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The Strangely Silent Majority (4/4/06)
The Hippies used to say "What if they had a war and nobody came?" Poll after poll reveals that most Americans think marijuana possession should be punished with nothing more than a ticket and fine, like a traffic offense...yet where is the public outcry in support of decriminalization?
Perhaps one major reason for this silence is simply that the drug war has so impressively failed that there's just not a lot of motive for the occasional pot smoker to care if their drug of choice is legal or not. After all, the laws haven't actually stopped them from obtaining, using, or even growing pot. Prohibition is a little like an old dog on a chain that barks furiously every time you walk past; it may annoy you, but you can rather easily just laugh at it and walk around it. Drugs are illegal? So what? It doesn't impact my life. I'm not some frightened teenager that will panic when I get pulled over on a traffic stop and consent to a search. (If you aren't as confident, I highly recommend a visit to Flex Your Rights for practical advice on how to deal with police.)
If most people have little to personally gain from advocating drug law reform, they do have something to lose. Prohibitionist rhetoric has been maintained at such a fever pitch that a person who openly supports reform may find themselves accused of promoting drug abuse and addiction (or even terrorism.) Would you want to be known as 'the pro drug guy' at work? At school? In your church? Of course not, and most people won't listen long enough to understand that this is really about personal freedom and the limits of government power, not simply being for or against drug use. Much like the deeply closeted gays of fifty years ago, most of us would rather live our lives in peace than try to change the seemingly intractable prejudices of the general public. Changing the world...is scary.
Well, there's no need to grab your 'pot will bring about world peace' sign and rush out to bedazzle the world with fifteen shades of tie-dyed glory. Just say something. The next time a marijuana story comes on the radio or TV, try turning to the person next to you and saying 'it just doesn't seem like a good use of our tax dollars to arrest people who aren't hurting anybody.' Or whatever strikes your fancy. Just let them know that somebody else thinks the current laws could be improved. Think of the reform movement as a river, patiently carving out the Grand Canyon one grain of sand at a time. Instead of trying to completely change people's minds all at once, just try to plant a seed of doubt about Prohibition. Eventually, all those little nudges to society are going to add up.