Social Change Shows Right-Wing Nightmares Not So Bad When They Come True
Ruling that medical marijuana patients in Michigan should be safe from prosecution under the state's Medical Marijuana Act (MMA), the Michigan Supreme Court on Thursday took a real step toward advancing the discussion about drug policy.
But while the ruling moves the needle ever so slightly in the drug debate, it certainly won't stop zero tolerance zealots like state attorney general Bill Schuette from continuing to disrespect the law by constantly harassing dispensaries and caregivers.
King's attorney John Minock said the decision was a clear-cut victory for King and other medical marijuana patients, and a rebuke to overly zealous police and prosecutors who have attempted to enforce the marijuana law in the most restrictive way possible.
But Joy Yearout, spokeswoman for state Attorney General Bill Schuette, disagreed.
Thursday's ruling "does not legalize marijuana broadly," she said. Registered patients remain subject to limits on the amount of marijuana they can grow or possess. And all medical marijuana users are required to obtain a doctor's certification before using marijuana, she said.
Schuette's crowd contends that the medical marijuana law is largely a dodge, a convenient way for those who simply want to get high to get around restrictive anti-drug laws and get their buzz on. He argues that the law really only amounts to the state giving "a wink and a nod" to casual marijuana smokers.
And you know what? I think he's right—but I also believe that progressive-thinking people shouldn't give a shit whether he is or isn't.
The science proved long ago that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol and nicotine, both of which are legal even in Schuette's world. That's why—while I can appreciate the aims of MMA supporters and do believe that weed has medicinal benefits—I believe it's time to stop pretending as if there's something wrong with just wanting to catch a buzz.
Progress in this country tends to come in increments, I know. But still, we waste too much time trying to back away from the logical, albeit, perhaps unintended, conclusions of progressive ideas and policies out of fear that they smack too much of right-wing fever dreams. But really, so what if some of those crazy dreams do come true? Is it really so bad?
Those who used to vehemently oppose integration, for example, usually did so by fomenting fear that allowing blacks and whites to use the same public bathrooms, attend schools together and sit in the same sections of restaurants and movie theaters would eventually lead to more racial intermarriage, more blacks in the workplace and--gasp--perhaps even more white professionals losing out on promotions and jobs to black co-workers. It was only a matter of time, they warned.
And yep, they were, to a certain degree, right. The black middle class grew, as did instances of interracial sex and love. Black professionals became commonplace to the point where most Americans can even embrace a black president. And the country was forced to ramp up its ongoing journey to the acceptance of people of color are just that…people. So what of it?
Men who once stood against equality for women contended that allowing them equal pay for equal work would throw men into workplace competition with women, disrupting the status quo around gender roles and forcing significant shifts in our understanding of the "nuclear family." Again, they were right. And yet somehow, we've managed to not only survive, but be a better nation for it.
Anti-gay bigots even today whine that to permit marriage equality would mean opening ourselves up to public displays of homosexual affection, the rise of two-mom families and a wider public acceptance of gay lifestyles. Again, their fears have been realized. Somehow, though, heterosexuals like me still manage to hold on to our wives and our lives. Imagine that.
Along those same lines, the Bill Schuettes of the world want us to blindly fear the logical endgame of a drug policy rooted in decriminalization rather than prohibition. Never mind that interdiction, arrests and prosecutions haven't worked.
Never mind that criminalizing non-violent drug users has only overburdened our courts and prisons and decimated millions of families and countless communities. His crowd wants to keep you fearful of common-sense approaches to drug policy—and supportive of their arrant disregard for democracy—by sounding hysterical alarums about weed-legalization proponents' hidden agenda.
But not everyone's buying it. Groups like the Coalition for A Safer Detroit continue to press for decriminalization, not just for medical users but for any adult who wants to smoke weed. The group has been instrumental in getting laws on the books in Ann Arbor and other places and is fighting diligently against Detroit officials who don't even want to give local voters the chance to decide the issue for themselves. (And that's probably because these same officials know that the ballot measure would likely pass by a huge margin in a broke city that wastes too many precious law-enforcement resources chasing down pot smokers.)
So let Schuette whip up all the suspicion about MMA and marijuana proponents that he wants. And instead of backing away from his contention that the law is, for many, just a convenient way to legally smoke weed, meet him with a wink, a nod and an unflinching willingness to tell him that he's right.
After all, the history of American social change has proven over and over that hysterical right-wing nightmares really aren't that frightening after all, once the rest of us wake up.