Legalize It, Okay — But Why Does the Left Glorify Weed?

Massachusetts has now also legalized recreational marijuana. Two cannabis stores opened, one in Leicester and the other in Northampton, which happens to be the town where I was born. So, born and reared in Massachusetts and now living in Washington State, where recreational marijuana has been legal since 2012, I thought I’d bring up a peripheral issue, occurring in both states, that’s been bugging me: Legalize pot, okay. But why do some politicians engage in marijuana hero worship?

First, as a libertarian who supports limited government and unlimited liberty (okay, not unlimited but as much as practical), I acknowledge the sensible arguments for legalizing recreational marijuana use for adults.

While I don’t necessarily support any drug use, I must be consistent and intellectually honest. Adults should be free to do what they like as long as it harms no one else. Still, I don’t lose sleep over the issue because so many nasty folks are involved in the illegal drug trade. And I don’t care about the legal consequences for the suppliers and dealers. They know what they got into. Still, drug legalization is an interesting legal, intellectual, philosophical and, for some, emotional topic.

But the veneration of pot by some leftist politicians is just weird.

Aside from the liberty argument for legalization, this political pot worship bewilders me. Politicians who conflate tolerance with acceptance strike me as odd. Tolerate an adult’s potentially self-harmful choice to use intoxicants, sure. But accepting an intoxicant as admirable and promoting it as if it were a positive public policy seems excessive. And while recreational pot can be relatively harmless, as with alcohol, some people do abuse the substance and are harmed by it. And no responsible person argues minors should consume marijuana in any form.

Cannabis promoters put forth that pot is less destructive than alcohol. There is certainly a case for this view. Although, the conclusions are still out. Regardless, marijuana can have detrimental effects when abused. We also know today’s pot is more potent than in the past. Livescience.com reports the THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), pot’s primary psychotropic ingredient, has increased to 12 percent from four percent since 1995.

The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) warns about the following potential health risks of marijuana consumption:

  • Pot use directly affects parts of the brain responsible for attention, memory, and learning.
  • Pot can affect circulation, increasing the risk of strokes and heart attacks.
  • Smoking pot increases the risk of phlegm, cough, and bronchitis.
  • Pot users have a significantly higher risk of developing chronic mental disorders, including schizophrenia, which causes sufferers to experience audio and visual hallucinations.
  • Increased risk of poisoning when consuming, rather than smoking, pot-infused beverages.
  • One in 10 pot users will become addicted. If used before 18, addiction increases to one in six.
  • Some research shows a health risk to pregnant women.
  • Pot use slows a driver’s reaction times and decision-making abilities.

Now, I don’t want to appear all “Reefer Madness” here, but I think people should consider all the effects of this hallucinogen, positive and negative. Especially, when some American politicians act in a way that make drug use look enticing not only to adults but also to our children. Private entities can do as they will. Government officials, not so much.

In edible forms, cannabis looking like ordinary snacks, candy, and drinks can be dangerous for children. In fact, Children’s Hospital Colorado reported a surge in kids accidentally ingesting marijuana products after legalization. Also, society can’t ignore that driving while under the influence of marijuana is increasing. Today, it’s not uncommon to smell pot coming from other cars while driving in Washington State.

I understand that many more people are victims of old-fashioned drunk drivers intoxicated by alcohol because there are so many more alcohol drinkers compared with pot users. According to the National Institute of Health, about 86 percent of those 18 or older said they’ve consumed alcohol in their lifetimes. But researchers described only about 6 percent as having an alcohol use disorder. By comparison, only 9.5 percent of Americans say they’ve used marijuana but “30 percent of users meet the criteria for a disorder.”

I’d suggest it’s not either/or like marijuana proponents would have us think—it’s an also. According to government statistics, a fair number of frequent pot users also regularly consume alcohol. But not as many frequent alcohol users routinely consume marijuana. So, why do some, usually leftist, government officials praise marijuana as generally good for society? Is it any of government’s business to do such a thing publicly? Government isn’t out touting tobacco and alcolol use.

Here’s an example of leftist government officials extolling the virtues of cannabis. When the people of Washington State legalized marijuana, Seattle’s city attorney, Peter Holmes, couldn’t wait to snag a bag—or baggie.

To Mr. Holmes’ credit, from the moment he first won the election, he never hid his views on legalizing pot. From day one, he made life difficult for cops who enforced the city’s marijuana laws. Holmes was right at home when he addressed a crowd of potheads at Seattle’s annual Hemp Fest back in 2012 (depicted in cover photo above).

Cops not-so-jokingly agreed “Pothead Pete” would rather spend time toking it up with his fellow potheads than spend a moment more than he has to with the city’s police officers unless he’s trying to prosecute them.

During his speech, celebrating legalization, Mr. Holmes’ shouted, “We did it!” to cheers from the crowd. He reminded me of MSNBC’s gelatinous Chris Matthews describing the “thrill going up my leg” after President Obama’s election.

At Hemp Fest, Holmes even had police officers handing out bags of Doritos. The bags had notes affixed, informing the masses about the restrictions of the new law, including no use in public. The dazed and bemused horde ignored the information and continued to toke away—in public.

Today, Mr. Holmes and the new mayor, Jenny Durkan, continue their pot-promoting efforts. They have even moved to vacate all city marijuana possession convictions occurring before legalization.

Even though I have no problem with pot legalization, I find it difficult to accept vacating convictions. The people convicted intentionally violated what was then a city law. In fact, Mayor Durkan was so proud of herself, she explained her efforts in an op-ed in Seattle’s most far-left newspaper, the Stranger.

As for City Attorney Pete Holmes, he had long established his fondness for the Wacky Tobacky. On the first day of legalization, Mr. Holmes’ affinity for pot got himself into a little legal dustup. On his way to his office, he swung by a just-opened pot shop to pick up some recreational dope. Then he went to work. But there was a problem. Holmes’ office is located in what is also known as a “drug-free workplace,” city hall. He got himself into trouble when he carried into city hall what we in the coppin’ biz refer to as a green leafy substance thought to be marijuana.

Holmes explained his lapse in judgment resulted from his busy schedule and assured his staff he did not intend to use the pot “any time soon.” I wonder if Mr. Holmes would have bought that explanation from any cop caught with a bottle of booze while at work? “I’m sorry, Mr. Holmes,” says the officer. “But I wasn’t about to use it any time soon.” Not bloody likely.

The thing that struck me was Mr. Holmes’ clear veneration for the stuff. When explaining his pot purchase to the media, he said he’d bought one baggie for use later at home and one baggie to save for posterity. Posterity? Really, Mr. City Attorney?

Following in Mr. Holmes’ footsteps, according to NPR, on the first day of legalized recreational marijuana in Massachusetts, was self-described progressive Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz. He made the city’s new pot shop’s first purchase to a round of applause.

So, these are not just politicians happy with a less restrictive law that limits government and expands freedom. Normally, it goes against the left’s nature to reduce government. I mean, leftists seem in favor of individual liberty but only for things like abortions, felons voting, illegal alien amnesty, and the “homeless” illegally camping, defecating, urinating, using/selling drugs, assaulting people, and stealing or damaging their stuff.

These weed aficionados, a mayor responsible for law and order in his city, a city attorney responsible for prosecuting misdemeanor crimes committed in the city, and their comrade polticians around the country, apparently enjoy getting high in contravention of federal law. Then again, they don’t like enforcing federal immigration laws, either, so…

Now, I agree drug legalization, generally, should be left to the states (but it would be better if it were federally legalized first). But as long as the federal government maintains a pot prohibition, states that have legalized marijuana should work nationally to change the federal law, not disrespect and flout it. The rule of law is crucial to maintaining a free society.

The right to change laws peacefully sets us apart from many countries on earth where laws are created, applied, and rescinded arbitrarily. We should respect not only laws but also the legal process used to create or repeal them. Seems, with the left, not liking a law is reason enough to ignore it even if they swore an oath to uphold all laws. There are plenty of examples.

During the hubbub where Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded President Obama’s edict requiring the DOJ ignore federal marijuana laws, states argued that the AG was ignoring the will of the voters of pot-legal states. Okay, but what about the will of the voters of the United States? The federal government remains tasked with interdicting illegal drugs from entering the country through border states, including legal pot states.

The ATF, ICE, CBP, and DEA don’t enforce or not enforce federal law as it suits its agents’ personal politics. As long as the law exists, it’s their duty to enforce it. This is not as simple as the left would have us believe. For leftists, if they don’t like a law, why work within the system to change it when you can disregard it? Something tells me the left would pay attention to the rule of law if conservative states’ officials ignored federal abortion rights laws.

What is it with those on the left who quasi-sanctify this intoxicating little plant and virtually canonize those who sell and use the stuff? Take CNN’s now infamous 2017 New Year’s Eve pot-tinged celebration in Denver, Colorado. Okay, the drug is legal. Fine, but the positive, or at least flippant, hype surrounding the drug by a major news network was weird. And while the media isn’t the government, they have become notorious for promoting leftist political causes.

The feds and states outlawed public tobacco advertising many years ago, but today you can’t turn your head in places like Seattle and Denver without seeing billboards touting the life-affirming role marijuana plays in our society. Pot shops in Washington State are now as ubiquitous as Starbucks.

Many leftist political leaders not only endorse pot legalization but also are cheerleaders for its use? While most adults who choose to can enjoy pot with few negative consequences, this is not the case for children. Aren’t we sending bad messages to kids about drug use, generally, when government officials endorse pot use? Hell, as we’ve seen, some officials even made a show of purchasing pot for personal use in places like Seattle and Northampton.

Hey, kids, don’t use tobacco or alcohol, don’t consume sugary drinks, and don’t spend too much time playing video games or watching TV—oh, and when you grow up, don’t you dare vote for Republicans. But just look at what you have to look forward to: You can get high on pot or, as some leftist politicians want to make legal and facilitate it, shoot heroin into your veins—and we’ll even give you a place to do it.

Legalize the stuff and use the stuff if you want to. Hold people accountable for their actions while under the influence. But political leaders should stop worshipping marijuana, its sellers, and users.

The opinions expressed here by contributors are their own and are not the view of OpsLens which seeks to provide a platform for experience-driven commentary on today's trending headlines in the U.S. and around the world. Have a different opinion or something more to add on this topic? Contact us for guidelines on submitting your own experience-driven commentary.
Steve Pomper

Steve Pomper is an OpsLens contributor, a retired Seattle police officer, and the author of four non-fiction books, including De-Policing America: A Street Cop’s View of the Anti-Police State. You can read a review of this new book in Front Page Magazine and listen to an interview with Steve on the Joe Pags Show. Steve was a field-training officer, on the East Precinct Community Police Team, and served his entire career on the streets. He has a BA in English Language and Literature. He enjoys spending time with his kids and grand-kids. He loves to ride his Harley, hike, and cycle with his wife, Jody, a retired firefighter. You can find out more about Steve and send him comments and questions at www.stevepomper.com.

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