In order to save itself from financial oblivion, the state of California seems inclined to just do it
. Just say yes. To become Amsterdam.
It may be the biggest thing to come out of the financial meltdown. We won’t get meaningful reform of the banking system, but we’re going to get legalized pot.
This is partly because the Justice Department has just issued new guidelines
to prosecutors telling them not to override state laws about medicinal marijuana use. And because California’s governor (a pot smoker from way back) is gently encouraging the legalization movement to help him out of his terrible financial mess. And because everybody in California already smokes pot anyway.
All right, it is not yet a done deal. The federal government is still harrumphing about how it will draw the line at recreational use. But legalization is clearly headed to a ballot initiative. And California ballot initiatives are, often, in themselves culturally transformative. So California goes for pot by a wide margin, leaving Washington in a fix. A Democratic president is hardly going to resist the party’s most crucial state.
So forget health care. Obama is going to be the pot president. Hell, Franklin Roosevelt, in his Depression, saw the end of prohibition.
The implications, after so long, after so many years of the war on drugs, are hard to fathom. Quite possibly nothing at all happens. The potheads are still the potheads. Everybody else is still getting up and going to work. Or there is a new cultural divide: the liberals with their pot, and the conservatives with their sobriety. As likely, the cultural divide breaks down because everybody is high.
At any rate, it won’t help the general concept of authority. On the other hand, pot undermined authority a long time ago. So it may be good to have an official, even historic, event wherein the established social structure formally shrugs its shoulders and acknowledges defeat.
That’s not all that different from where we are on so many fronts: our wars, our economy, the health care system. It’s hard to argue that as a society we get it right all that often.
So pot. That symbol. That bugaboo. That persistent reminder that control is elusive, that human weakness wins out. Why not?
For people my age the legalization of pot is the fitting and maybe necessary coda.
But don’t tell my son.
More of Newser founder Michael Wolff's articles and commentary can be found at VanityFair.com, where he writes a regular column. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow him on Twitter: www.twitter.com/NewserColumns.
Wow. Pot. Just like that, on its way to being legalized. Well, just like that after 50 years or so.