Sunday, April 12, 2009

California Voters May Not Like Same-Sex Marriage, But They Love Pot!

According to an article in the Washington Post, the legalization of "medical" (wink) pot is making the use of marijuana a "mainstream" practice among residents of California. Even though California is more conservative than Iowa on the issue of same-sex marriage, residents in the Golden State can smoke pot with abandon -- so long as they get a doctor's note.

With little notice and even less controversy, marijuana is now available as a medical treatment in California to almost anyone who tells a willing physician he would feel better if he smoked.

Pot is now retailed over the counter in hundreds of storefronts across Los Angeles and is credited with reviving a section of downtown Oakland, where an entrepreneur sells out classes offering "quality training for the cannabis industry. . . ."

It really is that easy, the barker explains. Before being allowed to enter the upstairs dispensary and "smoking lounge," new customers are directed first to the physician's waiting room, presided over by two young women in low-cut tops. After proving state residence and minimum age (21), customers see a doctor in a white lab coat who for $150 produces a "physician's recommendation."

Valid for one year, it is all that California law requires to purchase and smoke eight ounces legally.

"I told him I had problems with my knee," said Joe Rizzo, 31, emerging from an examination recently with a knowing grin and a renewed card.

Outside the Blue Sky Coffee Shop in Oakland, Ritz Gayo clutched an eighth of Blue Dream ($44) and tried to remember the nature of his complaint.

"Um, my back," said Gayo, 20. He went on to recite a partial list of symptoms suggested in newspaper ads: "Chronic back pain and the rest, like everyone else," he said. "Non-sleeping. Can't eat very much.

"That, and I love pot."

Before I provoke the rage of my pot-advocate readers: I am not endorsing re-criminalization. Instead, I think it is fascinating that voters in the state were so incensed over gay people marrying each other that they rushed to amend the state constitution to deny equal protection. At the same time, voters have shaped California law to defy national "morality" over the issue of drugs and criminality. Am I wrong -- or is that an interesting contrast?


Gerard said...

Well, yes. You are wrong. The fallacy here is in thinking the group of voters for A is composed of the group of voters for B.

I may be wrong but I don't think the ballot question in California was phrased as: "Gay people should not be allowed to marry and pot should be legal: [Yes] [No]"

Venn diagrams should help your thinking here.

As for California being more conservative than Iowa, a moment's reflection might tell you that a judicial decision is not the same thing as a vote taken of an entire state.

While I support pot legalization and gay marriage, I do not support smoking pot before writing about gay marriage.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Gerard: Lighten up. I think you are taking this thread a bit too seriously....But thanks for the comment.

Nevertheless, medical pot has been legal for nearly 13 years in California - according to the WaPo article. By contrast, it took less than one year for California voters to overturn a court ruling extending marriage rights to GLBT people. No amount of diagrams can change that reality.

Even though the issues did not appear on the same ballot, if there was a strong desire to repeal the pot law, it would have happened by now; it there was not a strong desire to get rid of same-sex marriage, it would still exist.

Second - even the Iowa Supreme Court is more progressive than the California Supreme Court on the marriage issue; the former issued a unanimous ruling, while the California ruling was closely divided.

Also, Iowa law does much more to protect the rights of minority groups from seasonal emotions. While a simple majority of voters can amend the California constitution, Iowa respects its court rulings by mandating an involved multi-year process for constitutional amendments.

Perhaps California voters should lighten up (or light up?) before voting on this issue the next time! And despite California's pride for its "liberal" traditions, other places still do better.

Semper said...

I think the apparent dichotomy comes from the belief that pot legalization is still a moral issue. While the original ban on pot may have been passed based on moral arguments and the tut-tut of civilized society, those values have drifted enough that such condemnation from our betters no longer have enough motivation to get people to vote.

Gay marriage, on the other hand, does not have nearly the social permissiveness that pot does. As a nonscientific measurement of social acceptability, think back over the great culture indicator: Movies.

While we are starting to see major films with happily married gay couples in them, compare that to at least a decade of affable stoner characters. I'm not trying to say that movies are driving the culture (although they do seem to a bit). But as a reflection of current social trends, I think you'll agree that being a pothead has lost the moral condemnation it used to have. And I think that is getting reflected in political action.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Semper -I agree with you. Smoking pot is more mainstream to most heterosexuals than same-sex marriage. From a libertarian perspective that strikes me as a dramatic contradiction.

Anonymous said...

Professor Hutchinson,

Are you gay and unmarried, by any chance? If we were to start dating now, by the time we are ready to get married (3 or 4 years from now, I'd say), we'll have lots of choices of venues

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