By Polly Keary, Editor
I’ve done a lot of odd interviews in the last decade or so, but the one I had Thursday stands out in its own special way.
I was at the Monroe Police Department, talking with two uniformed officers about where and when people can smoke pot now.
That is not a conversation I foresaw having in my life.
I voted for legalization, but now that it’s legal, I think I’m not alone in feeling somewhat agog and wondering what we’ve up and done.
This could go extremely well, or extremely badly.
One bad scenario is that people interpret the right to smoke at home into the right to smoke anywhere they please, and the police do little to curtail open pot smoking until public parks all smell like Hempfest on nice days. I’m all for freedom, but I don’t smoke weed and don’t want to smoke anyone else’s, either.
And one thing I wish the law had addressed was consequences for people smoking around kids.
The bummer about any smoked drug, including cigarettes, is that it’s hard to keep your vice to yourself. Even if you are smoking in your rec room at home, if your six-year-old has a bedroom one floor grate away, you are potentially impacting the kid.
So I hope people who choose to enjoy marijuana legally at home now (I still cannot believe it when I find myself typing a sentence like that) are responsible about how they go about it.
I guess what I think is my most rational concern is that, once the state figures out how to regulate the sale of pot by this time next year (in the unlikely case that the federal government doesn’t step in at that point), things will start looking really tacky in certain parts of every town.
I foresee whole boroughs breaking out in a zillion sketchy little incense-scented shops, with people putting sandwich boards reading “Goofy Grape” and “Godzilla Bud, $15 a gram” all over the sidewalks, as half the stoners in the nation descend upon us like a new Amsterdam.
It would probably do wonders for the state economy, but it might scuttle the whole experiment when voters lose patience with it all and make a move to reclaim the state’s dignity.
I hope that doesn’t happen, because I really think this experiment is worth trying.
I was down at Take the Next Step working on a story about that non-profit last week, when I saw one good example of a problem I think legalization will address.
There was a young man down there, 27 years old, a good-looking kid with a dark ponytail, who came in obviously chilled, shivering in his leather jacket and gloves.
He recently got out of jail after doing about two months on an FTA related to a deferred DUI he was late on meeting the requirements for, and all his stuff was either gone or in the police evidence locker, he said.
He was homeless and when he got picked up he’d been camping out doors, but when he got back, his tent and sleeping bag were gone.
And when he’d gotten arrested, the arresting officer found a pot pipe in his backpack, so he put the entire backpack into evidence, along with the kid’s wallet, the kid said. He’s been out for two weeks and is still trying to figure out how to reclaim his stuff, and it’s getting really cold.
Talk all you like about the choices the kid has made to get himself in this pickle. The fact is, there are a million kids out there just like him, rebellious and adventurous and determined to flout the establishment, and some of them grow up to be George Orwell and others Woodie Guthrie and some eventually turn out to be perfectly fine parents and community members and some never find direction and flounder on into old age.
But I don’t lose one nanosecond of sleep over the idea that the kid might now be able to burn one at leisure, nor do I feel any more safe because his pot pipe is in evidence.
I see a situation that was made worse by prohibition laws, and an unnecessary hassle in which he and the police might never have to engage again.
The two officers with whom I spoke last are servants of the law, and now that the law has changed, they seemed determined to uphold this new law, with no hint of resentment or frustration.
They said they don’t think the department will save a significant amount of money by not arresting people on possession charges anymore, although such arrests have occurred usually at least a couple times a week.
They are just going to focus on making sure people aren’t driving around baked out of their minds, which I support because wet, dark, shiny roads are hard enough to navigate at night, and I don’t feel like putting too much reliance on the stoned-driving skills of my imbibing neighbors.
The bottom line is, we’ve claimed for ourselves the right to our adulthood, the right to decide for ourselves if the pleasure some of us get from smoking a plant is worth the risks we’ve all been informed of since our first elementary school D.A.R.E class.
We’ve got a chance now to see if this experiment in freedom works. With freedom comes responsibility.
I hope we can demonstrate that we can be responsible with this.