Senate as a member and supporter of civilized discussion. But what was troubling with everything surrounding the resolution was there didn’t seem to be any actual debate or honest discussion by the senators.

Just the week before, when Dickerson first presented the resolution to the Senate, it was already clear most of the senators had made up their minds without doing any research or asking any real questions. Most of the senators who grilled Dickerson weren’t able to hide their disgust. You could hear their mystified contempt lurking behind the babble.

Not since the Diwali Banquet debacle have senators been so interested in whether legislation passes in the Senate. Most of the time, the senators are half asleep and ready to go drink.

But Dickerson was good.

He reminded me of a skeet shooter.

Pull!

BAM!

Question?!

BAM!

Question?!

BAM!

He had an answer for every question thrown at him and not the normal no-nothing speech that afflicts politicians. I’m talking stats, numbers and figures.

It was in the way senators asked questions, however, that first proved how uneducated, yet heavily biased, they were. The linguistic characteristic of most of the questions was undeniable. Each question revolved around the basic pronouns of “you,” as in the derogative “you people,” and “us” or “we.” This was both revealing and scary as it become obvious that few senators have had any contact with recreational smokers. That distance has created an animosity against the unknown. Senators asked elementary questions that everyone learned in junior high health. Sen. Will Morrow interrogated Dickerson to a suspicious degree, and despite receiving sufficient answers, he voted against the resolution.

Did he do his own research?

He said no. Marijuana had “destroyed” families he knows. The last time I heard that argument was in an old 1950s movie, or was it when Jessie was addicted to caffeine pills in “Saved by the Bell”?

In terms of what the resolution stated, there were valid arguments as to why it shouldn’t be passed. But for me, and I think anybody who bothered to look at the resolution, the basic idea was to acknowledge the less harmful effect of marijuana to alcohol. You know you’re in trouble though, when people still “debate” that in earnest.

Overlooking state and federal laws for a moment, there were two basic arguments against the passage of the bill. The first was whether it is actually safer than alcohol. At this point, it’s hard to have a truly eye-opening debate. How do you debate gravity or that girls don’t fart?

Pot is less harmful than alcohol. Period. And as the great Bill Hicks said, “you can stop your internal dialogue.”

The marijuana “debate” on the Senate floor teetered dangerously on the circular logic of:

“The Bible is the word of God.”

“How do you know that”?

“Because the Bible says so.”

A few days after the first reading of the resolution, Sen. Bradley Diggs wrote in an e-mail, “hey…everyone, I just wanted to report in with some information after doing a little research,” which included a link to a study on marijuana abuse.

There were two problems with the study. The evidence that it’s harmful was done on “animals” and withdrawal/stress symptoms were based on “adolesence under treatment for conduct disorders” – basically juvenile delinquents locked up in a halfway house.

Great.

Sen. Jeremy Cobbs, when speaking against the amendment, resorted to the old “gateway” argument saying, “If you talk to anybody who’s done heroin or cocaine, they will tell you they started with marijuana.”

The first obvious question I asked him, especially for a group that doesn’t associate with pot smokers, was whether he has actually talked to a heroin or cocaine user.

“No,” he said. “But I talked to people at Decision Point and people who deal with parolees.”

Decision Point? Parolees?

I commend Cobbs and Diggs for doing more research than anyone else bothered to do, but to base an argument on critters that can’t make it through a maze, children with serious mental and environmental problems, and convicts and people with serious addiction issues does not constitute good research.

Another argument, constantly brought up by senators I talked to, went like this: “It’s illegal. Period. Thus, we should not endorse it.”

The fact that it’s illegal does not automatically negate its usefulness nor the hypocrisy of double standards for alcohol and prescription drugs. A quick look through America’s history will show that many things have been illegal, but not necessarily fair or right.

Among the items: harboring slaves, any form of sex besides missionary position, and – one of my favorites – prohibition.

Sen. Caleb Rose, along with Cobb, actually called for more punishments against marijuana smokers. The administration, too, has been mum about the resolution, but (unofficially) said they would increase punishments for alcohol if the resolution passed.

On a side note, it’s great to hear the university babble on about having an institute of higher learning where discussion is encouraged. It’s great because Sen. Megan Bright, who helped sponsor the bill, was unable to give me the names of the administrators with whom she had “discussed” the bill. In the end, the resolution was amended – all former wording was slashed – to become impotent and worthless. Bright had informed members of NORML of her plan 30 minutes before she put it into play. Dickerson said, “The administration is bullying senators to push through what they want,” and he’s probably not too far off the mark. But that’s all off the record since no one in admin was available for comment.

The great proposals of Cobb, Rose and the administration reflect a certain kind of sickness, especially with American philosophy on crime. It’s not rash to call this sort of action a step closer to fascism. That is, increasing punishments for harmless transgressions and reverting to punitive action rather than true education, or if needed, rehabilitation.

• • •

But what’s really the issue at hand? Jesus, it’s complex and there’s so much to deal with, even sober.

Aside from the administration’s veiled draconian threats.

Aside from the obvious lack of knowledge of ASG senators who revel in drug stereotypes.

What we’re dealing with here is a drug.

Despite what NORML says it stands for, what the university group is trying to do is push for a way to take drugs without any of the hang-ups.

Their information is good, they have a strong support system – more than seven NORML members showed up for the ASG meeting – and they know what they’re talking about. Dickerson attempted to go through the normal and respected democratic process to get their voice heard.

I doubt, however, how many of the members actually care about hemp as an industrial material or medical uses of cannabis more than the fact that they just want to get stoned without the worry of repercussions. What they presented at the ASG meeting was a great argument with verifiable facts, but it goes without saying that they should have that. What NORML members present to the public is propaganda, plain and simple. They have a certain agenda. NORML members are educated and knowledgeable about their cause, but I would prefer to see those efforts go toward something like, say, hunger, poverty or the struggle in Darfur.

At the same time, NORML is pushing for understanding and acceptance, and that fits into a much larger context. Perhaps if we stop worrying about marijuana (punishments, ignorant myths, etc., etc.) we can start focusing our attention on more important issues. At least the members of NORML attempted to open up genuine lines of discussion in terms of individual freedoms and the stigmas of our fathers.

What this reveals about most of the ASG members, and politicians-in-training in particular, is nothing short of a depressing realization.

In the vote for the resolution there were 10 abstentions. It’s a truism that politicians, especially on the national scale, throw out vague rhetoric and stick to what they think will get them elected. It’s a job, a business for them. It’s the business of power, not a position of representing the public. But does that cynical view have to come so early as college, a place where you’re supposed to experiment with ideas and try to mentally expand your horizons?

Despite his fascist views, Rose gave the best reason regarding his decision to speak out and vote against the resolution. As the voice of graduate students, he speaks for “400 people on a good day.” Despite his reservations, he didn’t think it was his position to make such a decisive statement for not only the university student body, but also for the entire state, which helps fund the UA.

I can roll with that, but I also think the majority of students would agree that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol. Now why would ASG senators disagree with that? My money is on the fact that they’re in training to be politicians in the worst sense – stick with conventional wisdom and don’t rock the boat.

It is accepted fact that many of the students involved in ASG have bigger political dreams. Sen. Robbie Jones and his cronies sit together at Senate and I have no doubt they have sessions where they talk about the latest trend in politics and who’s on top now, without really looking at the issues. In order to keep those dreams alive, one must not listen to the public but stick with what works. In this particular case, treating marijuana like a dangerous jungle-drug.

It’s also an accepted fact that politics, even at this early stage, is apparently run by money. You’d be hard pressed to find too many people in ASG who come from even lower-middle class families.

Without sounding like a proletariat nut, how many ASG members are sweating over loans? How many are spending thousands of dollars to live in some house where they can have underage drinking parties right under the eyes of a police officer?

I’ve said it before, I don’t care if Azerbaijani albinos are my elected representatives but it’s become apparent, especially regarding the marijuana debate, how out of touch these aspiring politicians are with normal people, especially college students.

All of the senators I talked to who abstained from voting (10 is a whooping number) said they understood both sides of the argument and almost all “sympathize” to describe their feelings toward the NORML resolution, they said. I think it’s the job of student governments to move forward with progressive ideas. Resolutions and bills in student governments should not always be middle of the road, but should more often then not push the boundaries and freedoms reflective of a progressive society whose move toward the future is steeped in the education and debate of a university setting.

Christ, here I go again, getting off on some obscure tangent. How did I get here? What am I really trying to say?

The old man said it’s always good to end with an anecdote.

Righto.

Talking to Jones after the ASG meeting, I was half-accusing him of not properly representing those who elected him. He came back with some fire, but mostly just hemmed and hawed until Sen. Casey Bailey, who overheard the conversation, interjected, “People are stupid and don’t know what they want,” to which Jones replied, “Yeah, basically, that’s what I was getting at.”

So that’s our politically prepubescent student leaders. Already cynical and disengaged enough from the pulse of the people to not know what we want, and know that we’re too stupid even if we do know what it is we want.

Namaste and God Bless America.

[Original piece available here.]

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