Getting Ahead of The Curve

Imagine my surprise when I read my Wednesday paper and saw James Gill’s column in the Times-Picayune opining that marijuana should be made legal in Louisiana. (Please read the comments after Mr. Gill’s column. They are quite revealing).

Wow! I’ve been preaching that creed for years; but of course, writing for the OffBeat reader is like preaching to the choir. Mr. Gill hits the mainstream. I’ve been wondering why there’s such a political stigma attached to be pro-pot legalization advocate. Listen, I would bet you a whole lot of money that most politicians in every burg, city, parish, county, state and federal office has smoked pot, especially since a whole slew of them are baby boomers (my generation) and younger. Talk about hypocrites!

As I sit writing this, late on a Wednesday evening, I hear a bunch of screaming profane insults from a couple of groups of drunk jerks on Frenchmen Street, passing under my window. Ordinarily during the day I might try to look out my window (blinds are closed tonight!) to see what the hell was going on, but when I hear that amount of testosteronic fury being hurled about, it’s pretty scary. You never know, one of the idiots could be packing a gun and then there could be real trouble; so I’m laying low (talking about the rampant gun culture in this country is another column entirely).

Too much alcohol can make you mean and belligerent. Pot doesn’t do that (trust me). Think about what could happen in New Orleans (and Louisiana) if marijuana were decriminalized. We’d spend a lot less money in our justice system trying and convicting users. It’s a pitiful situation when we send a young man or woman to prison for simply possessing a joint or two. In a presentation made a few years by our District Attorney, Leon Cannizzaro, he lamented the fact that so many young people are put into jail as innocent kids for weed possession, and come out as hardened criminals.

I’d bet there would be less violence. As Mr. Gill points out, there are outside-the-law distributors and sellers of pot who are making more money than we can even imagine and who protect their turf and customers with violence.

If alcohol and tobacco are legal, why not marijuana? Yeah, yeahナI’ve heard the usual stuff. Marijuana is a “gateway” drug. Well, so is alcohol! Why not decriminalize and tax pot the same way we do alcohol and tobacco? I’ve certainly suggested this before, but New Orleans needs to find a way to decriminalize marijuana to the point where it’s not a factor in an arrest, unless the perp is DUI (or being disruptive, although I seriously doubt a weed smoker is going to ever get belligerent and mean like an alcohol drinker).

I challenge any New Orleans citizen to tell me how many times they’ve seen (or smelled) pot at a festival, on the street, in a club, with the consumption being done near enough to a cop that they could have easily been busted-and they weren’t. The police looked the other way. This city is lax when it comes to arresting people on marijuana charges. You have to either be unlucky or really young and dumb to have it happen. But it does happen, and it happens way more often than it should. If Washington State and Colorado can do it, why can’t we? There are many states who are least beginning the process by introducing bills into their legislatures. I’m telling you, if New Orleans wants to never have to worry about attracting tourists again, legalizing or at least decriminalizing pot is the way to go. I’m being optimistic, but I’m hoping that something will happen on this issue on the Federal level in my lifetime.

I say we need to be ahead of that curveナwe should at least be trying to beat Las Vegas (and Pennsylvania, among others),  to the punch! Wise up, Louisiana.