I guess we have our strategy to attract young readers to Philly.com -- the launch of a pro-marijuana column! I'm pinching myself here, but apparently Philly420 -- featuring "cannabis news" -- is going to be a regular feature of this news organization! (Smoking pot is still illegal in Pennsylvania, right? Just checking.) If nothing else, maybe Chris Goldstein can divert some of my more negative commenters for a few minutes here and there.
Here's the thing: I thought the column was not only provocative but very good, calling out some of the hypocrisy in the failed "war on drugs." In particular:
The statistics are amazingly accessible. Of the 4,226 adults arrested for marijuana in Philly almost half were between the ages of 18 and 21. Of those, a striking 3,495 --82 percent -- were black, according to the Pennsylvania Uniform Crime Report.
Available data shows that white and black people consume cannabis at nearly equal rates. So the age and racial disparity highlights what's wrong with marijuana policy in Philadelphia.
Goldstein noted that in the early 1970s, a former Pa. governor -- Raymond Shafer -- led a presidential panel that urged the decriminalization of pot, but President Richard Nixon would have none of it:
Shafer and the members of the commission accurately predicted that placing cannabis in the CSA would create a massive imbalance in the equation of federalism and put the government directly in the way of personal freedom for Americans. Nixon ignored the commission's warning out of cultural fear and simple racism; he wanted a reason to arrest hippies and black people. Forty years later this policy has a complex, global impact. But in 2011 the Philadelphia Police Department pretty much fulfilled Nixon's ideals of marijuana prohibition enforcement.
Look, marijuana should be legal -- just like alcohol. That means it should be taxed -- just like alcohol. And people who drive stoned should be thrown in the slammer -- just like people who drive drunk. And kids need to know that long-term overindulgence of pot can ruin your health -- just like alcohol.
But you don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind's blowin'.