Russ Smith's long-running Mugger column in the old New York Press was one of the great joys of the past 20 or so years of American alternative journalism (or journalism, period).
He's now heading up the always interesting website Splice Today, which covers politics, media, pop culture, sports, sex, campus life, you name it with verve and panache. Or possibly vanache and perve. Either way, it's worth bookmarking.
The right-wing, conservative, and libertarianoid Smith has a great piece up dedicated to the modest proposal that if Obama really wants to the change agent that he posed as during the campaign, he should legalize marijuana. The story is seething with outrage and memory and is a great place to point folks who still need convincing that pot is not evil:
Any American, given about a minute, can tick off a list naming examples of disgrace in our 21st century society. You pick your hobbyhorse, I'll pick mine, and let the free-for-all begin. It's mind-boggling, at least in this corner, that there's still actually a debate among politicians and citizens over the issue of medicinal marijuana use. In 1982, as a young man not yet 30, my mother was slowly dying of brain cancer, and one day she asked if I could purchase a small quantity of pot to relieve the pain of chemotherapy.
I hadn't used the illegal substance for several years, but it wasn't hard to find, and so on a visit to our house she was given a small bag of Mexican grass, and for the first time in her life she toked up. It wasn't to her liking and so that experiment ended, but, after years of worrying about this sort of drug use among her five sons-my parents swallowed all the scare tactics from the government and media in the 1960s-she'd come to realize that in the scheme of things, smoking marijuana wasn't, in the vast majority of cases, likely to derail a person's life. As for her fellow cancer patients, Mom said, "Look, we're dying, it's not as if puffing on a joint [I'd never heard her say that word and was slightly taken aback] will be the 'gateway' to heroin." None of my friends and acquaintances who are physicians disagree with that simple statement….
As Barack Obama prepares to occupy the Oval Office in January, this modest (in my opinion) proposal is worthy of his consideration, especially if he does intend to follow FDR's example and set forth a very ambitious agenda for the first year of his presidency, before he begins his 2012 campaign. I'm not naïve and don't expect Obama will even give a moment's thought to the subject-hell, if he lifts the embargo on Cuba next year, that'll be amazing, and long overdue, enough.
Smith notes that there's huge potential for state and federal governments to gain revenue from taxing legal sales of weed. That was a contributing factor in the end of alcohol prohibition (though far from the only one or even the driving force) and who knows: If enough moral outrage at the excesses of the drug war gets topped off by the lure of excise taxes, maybe pot will be legalized sooner rather later.
Two big fat data points not to count on Obama are, of course, his picks of Joe "I created the office of drug czar while riding Amtrak and drinking Scranton-brewed beer" Biden as VP and Eric "Zero Tolerance" Holder for AG.