I thought this discussion was pretty interesting. The place of marijuana in the United States is a strange one. You hear so much about the arrest-rate, California’s legalisation of medicinal marijuana (and an unsurprising rise in conditions that “require” pot to alleviate pain, etc.), and the draconian laws that have been implemented to crack down on the proliferation of pot in America.
And yet. I’ve spent a lot of time in the US over the past nine months (don’t worry – I never broke visa, and always obeyed the law, because I would very much like to return many times over the course of my life). During my time there, one thing that really stood out for me was the blasé attitude towards smoking pot. It was so open – oftentimes, if we left open out window, the apartment would be filled with the smell of (I can only assume high-grade) pot. On the streets, all over Manhattan (though less so in the business districts, of course), one could frequently catch a whiff of pot-smoke.
The United States does seem to have a plethora of laws that control (or at least try to control) the availability and legality of marijuana, and yet enforcement is either ineffective, or police and people have come to an agreement that pot is not, actually, as serious a problem as many other crimes. Then again, just look at the statistics of people in jail on drug charges based on marijuana possession or use. I’m not sure if the “fact” is true, but after the Three Strikes law was brought in, there are supposedly people in jail (invariably African-American) on marijuana sentences who will remain in prison for longer than rapists and violent offenders.
My own opinions on the drug are probably predictably liberal – I have smoked pot (in the UK, and also during a post-A-levels trip some friends and I took to Amsterdam. For “the museums”, of course…).* I find it hard to believe that marijuana should be legislated to a harsher level when alcohol remains legal. The panel in the video above mention the alcohol culture in the US (something the UK knows plenty about), but they don’t really go into too much detail. Alcohol can, and does, have the affect of making some people extremely violent. This doesn’t happen to someone on pot. In terms of public safety, surely if pot is illegal, so too should alcohol be made illegal?
Anyway, I just wanted to jot down some thoughts on the clip from UP with Chris Hayes. It’s an interesting discussion, and one I can’t imagine will reach a solution anytime soon.
* That being said, we did actually go to all the museums bar two (we ran out of time to go to the Pot Museum and Anne Frank museum – the Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh museum were incredible). None of our parents believe we went to them.