TN: Why Would The State Keep Us From Decriminalizing Marijuana?


I have been trying to think of a single instance in which making a substance illegal has kept it out of the hands of people who wanted to use it. Alcohol was an enormous, terrible social issue. We didn’t have Prohibition because we were a bunch of fun-killing prudes. We had Prohibition because alcohol was wrecking our society. But making alcohol illegal didn’t end drinking. It just turned a lot of otherwise law-abiding people into criminals and did a lot to reinforce the two-tier justice system we have where some people do something and oh, that’s just them being them and other people do it and it’s all “Rot in prison, you degenerate!” Rich people didn’t really suffer under Prohibition or go without alcohol, poor people did. And it fueled the rise of organized crime.

The same is true of most other drugs. All criminalizing them does is increase the wealth organized criminals make off it and encourages law-abiding citizens to act in a criminal manner. You can even see this with our opioid problem. It’s turned doctors into drug dealers and patients into addicts and no matter how strict the laws we pass, the problem isn’t solved. Marijuana being illegal is even more galling specifically because its prohibition has always been linked so closely to the oppression of people of color. As Nick Wing over at Huffington Post explains, Harry Anslinger, the first commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, sold America on the criminalization of pot by explaining, “There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the U.S., and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz and swing result from marijuana use. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers and any others.”

Oh, well, I’m glad we’re still committed to keeping illegal a drug that was only made illegal so that square white guys didn’t have to worry about their wives wanting to fuck Muddy Waters – oh, right. It didn’t actually prevent that. I mean the fact that the criminalization of this drug was done specifically to keep entertainers from getting laid should appall the people of Tennessee, home to so many entertainers. And, hell, if the rest of the state isn’t worried about keeping musicians happy and mellow, they should at least respect the strong musical legacies of Memphis and Nashville and butt out when we decide we want to decriminalize pot.

But no!

As Joey Garrison over at the Tennessean reports, State Rep. William Lamberth is considering filing a bill that would withhold highway funding from cities that decriminalize pot. This is my favorite part of the story:

“Lamberth, an attorney who faces re-election in November, is no stranger to funding threats. He was the House sponsor of legislation this year that changed the state’s DUI law, a move that federal transportation officials said put Tennessee in jeopardy of losing $60 million in federal highway funding. It prompted Gov. Bill Haslam to call a special legislative session last week to undo the measure.

Lamberth, who hinted at his possible bill on the House floor during last week’s session and says he’s discussed the measure with colleagues, said the experience with the federal government gave him the idea for the measure.”

Let’s take a minute to imagine a similar situation at our jobs. Say you screwed something up so terribly that you almost cost your employer $60 million and you definitely cost your employer hundreds of thousands of dollars to fix it. How soon after that debacle are you going to feel comfortable spouting up any more bright ideas?

But Lamberth here has no shame! It’s almost delightful in its terribleness. He learned nothing about the importance of crafting good legislation. All he learned is that he can throw his state-level weight around toward the cities in a way that the state hates when the feds do it to them. No important lessons have been learned here, folks, just the importance of being the biggest bully in any situation.

But that’s not even the best part. If you want further evidence that the prohibition of marijuana is still about trying to punish certain groups for being cooler than the people in power, look at why Lamberth thinks Nashville and Memphis would want to decriminalize marijuana: “I mean literally this smells and looks like a political stunt to curry favor with certain constituencies in my opinion.”

Certain constituencies? Oh, boy, I wonder who Lamberth could have possibly meant? Might it be the same people Anslinger found using pot?

News Moderator: Katelyn Baker
Full Article: Why Would The State Keep Us From Decriminalizing Marijuana?
Author: Betsy Phillips
Contact: 615-301-9246
Photo Credit: Jennifer Martin
Website: Nashville Scene