Pot politics

September 18, 2008

Reason magazine faults Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and, especially, Sarah Palin, for continuing to favor criminal penalties for something they get to treat as a youthful indiscretion:

When it comes to questions about youthful marijuana use, Sarah Palin is no Slick Willie. “I can’t claim a Bill Clinton and say that I never inhaled,” the Republican vice presidential candidate told the Anchorage Daily News in 2006, before she was elected governor of Alaska.

Although Palin’s handling of the issue scores higher on the candor meter than Clinton’s, she has the same difficulty reconciling her personal experience with her policy positions, a problem also shared by former pot smoker Barack Obama. None of them has a persuasive answer to the question of why other Americans should be arrested for something they did with impunity.

I think I will disagree here. Reason is conflating two issues. One is whether pot should be legal, and there are good arguments for and against that position. I think the penalties have been too harsh and that many jurisdictions are starting to do much better. Sooner or later, I hope we get to the point where government admits that marijuana and alcohol serve about the same function and should be treated the same way by the law. If that does happen, I’m sure we’ll also disagree about what that treatment should be.

What the people who can now shape the law did in their misspent youth is a separate issue entirely. You can be harsh and say they’re hypocritical, or you can be kind and say they have learned from their mistakes, but in either case it’s irrelevant to the issue of what the law should be now. I’ve written before that children and parents have different roles — it’s the role of children to test limits and the role of parents to set them; so, parents should not feel guilty about forbidding their own children to do something they themselves did as children. I certainly don’t think it’s smart to base the law on what people did as children. My goodness, if this country today were based on the things I did as a youngster, it would be in a hell of a mess.

Oh, wait . . .

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