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The Inevitable Post About Legal Weed

The Inevitable Post About Legal Weed

Now to keep the record straight, I’m not a regular weed smoker. Legalized weed had nothing to do with my motivations for moving to Washington. That’s not because of some terrible moral objection I have to weed, though; it’s mainly because I’ve tried weed, and every time I’ve tried it, it never seemed to have the effect it was supposed to have on me. I’m not averse to social weed, but I don’t run around actively seeking it out – it doesn’t ever do anything that can’t be done with good old alcohol.

I do live in a weed-legal state, though, so it’s something I deal with on a regular basis. It doesn’t bother me, and in fact I have friends who smoke weed. As for this idea of some sort of open weed culture that the moralizers in the rest of this country worry about, though, I have yet to see that. Seattleites don’t sit giggling maniacally on park benches, they don’t lay down in the middle of the sidewalk on a pot brownie binge, and if potheads are frequenting the local fast food joints with munchies, I’ve been underwhelmed by the crowds. (Except for Dick’s, but that’s more because Dick’s makes damn good burgers.) The addition of legal weed doesn’t seem to make the culture of Seattle much different from the culture of Buffalo or Chicago. In fact, it feels like it hasn’t done anything at all. Basically, legalizing weed had placed weed a peg higher on the taboo scale. Instead of being illegal, its reached roughly the same level as porn: Everyone knows people are doing it, it’s legal, but for the love of god stay away!!!

Seriously, the state is pretty adamant about making sure it doesn’t fall into the wrong curious hands. Like porn, weed is often sold in shady-looking little shacks with boarded windows and signs everywhere saying “21 ONLY!!!” If you happen to walk into one, some of them even have a fee just to browse. But like porn, it finds ways of trickling into the surrounding world no matter how much you try to control it.

One of the first things that struck me about legal weed is something I first heard on my night shift. So I was standing in the back room of my warehouse, trying desperately not to nod off, and one of those popular lawyer ads came onto the radio. You know the law firm ads vowing to defend you hook, line, and sinker if you get caught driving drunk? Well, in weed-legal Washington, they’re now making those same ads with an emphasis on being caught driving while high. And the agency that made the ad made a point to acknowledge all the common jokes and stereotypes about the difference between driving drunk and driving high. Then it made sure to point out that a DUI doesn’t differentiate between being drunk and being high; intoxication is intoxication, and it still impairs your senses and alters your consciousness one way or the other. If the cops think you’re driving funny and pull you over and you fail the test, your ass is getting hauled in.

It’s pretty scary that someone had to think to make a radio ad pointing that out. You would think it would be something that people instinctively realize, but the stupid truth is that if someone hadn’t thought it was okay, no one would have felt the urge to point it out. Weed smokers aren’t necessarily stupid people, but overlooking things like this don’t help nix that old stereotype.

My visits to weed stores have awakened me to the fact that weed is an expensive habit. I don’t think I’ve ever entered a weed shop where they sold single blunts – the cheapest things I’ve been able to find – for any amount of money that didn’t have two digits on the left side of the decimal point. No matter where you go, every time you see a reference to a weed dealer, the word “weed” is ALWAYS preceded by the word “legal.” The prices are probably a major reason for the distinction. The state government requires that the term “legal” be there in order to differentiate the recreational stuff from the medical or black market stuff. Yes, there’s still a black market for weed, because no one wants to pay $40 a week for their weed stock. Remember, wherever weed is legal, it was never legalized as a mercy or a stroke of common sense. It was done for revenue and as an effort to have some sort of control over who is getting it and how much people are using it. And it’s not going to prevent underage potheads from getting their hands on it. The rule applies here same as everywhere: If someone underage wants it and can’t get any, they’re not trying hard enough.

I have never seen a TV ad for a pot shop, but advertising for various places is everywhere. Billboards are up, and they’re plastered all over the pages of The Stranger, Seattle’s most popular alt rag.

The most unusual thing about legal weed, though, is its relationship with a federal government that still outlaws the stuff. The feds are all-omnipotent, and they have a bad habit of overruling the locals where they can. I was surprised to find myself taking drug tests for three different jobs – there’s a wide abundance of employers around Washington that’s perfectly allowed to fire your ass if there’s any weed in your bloodstream. The state is basically powerless in those circumstances, so even though Washington has a weed industry boom, the general sentiment among the population is that you’re still not really allowed to use it.

It’s the kind of thing that can make you wonder what the whole point of legalizing pot is if the feds still get enough final say to make sure users fear for their usage of it. That’s not to say it’s actually discouraging people, but more than a few weed users are finding themselves in trouble for what’s supposed to be a legal habit.

So yeah, legal weed is a weird cross world which is likely going to stay weird until the government grows a brain.


The Hijacking of Political Incorrectness

The Hijacking of Political Incorrectness

This is the reason I hate trying to attach labels to myself which sum up my belief systems in one word: Every label I’ve ever used has been sullied in some way. I don’t think there’s a political party out there I haven’t identified with and left in disgust. I consider myself an atheist, but have one or two churches in Chicago that I consider spiritual homes. I was a Christian at one time, Muslim another time. I’m a tree hugger, free trader who believes in local capitalism, pacifist who supports the military, health nut and organic food supporter who believes people should have the right to eat whatever junk they please, and professional sports buff who thinks all teams in all sports leagues should be forced to pay for their own goddamned playing fields while the cities are freed of exorbitant league entry fees.

It looks now like I’m soon going to be forced to remove myself of a long-lasting label I’ve always worn with pride: Politically incorrect. Somehow, political incorrectness has been hijacked by the very people who forced me to wear it in the first place: A bunch of tradition-thumping rednecks who grabbed on and clung for dear life as politically incorrect and first amendment rights became the automatic rallying cries for people upset over the fact society at large isn’t letting them be bigots anymore.

If you’ve been paying any kind of attention over the last week, you know the name Donald Sterling is now cause celebre among even people who take pride in not following professional sports. Sterling is a bigot who happens to have a ton of money which he poured into the NBA team he owned until last week, the Los Angeles Clippers. Sterling sounding off about black people is no surprise to those with any knowledge about the NBA. Even when he took over the team back in the 80’s, the other owners tried to vote him out. Unfortunately, they appear to have gave up that fight after 1982 because money talks and the Clippers were rolling in it, in spite of being the poster boys of bad basketball for almost all of Sterling’s tenure. Sterling was finally caught on tape reaming out a woman who may or may not be his mistress because he hated the idea of her hanging out with black people. The fans and players in the league rebelled, and commissioner Adam Silver acted decisively by throwing Sterling out of the league. It was the right move.

Where political correctness enters into the equation is with the people who are terrible enough to come to Sterling’s defense. They’re trying to turn Sterling into a martyr on some kind of misguided first amendment principle, and bitching about the girl recording the conversation. The common argument is being made everywhere on the internet – big shock, I know – and, pathetically, in print. The basic idea is that Sterling got slammed for his political incorrectness, and that he should fight the NBA and be granted his team back. It’s coming mainly from the people who do the most griping about personal responsibility, but then again, those who complain about personal responsibility the most these days don’t seem to believe in it a whole lot themselves, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. Still, though, it’s a direct failure of the personal responsibility people to show they’re not just a bunch of stodgy old coots clinging to old-timey beliefs about other races which are as far-flung as they are far-off.

What the hell happened to the political incorrectness that I came to know and embrace? Political incorrectness as I know it doesn’t excuse anyone from being a fucking idiot; in fact, political incorrectness doesn’t work at all if you’re an idiot. If you’re going to go against the romanticized fable forever being coughed up by a group of people with abiding faith in a particularly narrow set of ideals, you damn well better know exactly what you’re talking about. Being politically incorrect is not a buffer against stupidity or being wrong about something. If you do turn out to be wrong about something, you need to take the opportunity to learn a little bit more and acknowledge your mistake, whether or not your stance on the issue at hand needs to be waived.

Political incorrectness, to me, is only the right and ability to question a set of ideals. It doesn’t matter what those ideals are – being politically incorrect is being able to poke holes in a blanket cover of values, forcing the people who abide by those values to go on the defensive. It’s a way of checking reasoning and making sure a group knows exactly what it is they’re trying to get the rest of the world into. In short, it’s the “what if” to the regular “what” of the politically correct.

If political correctness wants something to happen, political incorrectness is there to make sure all possible scenarios are accounted for. Political incorrectness isn’t there to excuse your bigotry or stupidity and free you of the consequences. It was never meant to be a rally for people too dumb to understand science, political science, international relations, or basically anything contradicting what they learned in Milktoastville Public School or the Church of Cowboy Jesus.