I warned you about them, didn’t I?
In the heady days leading up to the passage of I-502, one of the main concerns about legalized marijuana were users who, having ignored pot prohibitions for so long, would quickly step beyond the new restrictions. While that may seem a harsh judgment, there is simply no denying that, prior to I-502′s passage, every recreational toke was a criminal act.
Now that Washingtonians can legally use marijuana, a few marijuana opportunists are busily proving that those concerns were well founded.
A recent AP article (Trib 4/4) relates that at least two taverns, one in Olympia and one in Tacoma, have been allowing patrons to use marijuana on their premises. No one should be surprised by this fact, nor by a statement from one Michael Schaef who runs the marijuana bar above Tacoma’s Stonegate tavern.
He opines that, “people have always been mixing alcohol and cannabis…what we are doing is forcing people to break the law by sneaking to some dark area to do it.”
This brush off is little more than the usual tired rhetoric of the illegal drug culture. In reality, Schaef is telling us that, if the Liquor Control Board shuts the marijuana bar down, then the state is forcing(?!) people to break the law.
Oh, geez. Where to start.
Setting aside the obvious (yet unstated) point that smoking in bars is prohibited, the above comment makes it abundantly clear that some are already ignoring the majority message underscored by voters last November. Those who voted in favor of legalizing pot – and most of us who did do not use the stuff – did so with a few simple restrictions.
That includes the guarantee that our fresh air will not suddenly smell like the inside of Cheech and Chong’s van.
In addition to the restriction against public usage, there is also the legitimate health concern from mixing marijuana and alcohol. There have been too many fatal crashes involving drivers under the suspected influence of alcohol and marijuana, and until medical science fleshes out the all the facts, erstwhile “social experiments” like the one at the Stonegate is not worth the risk to public safety.
Despite these and other reasons for shutting down so-called “marijuana bars,” Mr. Schaef’s words captured the essence of a culture which has existed on the other side of the law for decades. For all his sincerity, the truth is that no one, especially not the government, can force someone to break the law. That requires a conscious choice.
In the case of marijuana usage, in the era before I-502 that choice could have meant an arrest for possession. Today it would be a simple infraction for public usage. Then and now, people have the capacity to make that decision.
I wrote on the topic of marijuana opportunists, users who perceive laws as mere inconvenience, in a previous column. What I wrote then remains true: If a small number of marijuana users blatantly ignore the far less restrictive laws graciously passed by an electorate (composed primarily of non-users), then the hard work of legalization advocates could all be undone.
Marijuana users, the choice is yours.