America’s attitudes toward marijuana use have come a long way since 1968. That was the year that Dragnet’s Sgt. Joe Friday told a Timothy Leary-type drug guru that smoking pot would inevitably lead to harder drug use.
“Marijuana is the flame, heroin is the fuse, LSD is the bomb,” Friday lectured “Brother William,” a groovy with long gray hair. “So don’t you try to equate liquor to marajuana, Mister, not with me. You may be able to sell that jazz to another pothead, but not to somebody who holds some sick kid’s head while he vomits and wretches on a curbstone at 4:00 in the morning. And when his legs get enough starch into them so he can stand up and empty his pockets, you can bet he’ll have a stick or two of marijuana. And you can double your money he'll turn up a sugar cube or a cap or two.”
In 1968, American unemployment was at 3.5 percent. Our cities could afford enough police to straighten out all the dope-smoking punks in this country. Now, we’re broke. We’re laying off cops all over the place, and the cops we have left are pulling double duty to deal with all the crime created by a lack of cops. In Flint, Mich., it takes police an hour to respond to a shooting. In that kind of lawless environment, a kid with a stick or two of marijuana is not such a big problem.
The city of Chicago isn’t proposing to issue tickets to pot smokers because it now believes the drug is as harmless as parking for three hours in a two-hour zone, or because Mayor Rahm Emanuel listened to Peter Tosh in his dorm room at Sarah Lawrence. The city wants to write tickets because its budget hundreds of millions of dollars in the hole, and it’s more profitable to fine marijuana users than to pay for cops to arrest them. When Mayor Richard M. Daley suggested marijuana tickets in 2004, the police whined that they’d lose overtime from going to court on pot busts.
That was before the Great Recession. Now, the city is so desperate for money it’s proposing to write tickets for unlicensed bicycles and unshoveled sidewalks. So, why not convert criminals to revenue sources?
If we could afford it, we’d still arrest you. Because that would mean we could afford the police to arrest you. But police officer is the kind of solid middle-class job that’s disappearing in this country.
But we’re broke. So smoke all the pot you want. Just write us a check for $50. If you can remember.