A View From the Cheap Seats

April 29, 2008

Reefer Madness

Filed under: National,Sports — trzupek @ 9:34 am
Tags: , , ,


NOTE TO READERS: The column below was rejected for publication in the mighty Examiner this week. (Veteran readers may notice that a golden oldie will be reprinted in its place). I’ve no complaints about the reject. My Editor and Publisher give me a lot of latitude and this represents only the second reject in eight years of writing for The Examiner. That’s pretty good (especially considering the amount of 6th grade humor that regularly peppers my column). Rejection is part of the job, but I thought some of you who regularly visit the Cheap Seats on line might enjoy anyway.



By Rich Trzupek

In a widely-publicized radio interview, Dallas Maverick’s forward Josh Howard admitted that he occasionally smokes marijuana during the off season. As a result of his revelation, Howard was the target of indignation generated by a number of media types and will likely receive disciplinary action from his team and, possibly, from the league.

Reading those stories, the immediate thought that comes to mind is: “are you kidding me?” The disciplinary action is understandable, for rules are rules, no matter how ill-founded. But, the indignation is ridiculous and, in many cases, hypocritical.

Quick show of hands: everyone between the ages of twenty and fifty who doesn’t know someone who smokes a bit of recreational weed from time to time. Anybody?

Didn’t think so.

A couple of disclaimers are necessary as we begin. Your humble correspondent has not used marijuana (or any illegal drug) himself for over 20 years, nor does he advocate drug use. That said, can we get real?

Like most people of my generation, I partook as a teen and as a twenty-something, until I realized that it was a waste of time – not worth the cost, nor the side-effects, nor the liability. And, like most people of my generation, I still have friends and at least one family member, who continue to light up from time to time.

I don’t have a problem with that. None at all. I know the arguments against: It’s a gateway drug. It’s part of a drug trade that supports gangs and organized crime. It damages your health. People in high risk professions should not put others at risk.

While one must recognize the truth of all of those arguments, we should also acknowledge that there is a portion of the population, and I suspect it’s a sizable chunk, for whom marijuana represents a pleasant, occasional and (to everyone but themselves) a harmless diversion.

We’re not talking about airline pilots toking up before taking off with a load of passengers in a 747. We’re rather talking about responsible, intelligent people who wouldn’t get behind the wheel high, much less show up for worked baked out of their minds. These people do exist.

As an athlete with a salary in the millions, Howard hardly qualifies as an everyday American, but in terms of this particular issue, I suspect he’s not all that unusual a fellow.

Howard said that he didn’t smoke during the season, when he’s doing his job, and his impressive personal stat sheet would seem to back up his claim. He also said that many of his fellow NBA players do the same thing, and that shouldn’t come as a big surprise either. Multi-million dollar athletes in their twenties with time on their hands smoke weed? Who woulda thunk?

Puritan nation that we have become, we have lost the ability to calmly assess risk, much less do so in the context of prioritizing problems and the public resources that are available to fight them. As a result, we spend – how much; billions? tens of billions? – to fight a problem that should hardly be worthy of notice.

Think how much more we could accomplish if marijuana were legal, and the marijuana trade were regulated and taxed.

It’s hard to believe that such a course would cost us more lives than the current situation does, where marijuana exists only in the shadows. Take the trade out of the hands of gangs and mobsters and you eliminate a big source of their income and a big reason for turf wars. The money we would raise from taxes could be used to fight more dangerous and addictive drugs, like cocaine and heroin.

We should not glamorize marijuana use, or minimize the health and addictive risks associated with it, no more than we should do these things when we talk about alcohol. But, like alcohol in the prohibition era, marijuana is a reality, whether it’s legal or not.

As the prohibition era came to an end, Americans – even many who championed the temperance movement – were forced to look at the “alcohol problem” in a new light. As desirable as it might have been to turn everyone into living saints, it was an impossible task as well. Society got worse, not better, for the effort.

We’re in much the same place with marijuana today. The game is no longer worth the candle, if it ever was in the first place. We’ve got a lot of other, much more important problems to address.

Worrying about a kid taking a few hits off a joint in the off-season shouldn’t be one of them.


1 Comment »

  1. So no offense to the humble writer of this column but this line of thinking is not exactly ground breaking. So I have to ask what was objectionable in your latest piece? I should add the argument that marijuana is a gateway drug is on pretty shaky ground. Can one of your infinitely smarter readers please share the data supporting this “truth”?

    Comment by Lucky — May 5, 2008 @ 4:45 pm | Reply

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