Aside from the fact that Arapaho had no competitive races to name, part of me hoped that I was in California simply so I could vote for Proposition 19. The Pot-Prop. Different people have different views on decriminalization in general, and to each their own, but while I do not favor decriminalization of all drugs I do favor it for marijuana. Not out of any desire to smoke pot myself (I tried it; it wasn’t for me) nor any love of pot smokers. Mostly because in the cost-benefit analysis of the comparative virtues and vices of the increased pot usage that would come with legalization and its share of the War on Drugs, I come down on the side of decriminalization. For some it’s a matter of freedom, but not so much for me. I don’t favor the decriminalization of all other narcotics, though I can be convinced on a case-by-case basis using the same criteria for cocaine as for pot.

In addition to the War on Drugs angle, Sheila Tone made a good point about the repercussions the illegality has on reuniting families where one parent or the other breaks that particular law.

Unfortunately, the legalization movement is saddled with, among other things, The Barry Cooper Problem. It’s my view that the legalization movement needs to be spearheaded by reasonable and humble individuals who recognize that rightly or wrongly people have reservations about legalizing pot and it does no good to call them ugly names, insult them, or treat their concerns as utterly invalid. Instead we have Barry Cooper’s antics and apparently people who believe that it’s not just a question of whether pot should be legal or not but a question of respecting the decisions of those who choose to partake. For me, one of the stronger arguments in the pro-freedom side of most issues is “just because something is a bad idea doesn’t mean it should be illegal” and its cousin “just because something is legal does not mean you have to approve.” For a free society to work and to keep Big Brother out of it, I believe we have to condemn behavior we consider inappropriate. Otherwise, given the choice between something being illegal and something being condoned by society at large, a lot more people are going to choose “illegal.”

If Mickey Kaus is right, the people behind Proposition 19 forgot this or simply didn’t care:

The measure seems to have been hurt by a wacky, overreaching provision that would effectively have made stoners a protected class when it comes to hirings and firings. Even the Greenberg poll found a 50-44 majority think employers should be able to fire those who test positive on drug tests even if “they come to work sober and ready to work.” I voted against 19 because of this provision (and wouldn’t trust an initiative that was written by anyone who’d write that provision, even if it were excised). After all, once a new protected class has been created, is it ever un-created? Stoners would have special legal protections against firing, probably forever (with employers having to prove their pot use “actually impairs job performance”). I might have to become one myself

This is… highly problematic. Now, as it happens, I believe that hiring people you know smoke pot but that perform well regardless is good business practice. Those old school Hit Coffee readers will remember Falstaff, my former Mormon-dominated employer that sought to weed out all the weedheads even as we tried to explain that we could be weeding out some of our best performers. If it doesn’t affect job performance, I believe it should be a non-issue. However, it not-infrequently is going to cause problems in the workplace the same way that alcohol consumption does. Adding a layer making it more difficult to fire people that smoke pot compared to people that don’t is highly concerning.

This is a level of protection that cigarette smokers do not get. Nor, I should add, should they/we. I resented the former employer of mine that refused to hire smokers, but I believe that while their policy was unwise, intrusive, and indicative of an employer I did not want to work for… it was also, like a number of their other policies, within their purview*. The same goes for alcohol consumption, though no employer I am familiar with tests for that sort of thing. The only reason that up until recently it seemed bizarre to discriminate against smokers is that they were so large in number and it was such an accepted activity. Ultimately, we don’t want pot to become as socially accepted as cigarettes were. We don’t want cigarettes that accepted, either! Those things I say above about societal disapproval applies to my own vices as well. Easier to keep the cat in the bag, though, when it comes to things currently on the periphery of society the same way that we should wish smoking were.

That the pushers of Proposition 19 felt the need to put this in there shows a pretty significant disconnect with the rest of society. I see it on a number of blogs where “all reasonable people” agree that pot should be legal. The problem is that “all reasonable people” is a minority of the population. It does the movement no good to ignore that. And even among those “all reasonable people” a lot of people feel the same way I do about employment law. Some may hold their nose and vote for it anyway, but a lot won’t. And a lot of people who recognize on some vague level that the War on Drugs (as it pertains to marijuana) is not a fight worth fighting will use that as an excuse to vote against decriminalizing a behavior that they only marginally object to (or, in some cases, indulged in when they were younger).

The point of this exercise should not be to vindicate pot-smokers. Nor should it be, as Barry Cooper is inclined to do, to stick it to the buzzkills that want to stand between you and your weed. The point is to take this minimally-harmful substance and separate it from the substantially-harmful war against it. Because if you’re asking people to line up behind pot-smokers, you’re going to lose just as surely as smokers are losing one battle after another to stigmatize their/our habit.

* – And not just because of the “it saves them money on health insurance” rationale. Bregna, the former employer in question, didn’t care about that. The president of the company just didn’t like smokers. He wanted a certain kind of employee working for him and viewed the overlap of people that fit that profile and smoke were small. There are also issues of smokers having, in general, lower levels of productivity.


Category: Statehouse

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18 Responses to Why Potheads Shouldn’t Write Law

  1. Maria says:

    I voted for it even though it had that goofy provision. And yes, that was the main reason it failed.

    The Mexican drug cartels are getting increasingly bold in California, and I am willing to consider anything to stop their rise.

  2. rob says:

    Maybe I’m just biased. The WoD has been a disaster. Every time a drug is outlawed, the feds step up enforcement, or make precursors harder to get that drug becomes more damaging. The method of administration matters for how addictive a drug is. The faster it hits, the better the hindbrain makes the connection from take drug to feel happy. Taking a drug orally is not as addictive as shooting.

    The Feds stepped up enforcing heroin, and what do we get? Low purity black tar goes out the window.At 100% pure, the batch is takes 1/50th the volume it would at 2%, so its much safer to smuggle.

    Remember how people shot each other to deal crack in the 80’s? Why didn’t that happen with the meth plague? It was easy enough to make that prices were low, and dealing wasn’t lucrative. When a drug is cheap and addicts can make their own stashes, there’s not much marketing. New people might get high at party or whatever, but having to cook it up is a much higher barrier to frequent use than being able to buy it. The problems caused by addicts are mitigated when we don’t have to pay so much to use.

    One of the reasons pot is a gateway drug is that doing it is illegal. Smoking pot the first time is crossing a line. Most potheads cross the line and nothing bad happens. For people who are going to be addicts, its easier to cross the next line. Legal pot would keep a huge chunk of people from buying an illegal drug.

  3. trumwill says:

    Maria, it would have been a pretty tough decision for me to make. I might have held my nose and voted for it anyway, but this provision would at least have made me think twice. Was this provision a significant part of the anti-19 ad campaign? Also, setting aside pot, would you have voted for it if it was cocaine?

    For my part, I would want to see how pot goes, first. Arapaho legalized medical marijuana and it’s actually been quite problematic. I’m inclined to believe that the state just didn’t think it through, but I want to see some test cases, first.

  4. trumwill says:

    Rob, a lot of what you say makes sense. I am in the odd position of disliking the War on Drugs but also pretty uncomfortable with decriminalization writ large. At the very least, I want to go slowly. I would also like us to approach it differently than we currently do. Something can be illegal without a war being declared on it.

    If decriminalization of pot goes well, and if it does not result in pot being made available at every convenience store in the country, I’d be willing to look at the next line of drugs.

    Regarding the reason why pot is a gateway drug, I entirely agree. It’s among the reasons I favor decriminalization. Once you’ve crossed that bright line, you’re already across it and are more likely to experiment with other illegal substances.

  5. Maria says:

    Was this provision a significant part of the anti-19 ad campaign? Also, setting aside pot, would you have voted for it if it was cocaine?

    Yup, this was the major reason it failed. Guaranteed employment for pot-heads, etc. etc. I suspect a lot of money came in under the table for the opposition from the Mexican drug gangs.

    No, I would not have voted for it if it was cocaine–I feel decriminalization needs to be approached carefully, and should be based on a test case such as decrminalizing pot first.

    The specific thing that makes me angry about the pot trade is that the Mexican gangs are taking over California’s state, local and national wilderness parks to grow pot, and are destroying them environmentally. They do it even on the most primo, irreplaceable California landmarks, such as Yosemite. The state and federal forestry services do not have the money or the manpower to properly police all that wilderness land, although they do what they can.

    Aside from the environmental destruction,which is considerable, it is now dangerous for hikers to hike in our parks, as they might inadvertantly stumble onto one of the illicit pot plantations and be killed by the attendants.

  6. trumwill says:

    I suspect a lot of money came in under the table for the opposition from the Mexican drug gangs.

    I’ve read elsewhere that the law enforcement community and private prisons are also doing their part. The former can pull in a lot of change through federal grants and forfeiture. The latter’s benefits are pretty obvious.

    But… what can we say? They’re winning the debate. They have a financial interest in making sure that they get their arguments right. On the other side, we have Barry Cooper and Guaranteed Jobs For Potheads. The decriminalization side walks in to just about every trap imaginable.

  7. trumwill says:

    Incidentally, one of the story ideas I am fleshing out involves an industrious governor in the west who set up secret, state-protected pot farms as an intrastate exporting windfall. Of course, the irony is that he has the reputation of being vociferously anti-drug because he comes down REALLY HARD on any outsiders trying to get a pipeline in his state.

  8. Mike Hunt says:

    Guaranteed Jobs For Potheads

    You seem bright enough, so I am going to assume you were just using hyperbole. No one is saying that you can’t fire someone who uses marijuana; they are just saying that you can’t fire someone JUST for using marijuana. And, of course, that’s what any reasonable person would think anyway.

    It is always amazing to me that employers have managed to sucker common people into taking their side. Of course it should be difficult to fire people; the more protected classes, the better for society at large. It is sort of like how poor white people vote Republican; they are suckers. Also, they want to separate themselves from NAMs. (Disclaimer: I live in a deep-blue nanny state, so my perspective may be so warped that I no longer realize it)

    Another problem is that federal law still says marijuana illegal. I would argue that any federal law regarding this matter is unconstitutional, but 9 people in black robes disagree.

    Can we admit that the whole medical marijuana thing is a scam?

    The problem is that “all reasonable people” is a minority of the population.

    This is the truest thing ever written in the history of the world. Kudos.

  9. Maria says:

    It is sort of like how poor white people vote Republican; they are suckers.

    They vote for the Republicans because they have nowhere to go; the Democrats are increasingly anti-white, and poor whites suffer from their policies much more than middle or upper class whites.

    This is happening all over the Western World, not just the US. The leftish parties try to stay in power by importing vote blocs of “minorities” and lobby for ethnic political favors for them, at the expensve of poor and lower-middle-class whites. E.g., poor and lower-middle-class whites are deserting leftish parties in Europe and voting for nationalist parties like the Front Nationale in France or the Sweden Democrats, which are conservative on social and cultural issues but liberal on support for the nanny state.

  10. Mike Hunt says:

    Maria: the Democrats are increasingly anti-white

    Fair enough. I made this point when I said that they want to separate themselves from NAMs. In case you don’t know what NAM means, it comes from Half Sigma. It officially means Non-Asian Minorities, but I really think it means N’ers And Mexicans.

  11. trumwill says:

    I am going to assume you were just using hyperbole.

    Your assumption would be correct.

    No one is saying that you can’t fire someone who uses marijuana; they are just saying that you can’t fire someone JUST for using marijuana.

    Given that California is an employment-at-will state, you’re making it more difficult to fire someone who uses marijuana than to fire someone who does not use marijuana. Or, at least, you’re giving them recourse that you’re not giving everybody else because they can claim that they were fired for smoking pot and not because smoking pot late into the night made them late for work in the morning. Meanwhile, the generic sleepyhead can just be fired without cause and has no recourse.

    Of course it should be difficult to fire people; the more protected classes, the better for society at large.

    I don’t really agree. Employment flexibility serves us well in the overall. I say this as someone that has been fired before “without cause”. His company, his paycheck, his prerogative. I carve out some exceptions to this, but relatively limited ones.

    Beyond which, the choice is often not between getting fired and not getting fired. It’s between getting fired without cause and collecting unemployment or getting fired with cause after two months of petty infractions documented and not collecting unemployment. That honestly makes me skeptical of even the exceptions I otherwise don’t mind carving out.

    Another problem is that federal law still says marijuana illegal. I would argue that any federal law regarding this matter is unconstitutional, but 9 people in black robes disagree.

    I am inclined to agree with you and not the men in robes. The most they should be able to do is restrict the transport of drugs across state lines. Ditto guns. On the other hand, as a college professor of mine put it, the Constitution is a document that has no meaning beyond what the people in robes say it means.

  12. trumwill says:

    I made this point when I said that they want to separate themselves from NAMs.

    Let’s turn off this particular avenue of discussion.

  13. Mike Hunt says:

    Okay, I will leave that avenue, since it wasn’t my main point.

    I’m disappointed you didn’t respond to my kudos. Your observation was truly brilliant. It reminded me of Adlai Stevenson.

  14. trumwill says:

    I didn’t? I didn’t! I meant to. Must have gotten in the rewrite after the computer crashed. Thank you, good sir.

  15. Maria says:

    Mike Hun: I do know what NAM means but don’t like the term, so don’t like to use it. I also do not approve of the use of the N-word, even if somewhat disguised.

    My point is that “minorities” (and race/color is only one aspect of minorityhood) make extremley reliable, nearly automatic voting blocs.

    The left parties of Europe learned this from the US experience, and, not having any real “minorities” themselves, decided to import them to buttress their political power, just as the Fall of the Wall was discrediting their attachment to Marxism.

    I am beginning to realize that this is an Achilles heel of democracy, and that’s why I made the comment.

    On the other hand, as a college professor of mine put it, the Constitution is a document that has no meaning beyond what the people in robes say it means.

    Yes, that is true. And especially when the SCOTUS makes rulings that requiring the increased expenditure of taxes, i.e. an “unfunded mandate,” it violates the right of the people to regulate their own tax burden.

    In other words, taxation without representation.

  16. john says:

    I think the gay marriage movement is suffering from this same problem, maybe even more so. Fighting an epic battle of good versus evil is just more satisfying than working together and coming to an agreement, I guess.

  17. trumwill says:

    Though I support their aims, I don’t entirely disagree about the gay marriage movement. Going through the courts is not the way to go. Especially since time is on our (the pro-gay marriage) side, there’s no need to cause the resentment. The pot movement is in more of a pickle because it’s hard to say whether public opinion is going to shift as far as it needs to.

  18. Maria says:

    Well, I used to be anti-legalization, until the power of the cartels started to move convincingly north. Maybe it just takes having more people exposed to the wonderful quality of life that the cartels and their minions always bring with them. The grafitti, the gangs, the kidnappings, the murders, the political corruption, the despoiled natural wonders. . .if you live in Montana or even Oregon, you just don’t get it.

    Yet.

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