By Chez Pazienza: You know, at some point I want this little debate over “Marijuana the Amazing Wonder Drug®” to be over, I really do; the thing’s been going on in one form or another for about two months now. But I guess I can’t complain that I cross-posted the original Daily Banter piece on pot culture that I banged out a couple of months ago over at the Huffington Post and now the floodgates have opened. (If nothing else I hope it helps to bring attention to the good work being done here at the Banter.)
First of all, a discussion has been going full-bore on my Facebook page over the merits of marijuana and the question of whether I really have an issue with the substance itself or just the hardcore proponents of it. On that point, I’m more than willing to say, as I thought I made pretty clear in the piece, that yes, the argument I was making was aimed much more at those who seem to professionally smoke pot and who’ve made their lives about lobbying for marijuana legalization, making it not only their, well, “highest” priority when it comes time to cast a vote but an integral part of who they are as a person.
I said right off the bat at HuffPo that, with all the problems currently facing this country and within our government, if you’re basing your vote for a candidate solely on whether that person is for the legalization of marijuana, you’re a fucking moron. And anyone with a functional cerebral cortex, high or not, would tell you that. A fanatic of almost any kind is a dangerous thing if for no other reason than the fact that he or she suffers from tunnel vision, but in this case — even with the governmental fight against marijuana being grossly unfair and unnecessary — it’s not only dangerous but flat-out stupid. Pot legalization simply isn’t all that important in a relative sense. You can argue with this all you want — you’ll be wrong.
While there are certainly those who claim that it relieves the pain of chemo, arthritis, and so on, for the vast majority of Americans who do it, smoking weed is a luxury — not a necessity. It’s done because they like the way it feels, which was my point to begin with.
On that note, the best response I’ve gotten so far has been from someone named “Radical” Russ Belville, who apparently hosts a series of multimedia shows out of Portland (because, of course) and who’s been a star in the pot legalization movement for some time, first working with NORML then kind of going out on his own, but always preaching the gospel of weed. Seems like a nice enough guy, and I certainly respect his willingness to argue for an issue he’s passionate about even if I happen to think it’s an issue that isn’t all that important in the grand scheme of things. The lengthy piece he penned as a direct rebuttal to my own, however, is comically melodramatic and occasionally so willing to conflate the legal fight for marijuana acceptance with other, infinitely more critical struggles throughout history that it borders on being offensive.
Let’s let Russ himself give you an example of what I’m talking about, via two related quotes from his blog post:
“It seems to me that marijuana legalization is the only civil rights issue in America where it is still acceptable to mock the oppressed by questioning the selfish motives of those fighting for equality.
“OK, Chez, you got me –- I like to smoke pot and I don’t want to be put in a cage over it. You’re right, my motivation is extremely personal. Kind of like how a black man marching with Dr. King in the early 1960′s probably had a very personal motivation to not be firehosed, attacked by police dogs, or lynched by rednecks. Kind of like how a gay man protesting in the 1980′s probably had a very personal motivation to not die from HIV while a president ignored an epidemic.”
Now, Russ does go on to make the argument that each person should have the right to his or her own “consciousness” and to be allowed to do whatever he or she wants to with it. Very fair point. But to call marijuana legalization a civil rights issue is a laughable conceit; to compare it to the fight for African-American rights in this country, or gay rights, or the rights of women to be the people they were born as and be granted equal acceptance is fucking ridiculous. You don’t have a right to get high; getting high is a choice you make and not all choices you make are going to be legal, nor should they be. A black person can’t change the color of his or her skin and a gay person can’t become heterosexual, regardless of what some asshole Christians think, and therefore neither should ever be persecuted for those qualities about themselves. They have a right to exist; they haven’t made a choice that would warrant discrimination.
In other words, maybe in your mind you do have a right to get high — but don’t ever think it’s an honest-to-Christ civil right, on par with the civil rights so many have risked their lives to defend throughout history. I realize that some will consider this argument nothing more than a matter of semantics, but when you put your desire to get high — admittedly without fear of arrest and prosecution — up against the right of a black guy not to be killed for the color of his skin, I tend to instantly take you a hell of a lot less seriously.
Again, I sincerely understand where Russ is coming from and he is of course completely entitled to his opinion and to advocate for it; I just happen not to think, in spite of what I’ll freely admit is a lot of unfairness and injustice associated with the U.S.’s drug war, which I mentioned openly in the original piece, that overall the fight to legalize marijuana should by any stretch of the imagination be the singular priority anyone’s hanging his or her vote on at the moment. You wanna smoke your shit openly and you think marijuana can be a blessing to humanity in myriad ways? Fantastic. You wanna make it your life’s work, an all-encompassing crusade that you insist is one of the most important issues facing our country during these tumultuous times? You really are high.
And that was always my point.
By the way, the picture of himself that Russ posted within his piece shows him wearing a Kangol with a pot leaf on it and smoking a blunt the size of a whiffle ball bat.
And with that, we roll credits.
Chez Pazienza was the beating heart of The Daily Banter, sadly passing away on February 25, 2017. His voice remains ever present at the Banter, and his influence as powerful as ever.