In a nation that for more than one hundred years could not agree that freed slaves had a federal right not to be lynched by terrorists in the states that formerly employed them, or anywhere else, it is not surprising that other, lesser injustices are sometimes tolerated. We only have so much ability to be vexed by injustice, after all. How many people can really get exercised when Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, the diminutive racist Attorney General with the recently affronted honor, apparently blind and deaf to the lessons of American history, declares that the long war on marijuana users is back on, big time, baby. Lock ’em up! Lock ’em up!
I am thinking of the short, violent, lawless failed experiment in making America sober, the Constitutional Amendment that gave us Prohibition, before that Amendment was repealed by another Amendment thirteen years later. For many of the years it was illegal, you could do heavy time for transporting or even drinking alcohol. Not surprisingly, it was a better bet for the mugs making a dollar hauling booze to reach for a machine gun than a driver’s license when stopped by the feds. Today, the same is true, in certain states, for people carrying large amounts of marijuana in their cars.
You can make a good argument that this country’s inexorable swing toward surveillance and the ever-increasing exceptions to the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches and seizures (not to mention increasingly organized crime) are all traceable to the selective war on selected intoxicants. I would — and I will, for my customary fee, drop me a line and a check. In the meantime I’m here to say, once again, what the fuck?
Alcohol is a dangerous drug that fucks and kills thousands of Americans a year, destroys lives. Liver disease, drunk driving and vehicular homicide, increased risk of heart disease, domestic violence, foolish and/or disgusting public behavior, bar fights, fights between angry drunks at sports stadiums, regrettable teenage overindulgences, direct deaths from alcohol poisoning in cases where a college freshman may have a quart or more of vodka poured into a tube inserted into her asshole, or when delicious, sweet liquor is guzzled by a child. It’s not surprising that there was an effort to curb its abuse.
But like the War on Terror, the war on some people’s need to abuse certain intoxicants can’t be won by SWAT teams overpowering people and throwing them into cells for long prison stretches.
Hey, YO! it doesn’t fucking work, if your purpose is to actually address the problem you claim to want to solve. That’s not really your purpose, as any child can see, but who am I to question the motives and wisdom of those who declare and conduct such wars?
Anyway, dating back as far as Prohibition, there was a federal effort to root out marijuana use. It is racist and xenophobic in its roots, sure, was codified and doubled down on by Richard Nixon, a paragon of moderation in his nightly alcohol use as his paranoia escalated in the lead up to his resignation in disgrace, yeah, yeah. We know all that. One can say that the criminalization of marijuana, a relatively innocuous intoxicant, while alcohol, a drug whose ongoing destructiveness is well-known, is readily procurable by any determined ten year-old, is a bit hypocritical, or whatever. I just want to point out one recent example of “let me take a shit down your throat and tell you that it’s raining.” It is part my campaign for critical thinking.
Criminal law under our Constitution is a matter for each state to decide for itself. That is a cornerstone of our federal system. The states make their own criminal, matrimonial, family and business laws. That’s why, before the Supreme Court stepped in, some states could allow same sex marriage while other states could as be homophobic as their most influential homophobic constituents pleased. Same goes for pot. In some states you can now smoke marijuana “recreationally,” in other states you have permission for “medicinal use” which is given liberally, in some states permission for medicinal use is given less liberally.
State laws are generally untouchable by federal law, except in the very special case where there is an overwhelmingly compelling need for a uniform federal law that preempts local and state wishes. For the important federal purpose of breaking up protests and jailing political enemies, Negros, jazz musicians, itinerant Mexican workers, hipsters, hip-hoppers, poseurs, vipers, slackers, scoffers and other morally degenerate pot smokers, enforcement of the federal law against marijuana is clearly one such compelling exception to our general rule of States’ rights here in America.
States wishing not to arouse the federal government to literally send a SWAT team in and mass arrest those who, while complying with the laws of their own state nonetheless defy the unamended 1970 Controlled Substances Act, the federal anti-marijuana law, must “narrowly tailor” their state marijuana laws so that they do not run afoul of the federal law. The federal law defines marijuana as a dangerous drug with absolutely no redeeming medical value, a substance that needs to be controlled at all costs. Federal law makes it very difficult to even conduct scientific research on marijuana.
Wait, I know, how do you not run afoul of that federal law with a medicinal marijuana law based on marijuana’s proven medicinal value when the federal law from 1970 clearly classifies marijuana among the most dangerous drugs, a potentially deadly substance with no medicinal value? You actually can’t, of course. But New York State, under its neoliberal asshole governor, gave it a good shot recently with its incredibly narrowly tailored, and puckishly titled “Compassionate Care Act”. Check it out the overflowing compassion.
In the State of New York, you can use a preparation made from marijuana (but not the natural product itself– it is illegal under all circumstances, in NYS, to smoke or vaporize the actual plant) if you suffer from a select list of debilitating or deadly conditions AND have an additional associated, complicating factor. If this surgically drawn list makes you think of John Yoo’s cunning redefinition of torture in that secret memo he wrote for Dick Cheney’s trip to the dark side, you’re not alone. Here you go:
You are potentially eligible for medical marijuana if you have been diagnosed with a specific severe, debilitating or life threatening condition that is accompanied by an associated or complicating condition. By law, those conditions are: cancer, HIV infection or AIDS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury with spasticity, epilepsy, inflammatory bowel disease, neuropathy, and Huntington’s disease. The associated or complicating conditions are cachexia or wasting syndrome, severe or chronic pain, severe nausea, seizures, or severe or persistent muscle spasms.
The source of this is the NYS Department of health website, via the FAQ, the last of a few dozen, from the website of a corporation with a franchise, that includes New York City, to provide medical marijuana derivatives under New York State’s Compassionate Care Act. Check out these dynamic cutting-edge, physician-led benefactors of the selected extremely ill of New York State.
If you have PTSD, glaucoma, loss of appetite from chemo (but neither severe nausea nor facial wasting), sleeplessness, anxiety, severe pain not associated with the listed conditions, or suffer from the effects of any other non-specified condition that marijuana is known to palliate — have a very nice day, and best of luck to you. New York is interested in complying as strictly as possible with the Controlled Substances Act, even though it is a clear logical impossibility to do so. We’re working harder to serve you better, bitches. Vote for me and I’ll set you free.
And if you just want to get high, and not use alcohol or a pharmaceutical, we can still lock you up, if you’re going to be an asshole about it.
I’m going to go drink a flagon of Monkey Shoulder now, if you will excuse me.