I can hear it now.
What are you guys smoking over there?

Spring explodes, and the Weekly starts digging around for their stash?

Well, not exactly.

Fact is, there are surprisingly few tokers here (no survey taken; just an
educated guess), and you'll just have to trust me that nobody walks around
sporting a JUST DOOB IT! T-shirt.

And while there's likely much support for at least decriminalizing
marijuana--both in this office and in the city at large--no one's making
much of an argument to put it on a ballot in Pennsylvania. In fact, best we
know, nobody even fired any marijuana law questions at the gubernatorial
candidates during the recently completed contest.

There are reasons why the political and legal system fails to confront the
inequities governing marijuana use. The biggest, perhaps understandably, is
that our politicians fear that in even discussing the issue they'll be
perceived as being in favor of drug use.

This is, like, such a big drag, man.

While there are important issues surrounding marijuana use and the
potential repercussions for getting caught using it, the very topic of weed
is--let's face it--rife with comedic potential. It's not for nothing that
Cheech and Chong made a fortune.

There was this guy. He was the publisher of a small fledgling publication.
This was a while ago.

The publisher was young and ambitious. From the time he was a kid he always
worked. Twelve-hour days, often seven days a week. He wasn't real good at
having fun.

One day while delivering the journal he published, one of the circulation
guys in the truck offered him a toke from his joint. The publisher, trying
to be one of the boys, threw fate to the wind.

He had never felt anything quite like this. It made him happy.

He soon bought some marijuana for himself. And he began to smoke it. At
first the young publisher smoked it at home late at night, but then he
began smoking a little during the day too. He didn't think anyone would
notice.

For some reason, though, smoking dope had a strange physiological effect on
this young publisher. Every time he smoked it his mouth would get dry,
profoundly dry, and his upper lip would curl upwards. His lip would climb
higher and higher as he spoke until eventually it would get stuck to the
bottom of his nostril. Stranger yet, perhaps because he was so stoned, he
never seemed to notice it was happening.

It wasn't long before the entire staff noticed the publisher had this weird
thing going on with his upper lip. For a while, thinking maybe it was the
onslaught of some kind of unfamiliar muscle disease, everyone was quite
polite about it. But the staff was young, and it was hard to get much past
them.

Soon there were other telltale signs that the boss had taken to toking up
during the workday. He had become a little too happy, he laughed a lot,
found most everything silly. Word was out: The publisher was a stoner.

0ne day the publisher decided he needed to have a staff meeting. Sales were
off and morale had begun to flag. The publisher gathered all his
employees--some 25 or 30 of them--into his spacious office, where he
planned to give a spirited pep talk. He was a fine public speaker, and had
often gone on the stump to promote his publication to advertisers and
community groups. He was known for delivering inspirational orations.

But unfortunately, instead of simply relying on his natural-born skills,
the young publisher took a toke or three for good measure just minutes
before everyone filed into his office. He began his talk smartly enough,
complimenting the staff for their brilliant minds and solid work ethic. But
just as he started pointing to the charts that he had made especially to
show his goals for the upcoming quarter, his upper lip began to
soar--slowly at first, but then, inextricably, higher and higher. And then
it got stuck.

When it stuck, his words became incomprehensible--and then, after a little
while, he began to sound a bit like Elmer Fudd. He noticed, finally, that
things weren't right, and tried to push his lip down with his finger. But a
moment or two later, it would begin to soar again, and in no time he'd be
back to making Fudd-like sounds.

Soon the whole scene became too much for the staff to bear. The art
director, guffawing uncontrollably into his hands, was the first to stumble
out of the meeting. She was followed quickly by the staff photographer.
Then the ad director.

In short order, there was a mass exodus.

None of what is written about pot in this issue should be misconstrued as
promoting its use. Smoking pot can cause problems. For some, it can prove
addictive and permanently blunt reality. It's expensive, it's not good for
your lungs, and it can get you in trouble. And in some very rare cases, it
can cause your upper lip to stick to the bottom of your nostril.

Still, when used in moderation, marijuana is almost always a threat to no
one. It tends to have a mellowing effect.

The easiest--and most repeated argument for legalizing marijuana--is to
compare its effects to those of alcohol consumption.

What might be worst about marijuana are the laws that regulate it and the
way those laws are enforced--which is to say, for the most part, arbitrarily.

You'll read in this issue how some Philadelphia police officers believe
that busting a pedestrian user on the street is a waste of time. Which is a
kind of decriminalization in practice, if it weren't for the fact that
enforcement is often a judgement call.

Would the police feel differently if, for example, the user in question
looked suspicious, or was of a specific race or ethnicity?

And anyone who has seen someone get relief from chemo treatments by smoking
a little pot will wonder why its use for medicinal purposes is still an
issue with anybody.

And finally, there are those--including a PW staffer who makes his case in
our pages this week--who believe in strict enforcement of our marijuana laws.

There are issues here, and it's high time we dealt with them.


----

Blowin' Smoke
Philadelphia Weekly
May 29, 2002
http://www.philadelphiaweekly.com/archives/columns.asp?IssID=81
http://www.philadelphiaweekly.com/archives/article.asp?ArtID=2375

TIM WHITAKER (twhitaker@philadelphiaweekly.com)