Washington And Weed

Even though recent polls show a majority or near-majority for decriminalizing one of America’s biggest cash crops, the possibility of actual federal legislative action seems as remote as it was ten 2012_Feb_smyears ago. Will Oremus has an interesting piece on why this should be so – generational, cultural, and political. It’s mainly cowardice, of course. The cowardice comes from not wanting to disturb the sacred status of American hypocrisy. The truth is: most Americans have no real problem with pot-smoking; they just don’t want public approval of it. The way to achieve this, of course, is to legalize it and try to stigmatize it. But that wouldn’t be hypocritical enough. To get to true American levels of hypocrisy – you know: how Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich are fighters for family values, but Barack Obama isn’t – you have to keep it illegal, and use the laws to arrest, harrass and penalize black and brown youngsters – while mainly allowing the American middle and upper classes to cannabinate in peace.

And prohibition is real and under the micro-managing mayor of New York City, has soared in recent years, even as public attitudes have softened remarkably. Under the Bloomberg police state, the following has happened:

The year-end [2011] arrest total was 50,684, up 0.6 percent from 2010, the study found, constituting more arrests than in the entire 19-year period 1978 to 1996 combined. Marijuana possession was once again the largest arrest category in the city last year, and the arrests cost the city about $75 million, said Harry G. Levine, the sociologist who did the analysis.

Read that again: last year, more people were arrested for pot possession in NYC than in the roughly two decades before 1996. As public acceptance grows, government prohibition intensifies. This is the direct opposite of what a police force that actually represents the people should be doing.

Nowhere is this truer than in Washington DC, where the medical marijuana law has been hobbled and crippled by terrified DC pols and cops, who fear some far-right Republican will try and clobber any progress because of DC’s neo-colonial status in the US. That’s presumably why the DC cops have brutally raided legal small businesses who dare to sell hemp products and water-pipes for  medical marijuana users – or just tobacco smokers in a neighborhood full of hookah bars. All of this is underlined by the facts of widespread pot use in DC, especially among the upper middle classes, as described in a must-read piece in the latest Washingtonian magazine.

Washington lives and breathes hypocrisy. But it inhales this kind of hypocrisy very deeply.