The Slow Halting Decline In Prohibition

Today I’m in Denver (actually one of the half dozen interchangeable suburbs that surround Denver proper). I’ve been here before. On the scale of interesting, with one being Des Moines and ten being Shanghai, I rate Denver a solid -4.

Denver is uninspiring extruded plastic “generica” parked midway between Kansas’ righteous corn and nouveau riche vegans clinging to the prettiest parts of the Rockies. The core is a cluster of interchangeable offices, the donut is a sea of covenant controlled mortgages, and the middle is a marching army of chain stores. It’s as corporate as Wal-mart, as efficient as boredom, and as exciting as an audit.

Therefore, Denver is the perfect place for legalized pot. Legalized marijuana won’t bring chaos to Denver because Denver isn’t primed for it. If Denver got royally wasted and went off the rails it would wake up the next morning fully clothed and lying on the couch. It would be embarrassed and hungover. It would anxiously slink off to its carefully parked minivan and promise to never ever act so stupid again. Meanwhile Portland and San Fransisco would be having sex on the kitchen table in the front lawn.

Legalized pot in Colorado won’t get weird. Because Denver, even stoned en masse, can’t become Portland. America is, on average, Denver-ish too. In fact, Denver with legalized pot is exactly like Denver when pot was illegal. The main difference being that it’s a little more honest. Bullshit “dispensaries” treating “medical maladies” was a sham and everyone knew it. Shams are pathetic and should be avoided.

Which brings me to today’s Curmudgeonly political message:

Conservatives. I’m ashamed of you. Grow a pair and call it fucking over.

Of the two craptacular parties in America, it’s the theoretically conservative side that’s unhappy with legalized pot. To quote Chong, “Uncool man”.

In theory, conservatives pride themselves on making rational decisions. They endeavor to avoid erratic behavior. They don’t like extreme change. They try to avoid getting in trouble, causing trouble, making trouble, and being troublesome. I respect conservatives for trying to make wise choices.

When it came to drugs the party that claimed to be conservative stepped on its own balls. Repeatedly. It was a forgivable mistake when “Reefer Madness” was all the rage. It is unforgivable to stick with it to the bitter end.

“Don’t do drugs ’cause being stupid sucks” sounds pretty conservative. “We’re going to militarize the police, imprison thousands, and rework the policing of society” doesn’t sound conservative at all. It’s a sea change with tremendous consequences. Conservatives are supposed to avoid big and poorly thought out shifts. They’re supposed to avoid stepping into bear traps. Prohibition doesn’t work. Look it up. Religious fervor and the temperance movement created Al Capone. It is not conservative to think “this time we’ll do the same thing and get different results”. By the way, the first prohibition was rectified in 13 years but Americans of the 1930’s, apparently, were quicker to learn from bad outcomes.

Forget party affiliation and think about the dictionary definition of “conservative”. Regardless of politics and slogans, a conservative mind is supposed to use that big monkey brain to avoid getting in trouble in the first place. Conservative minds are supposed to feel smug when someone comments that “fools rush in where angels fear to tread”. A conservative thinker isn’t supposed to be “rushing in” ever. When something has manifestly turned into a mess, conservative thinking is supposed to avoid making a bad situation worse. Flailing around wishing things were different is supposedly anathema. When things have truly gone south it’s conservative to ponder a bit, figure out what went wrong, and then get busy trying to do things right. Living conservatively is supposed to be boring, predictable, and wise.

With drugs, the political movement theoretically associated with the word “conservative” went ape. They caused big changes. They authored reams of laws. Traditional and sound precedents were dropped. They were replaced by new stupid, spur of the moment, made up on the fly, precedents.

They dropped the ball. Screwed the pooch. Blew it big time. They set the bar high and inexplicably ran their face into it. I expect flaky morons to run the nation into a ditch but not the uptight party of geezers that should have known better.

Then they doubled down! When prohibition obviously wasn’t working (again!) they kept at it but did everything more and harder. Unwise. Poorly thought out. Badly executed. Flawed in concept, execution, and reasoning.

Power corrupts. It’s not a new idea. We’re supposed to know this. All that raw unfettered stupid power led (predictably!) to militarized cops. Also predictably, they got in the habit of killing innocents; Baptist Ministers, bedridden octogenarians, optometrists, teenage boys, 92 year old women, Methodist Ministers, and many others. (Here’s a map of four dozen dead innocents. How many does a conservative mind need to establish in their own understanding, a pattern?)

A system that encourages problems is, by definition, problematic. Conservatives theoretically pride themselves in avoiding such nonsense. Forget the parties and look at the dictionary. It is not conservative in thought to look at Andy Griffith and say “what that guy needs is a SWAT van and stun grenades”. It is liberal in thought to look at Mayberry and think “I wonder what would happen if the cops had a tank”.

I’m not saying drugs are good. People on drugs do damage. We’ve had three consecutive presidents with a history of drug use; boy have they fucked up! I’m saying prohibition has done more damage than any number of stoners could. It is not conservative thinking (in the sense of the dictionary definition) to take a problem and make it worse.

Now that Denver, a city as exciting as spackle, has paved the way perhaps things can get better. Maybe drug warriors can calm down. Possibly they can find honest work that doesn’t corrode society. We need florists, dentists, painters, and garbage men a whole lot more than we need militarized police enforcing a lucrative criminal market.  Ideally both parties can do the conservative thing; think carefully about decisions that were made, where the good impulse went wrong, why it’s still going on today, and then act accordingly. It is time for the bullshit to fade. Let it go.


P.S. Incidentally, I don’t do drugs. I can favor legalization without being a stoner just like I can dislike our president without being racist.

About Adaptive Curmudgeon

I will neither confirm nor deny that I actually exist.
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6 Responses to The Slow Halting Decline In Prohibition

  1. bluesun says:

    As a Coloradan as far away from Denver as you can get and still be in Colorado, I think you are being too kind. I maintain that it should be the capital of West Kansas, and leave those of us on the other side of the mountains alone.

  2. sailorcurt says:

    You seem to be making a mistake that many make. You appear to believe that all the bad consequences you list as a result of the “war on some drugs” were actually unintentional consequences and that our government overlords (from either political wing) would be delighted to discover they all went away once they changed their policies on drugs.

    Conservatives and Liberals (read Democrats and Republicans) are two sides of the same coin. They both want the same things, just oriented in different directions. Conservatives want to control what recreational substances you put in your body, what kinds of “training materials” you are allowed to peruse on the ‘net, how many boobies you see and curse words you hear on the radio or TV, what kinds of training and certifications you need to be able to claim you are a professional at something, etc. Liberals want to control your intake of “unhealthy” foods, what tools you choose for self defense (or even whether you’re permitted to exercise it), what you can say (or even think) about certain “protected” classes of people, where (or if) you can practice the tenets of your religion (at least if “your religion” happens to be Christianity), what kind of car you can drive, light bulbs you can use, how much water your toilet can flush, etc.

    The common denominator here is that both sides want to control us. Does it really matter the mechanism in which that control manifests?

    All those things you lament about the war on some drugs and hope would be relieved if the rest of the country follows Colorado’s lead…they’re a feature, not a bug. And once you give up control of something like that…once you’ve militarized the police to the level that we have…there’s no going back. Andy Griffith is dead. Officer ‘roid rage is here to stay.

    If drugs were legalized across the board tomorrow, they’d just find some other aspect of our (3 felonies a day) lives to focus the no knock raids, stormtroopers and tanks on.

    “As a result of our investigation, we have determined that the officers involved performed in accordance with Police Policy. The deaths of the suspect’s pets, the damage to the home and damage to homes in the surrounding neighborhood was unfortunate, but the testimony of the officers that the three month old labradoodle puppies lunged viciously at them justified the discharge of the150 rounds of ammunition in order to ensure officer safety, which, as you know, is our primary goal. Safety of citizens is of secondary concern.

    That fact that our confidential informant was accurate and that we did find in the home, as described in the warrant, that the suspect’s pool fence was 2 inches too low and the gate was not equipped with a mechanism to close it automatically, the no knock warrant was fully justified. As to questions about the treatment of the suspects: forcing the suspects, including their 9 month old child, onto the floor at gunpoint and flex-cuffing them is standard procedure and is a reasonable action to ensure officer safety. A Dynamic entry, while ensuring that the suspects are unable to destroy evidence, is in itself an inherently dangerous operation and the fact that such an entry was used in this case in itself justifies the actions of the officers involved regardless of the lack of evidence that the suspects had any prior history of violence.”

    BTW: Sorry for that…too much time on my hands I guess.

  3. cspschofield says:

    Please note that THE NATIONAL REVIEW, the premier Conservative magazine of the country since, essentially, forever, has been pro-legalization since the 1990’s. Not saying that all your observations about self-described “Conservatives” are wrong. There are real Conservatives out there, but they do tend to associate Pot with the hippy-dippies and that could their thinking. The “Business As Usual” politicians in both Parties are in favor of the War On Drugs because they both think of the rest of us a peasants. The real Conservatives would like to see a return to the Rule of Law, but that too often gets mixed up with “Lawr ‘n Owda”, which is entirely different.

  4. Southern Man says:

    It’s ludicrous that it’s illegal to grow a plant in your back yard. It’s equally nuts to think that two consenting adults, in private, can commit a crime. I’m for legalization of (or, more properly, opposed to the criminilization of) pretty much anything that consenting adults do in private. And that’s from a conservative (of the small-l libertarian variety) born-again Christian.

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