The New York Times rocked America’s world this weekend by coming out in favor of legalizing marijuana, and NBC News’ Meet the Press celebrated by convening a panel made up of more squares than you can shake a Paul Lynde at (that reference was for the members of MTP‘s panel, who are the only people still alive who will get it). Really, all you need to know is that the panel, with the possible exception of Nia-Malika Henderson of The Washington Post, possess the collective hipness of Mitt Romney’s iPod, and in this context, a level of seriousness to match.
Most of the four excruciating minutes were devoted to the same arguments against marijuana that apply even more so to alcohol and tobacco that these people always make, so to save you time and agita, we’ve boiled it down to the silliest thirty-six seconds:
Wow, who knew that David Gregory was such an enthusiast?
Look, there’s nothing necessarily wrong with sprinkling your marijuana commentary with a joke or two, provided that they are A) funny, and B) wrapped around a discussion that is in some way useful to the public. So far, opposition to legalizing marijuana has only succeeded in getting conservatives to fairly boast about how easy they make it for their kids to booze it up. By focusing on dead-end, get off my lawn arguments against legalization, these people are shortchanging the legitimate concerns of people who, if they’re willing to see pot legalized, want it to be done carefully.
If the only two choices are Reefer Madness and anything goes, marijuana legalization will succeed, and then it will fail. It took decades of concerted policy and public relations effort to cut drunk driving fatalities in half. How long do you think marijuana will stay legal if pot-related fatalities spike even more sharply than they already have? The loose collection of stems, seeds, insect parts, and oregano that passed for a dime bag when I was a kid is a thing of the past. How many stories about people wigging out on today’s more concentrated product will it take to bring back pot prohibition? Make jokes, yes, but make them funny, and make them in the process of having a useful discussion about setting marijuana legalization up for success, not failure.
Because it’s coming, either way.