Cliff Schecter, 4/22/2012 [Archive]

Up In Smoke

Up In Smoke

By Cliff Schecter

Towards the beginning of the cult classic "Dazed & Confused," a high school senior named Slater, inquires of baby-faced freshman Mitch, "are you cool?" What Slater is really asking--in this ode to 1970s youth and the counterculture--is do you smoke pot?

Ahh the 70s. Back before the likeness on Grover Norquist's Bedtime With Bonzo night light (some guy named Reagan), kicked the kooky, corrupt and thoroughly counterproductive War On Drugs into high gear. And poof, this country suddenly lost its collective mind, suffering a lapse in judgment that vaunted well past ill-advised and just beyond "they have weapons of mass destruction" to what might best be labeled "the mind of Ted Nugent."

As we pass the mythic, cultural marker of 4/20, it might be worth examining what we've wrought.

By any measure - economically, morally, democratically - we are far worse for allowing special interests to take us down this road to perdition. It has spiritually hollowed us out, while erecting a prominent prison culture that makes The People's Republic of China seem like Woodstock.

This was made all the more evident recently when a Harvard economist, Jeffrey Miron, released a study showing this exercise in dunderheadedness is costing us $13.7 billion a year. Writer Ernest A. Canning points to some statistics reported by Democracy Now!, which make clear that "over the last 40 years, more than 45 million drug-related arrests have cost an estimated $1 trillion."

Hmm, I can't think of any better ways we could have spent this money, can you?

In fact, I know some neo-conservative types who seemingly kneel down in prayer a few times a day to make supple offerings to the graven idol of The Balanced Budget. You'd think they might notice numbers like this and do something to save money being wasted on American citizens who take their mind altering substances via the beer bong, as opposed to a funnel, filter or by simply reaching into a medically approved prescription pill bottle. Although, as Congressman Paul Ryan has discovered when weighing raising taxes on ascots versus slashing social programs, it's just so much easier and more fun to cut preventative care for kids than to honestly tackle real problems.

Sadly, things have gotten no better under President Obama than they were under his predecessors. Back when he was running for President in 2008, Obama claimed to support the "basic concept of using medical marijuana for the same purposes and with the same controls as other drugs," He even went further, claiming he would "not be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws."

Yet, that is exactly what he has done, using the very same Justice Department to raid over 100 marijuana dispensaries during his term. It is shameful really.

The wasted potential of those who will go to our jails instead of our colleges (although at least Rick Santorum won't shake his head in not-so-subtle disapproval at their obvious snobbery) will not only cost these individuals and their families dearly, but our society as a whole. Much like with our health care system, when we ignore or compound problems in the short term, they always come back to haunt us later as the Ghost of Christmas past--and not the cool one played by Buster Poindexter in "Scrooged" either.

Listen, if you don't want to believe the facts, just take a gander at what Pat Robertson had to say recently on this issue (yes, I too am stunned I just wrote that). He took a moment off from blaming hurricanes on abortion rights to come out for marijuana legalization. Hey, I'm not saying I think his every neuron is firing in what one might call a fecund direction, but on this one, politicians should listen. And more importantly, they should pay attention to the people of this country, 47 percent of whom favor marijuana legalization, while only 42 percent oppose it.

Because if we continue with the half-baked idea of expanding this war, we will also continue to watch our financial future, moral fiber and civil liberties go up in smoke.


©Copyright 2012 Cliff Schecter, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. For more info contact Sales at 800- 696-7561 or email

Cliff Schecter is the President of Libertas, LLC, a progressive public relations firm, and the author of the 2008 bestseller "The Real McCain." Email Cliff at

This column has been edited by the author. Representations of fact and opinions are solely those of the author.

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