BY KEN BURGER
The Post and Courier
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
After alcohol, marijuana is America's drug of choice. Studies show half of today's population has tried smoking pot and the other half might if they knew how to get it.
Despite the government's endless war on drugs, recreational marijuana is the biggest illegal cash crop in the world. And there's a reason for that.
If you're north of age 60, you might see pot as the gateway drug that lures our unsuspecting youth into a lifetime of heavy drug addiction. If you're south of that line, not so much.
Today's middle-age grandparents grew up around marijuana in high school and college, and some used it with the same discretion as they did a six-pack of beer. Some continued to smoke, others did not.
Many, however, didn't consider it a crime. That attitude is apparent in the gradual decriminalization of the weed to the point where it's an inconvenient misdemeanor and a waste of good police manpower. We know it's against the law, but we don't want anybody to go to jail for it.
Thus we have a problem in America.
What to do about pot?
No harm, no foul
Just recently, photos of Olympic swimming champ Michael Phelps hitting a bong at a party on the University of South Carolina campus in Columbia were released to the world.
Phelps, who won eight gold medals in Beijing, promptly apologized and has been suspended for three months. A slap on the wrist.
Closer to home, three College of Charleston basketball players and a team manager recently were ticketed after campus police found them in a vehicle that contained marijuana. The manager took the rap, the simple possession charges against the players were dropped and everybody went back to playing basketball.
No harm, no foul.
Meanwhile, one of the biggest indoor marijuana farms in history was discovered a few miles up the road in Orangeburg. These guys could do some serious time.
Truth is, we pretend the users of the product are innocent and punish the entrepreneurs who found a way to make a buck. It's kind of the way we treat prostitution. Seems a little un-American, but that's the law.
Potheads and other proponents have been trying to legalize marijuana for years without much success. They seem to lose focus. Don't know why.
Realistically, all those hippies from the '60s probably won't live to see legislative reform.
When we weren't looking, an ethical and legal line was subjectively drawn somewhere between the double scotch on the rocks after work and a joint before dinner.
But for the millions who smoke pot, it's apparently not that hard to find. Everybody knows somebody who knows somebody who knows somebody.
Unless you have an active drug-testing policy at your work place, a lot of your co-workers could be casual users.
Not that there's anything wrong with that. Except the illegal part.
Pot smokers are nothing like the wild and crazy people the government depicted in the 1936 propaganda film "Reefer Madness." Mostly, they laugh and eat.
Police won't admit it, but if everybody smoked pot instead of drinking alcohol, society would be a much safer place to live. Less crime. More naps.
So as our population transitions from the post-World War II era to the post-Vietnam/Gulf War demographic, public figures are usually able to survive the occasional brush with marijuana use.
Is that good?
Is it bad?
It just is, man.