Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Gone to Pot Christopher Sandford

It is seven o’clock on a peaceful late-summer evening here in suburban Seattle, and I’m sitting in my back garden smoking marijuana.
Passively smoking, I should add, lest I shock any reader by this sorry lapse, but smoking nonetheless.  This time of year, my property is especially fragrant with the acrid smell of pot, and a thick haze of the stuff lingers long in the air these balmy Northwest nights.  It has become one of the distinctive characteristics of our street, and indeed of much of Seattle, that environmentally obsessed city where all is decorous, the sidewalks are immaculately swept, the parks rigorously trimmed, proverbial for its snow-capped mountains and sparkling lakes, and now, too, for its odoriferous and pungent residential neighborhoods, where musky clouds roll through the homes of rich and poor alike, and an ordinary householder can become quietly stoned, regardless of his or her economic status or social prominence.  That’s the great thing about this new epidemic we’ve unleashed on ourselves here.  Just as its host society was originally meant to be, it’s completely egalitarian.  All drugs are morally neutral.  They will destroy your life, and the lives of your neighbors, quite irrespective of your race, creed, or religion.
How did we get here?  By popular demand.  In November 2012, the voters of Washington passed into law Initiative 502 by the impressive margin of 56 to 44 percent.  As defined by the Secretary of State’s office, the measure
shall license and regulate marijuana production, distribution, and possession for persons over 21; remove state-law criminal and civil penalties for activities that it authorizes; tax marijuana sales; and earmark marijuana-related revenues.
The perceptive reader will immediately note the way in which our rapacious government hastens to insert itself in the commercial transactions of its citizens.  And “hastens” is the mot juste: Initiative 502 was certified on December 6, 2012, and the first retail licenses to sell pot were distributed less than a year later.  There was no consultation process for the millions of those whose lives it blighted.  It is all part of a new approach to local government here in the Evergreen State, in which action is taken according to the acclamation of the masses, irrespective of any laws or conventions established for decades, or even centuries, beforehand.  Normally shy to take the initiative, our legislature reacts with great speed to loud noises from the progressive-minded among the public.  Of course, combined with this commendable responsiveness to the will of the people, there’s the fact that the state realized some $67.5 million in sales and excise tax during the first 12 months of legally sanctioned pot, with that figure expected to reach $369 million by fiscal year 2019.
The state budget is not the only thing affected by the Pacific Northwest’s latest outbreak of officially tolerated public lunacy.  It’s been a bonus for the funeral industry, too.  According to data released in October 2015 by the Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC), marijuana has been increasing as a factor in deadly auto crashes.  The number of drivers involved in fatal accidents who tested positive for weed increased 48 percent from 2013 to 2014.
“We have seen marijuana involvement in serious crashes remain steady over the years, and then it just spiked in 2014,” says Dr. Stali Hoff, the WTSC data and research director.  However, as the Seattle Times helpfully reminds us,
Just testing positive [for marijuana] doesn’t necessarily indicate if a driver was actually affected by the drug at the time of the crash, since marijuana can be detected in a person’s blood for days (possibly weeks) after consumption.
With that editorial evenhandedness that characterizes the main daily newspaper of one of the more weed-friendly places in the nation, the Times adds: “There was no way to know [in November 2012] how, if at all, Initiative 502 would affect road safety, or that within only three years it would controversially be seen as a public-safety issue.”
With due respect to the Times, the idea that more of Vietnam’s and Watergate’s children might enjoy a legal recreational toot or two when the opportunity arises before jumping in their cars and mingling with their fellow citizens doesn’t particularly strike me as news, controversial or otherwise.  It would strike me as news if they failed to do so.
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