Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Full Marijuana Legalization Is Inevitable ... But You Can't Sell "Getting Trashed"


by Gaius Publius

I've written before that three progressive issues have turned the corner in public acceptance, not at the same time, but in series, one after the other. Those three are:

▪ Marriage equality for same-sex partners
▪ Marijuana legalization
▪ Acceptance of the fact of human-caused climate change

Each is further along than the issue listed below it, but in all three cases, the train has left the station, never to return.

Fifty-State Marriage Equality Is Obviously Inevitable

The first of these issues to reach "inevitability" was the marriage equality movement. Public opposition started to topple in 2010, with events like Barack Obama's admission that his views on marriage equality were "evolving" (in an answer to Joe Sudbay during the 2010 "blogger conference") and Dan Choi's chaining himself to the White House fence (same year) to protest Obama's DADT stance.

When in 2012 Obama dropped all opposition to marriage equality — a signal that Democratic leaders no longer saw support as dangerous — the movement had all the momentum it needed. Now, full marriage equality is law in 32 states, and the rest are sure to follow. A patchwork of marriage laws will never be allowed to stand. There's no turning back on this, and everyone sentient knows it.

Acceptance of Climate Change Has Turned the Corner As Well

The third item listed above, acceptance of human-caused climate change, has also crossed a line toward inevitability, but only recently. Yes, the polls are mixed, but if you talk to people, actual people of all stripes and beliefs, it's clear they're starting to "get it." They don't yet know what to do, but they're coming to acceptance in greater and greater numbers. With each new super-storm and the inevitability of the next, with each new challenge to water resources, each new dramatic shot of disappearing glaciers and ice sheets, I'm certain there will never be more doubters than there are today. The doubter population, loud and well-financed though it be, is a doomed species. Climate is making its case.

All the noise — the literal noise, the manufactured interference and confusion — is, and will continue to be, What do we do? That battle, what to do, will be huge, but it's not the same battle as acceptance. I'll have more to say on this later. I want to teach into the future confusion, not the past one.

Marijuana Legalization Is Poised to Win, But Not By Arguing "It's Cool To Be Trashed"

It's the second issue, marijuana legalization, I want to focus on here, and I want to make an odd, but hopefully obvious point. With this issue as with the other two, we've reached the point of public acceptance and inevitability. The train has left the station, never to return. Twenty-four states have legalized marijuana in some form, and four (plus the District of Columbia, which must get congressional agreement) have approved it for recreational use, meaning it's starting to be legal to get high on something besides alcohol.

The first legalization proposals to pass were for medicinal use, whose stated purpose was humanitarian. As I count them, there are 18 states where medical marijuana is legal. (Note that some of that medical marijuana has had its psychotropic — recreation-inducing — properties removed, neutering the opponents' "moral" objections to it. More on that shortly.) The humanitarian case for medical marijuana is strong.

But marijuana is not just used medicinally. It's not even mainly used medicinally. And now in four states and the District of Columbia, the other shoe has fallen, the recreational shoe. It doesn't take a weatherman to see the scented winds reaching all 50 states, or most of them. After all, when the possibly-red-necked residents of the last holdout states trek across the border to purchase the devil's weed, those barriers will fall, devil or not. Weed is making its case as well.

Marijuana Legalization, Even As Medicine, Is Stuck On Hold In Red States

But marijuana legalization is presently stuck on hold in a number of states, especially red ones, despite its future inevitability. The issue is ... pleasure. "Sure," opponents say, "you can talk about your 'humanitarianism,' but isn't this just about getting high?" Red-state types, it seems, have a problem approving other people's pleasure, even sex, even while never giving up their own. (Feel free to click, but the list is endless.)

The issue could also be labeled "degeneracy." For the hard right winger, it's degenerate to have pleasure (which is why so many of them live torn by guilt, and frankly, like it that way). But "degeneracy" — or the appearance of degeneracy — offends most of us. Falling-down, blacked-out drunks, for example, are still the strongest argument for prohibition of alcohol, even among Prohibition opponents. It's the same with many drugs. I personally know a number of people, legal pot smokers all, who abandoned Berkeley "back in the day" when the number of broken-down speed addicts had reached an offensive "critical mass," at least for them.

It's at that nexus — Is it moral to "get high"? Is it seemly to "get wasted"? — that the battle against inevitable marijuana legalization is being fought in the states, especially the red ones.

Case In Point, Florida and John Morgan

Which leads us to a prime example, Florida's Amendment 2 and its headline supporter, John Morgan. Amendment 2 would have legalized medical marijuana. By ceaseless effort, John Morgan, a well-known Florida lawyer and former law partner of Charlie Crist, had become the "celebrity-status ... face of the cause." Whether his motive was sincere (likely) or simply to get his friend Charlie Crist a younger set of voters in 2014 (also possible), John Morgan was the face of Amendment 2.

And then that face did this ...

... which was turned into newscasts like this ...

Along with a boatload of Sheldon Adelson's money and the opposition of Floridians like Debbie Wasserman Schultz (click and you'll see again how prominent Morgan is), the Amendment, once supported by 88% of Floridians, fell short of the 60% mark needed to pass (my emphasis):
During the summer, the fight for Florida’s marijuana amendment also seemed like it was a shoe-in. Polls showed that around 88 percent of Floridians supported the idea, but then $6.5 millions dollars came in from Vegas casino tycoon Sheldon Adelsen to buy negative campaign ads. The “No On 2″ political ads had a leaked party video showing the primary backer of medical marijuana, millionaire personal injury attorney John Morgan, shouting profanities during a drunk party full of campaign staffers.

Florida’s marijuana legalization effort began to face more scrutiny and opponents attacked the language that would allow doctors to prescribe marijuana for any major medical condition. Some opponents even claimed that the amendment would allow minors to get hold of marijuana through loopholes. The negative campaign ads had the effect of dropping polls to an average of 57.3 percent — even before the early 2014 elections results even began streaming in.
So the fight continues. Marijuana will eventually be legal everywhere, but fights in states like Florida are tough ones. Americans have always had a mixed relationship with pleasure, and no one has a good reaction to apparent self-disablement. Marijuana legalization unfortunately touches both of these nerves.

Four Takeaways

There are several takeaways here:

1. Legalizing medical marijuana is a good in itself. That's why it's both widely approved and inevitable.

2. Most Americans today approve of pleasure — another gift of the Hippie Sixties. (Not kidding; those gifts are many. Imagine being too ashamed, for example, to move in with your boyfriend. Welcome to the pre-Hippie world.) It's just the vocal few who want to restrict in others what they allow themselves to do. These are sad people; they should never have power. Unfortunately, however, they have billions of dollars to work with, so long as they enable their masters' ends (low taxes) along with their own. They are the devil's symbiots, and the devil is well-heeled.

3. Eventually, marijuana-for-pleasure, "recreational marijuana," will be legal everywhere. To repeat what I said above, when the possibly-red-necked residents of the last holdout states trek across the border for the devil's weed, those barriers will fall and weed will win completely. Colorado is already surrounded by red states. Which of those will be next?

4. The sticking points are "morality" (for the hypocritical) and the "ick" factor (for the rest of us). We can't fix the first, though the moralizers are losing strength even in red states. But we can fix the second. In particular, we can learn what John Morgan's unintended sabotage of his own issue showed us. Even in "liberal" Oregon, passage of recreational pot depended on the strictness of its regulation, which tells us the "ick" reaction matters everywhere.

Shorter takeaway 4 — "It's cool to be trashed" is a guaranteed losing argument. Let's try to avoid it.

Bonus: Advice for Florida

I think John Morgan is sincere in wanting to see his signature cause become law. If so, he should continue to fund it — but he should get out of the spotlight, now. And if it's up to me, if I were his "campaign manager," he wouldn't just disappear. He would call the press and publicly leave the battlefield — let himself be filmed apologizing, then filmed walking away. If he really wants to do the most he can do, that's the most he can do, and his issue deserves him doing it.

I Did Say Climate Awareness Was Inevitable — The Problem Is What To Do Next

This piece is about the inevitability of pot legalization. Climate awareness by the general public is also inevitable, has also turned the corner. But like marijuana legalization, the climate issue has a unique problem, a twist, that marriage equality, the first of our three issues, does not have. Marriage equality is an obviously fair policy, with few complications. Marijuana legalization has an added "drunk and disorderly" twist. In the case of climate awareness, the twist is that climate opponents have a hundred-trillion-dollar financial stake* in making sure the public never acts on what it learns. But that's a new subject, one for another time.


* "Hundred-trillion-dollar financial stake" — If there are over a trillion barrels of oil in proven reserves, oil still in the ground, and if the price of one barrel is $100, the in-the-ground value of oil is over $100 trillion. And that's just counting oil, not natural gas, tar sands, or unproven reserves. The people who own those reserves won't surrender one dime of unmonetized goo without a fight. $100 trillion in goo is lot of money, and oil producers are greedy and psychopathic enough to fight for all of it. As I said, a unique twist to the problem.

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At 11:03 AM, Anonymous Sue said...

When civilization collapses because of drought/flood/famine/epidemic all the toil will be worth nothing!

At 11:04 AM, Anonymous Sue said...

Oil not toil

At 10:15 AM, Anonymous Nancy L said...

great article GP


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