According to the Associated Press, on November 6 Arkansas will become the first southern state to let voters decide whether they want to legalize medical marijuana. Backers hope success in the Razorback State will lead to a domino effect of resistance fading in other parts of the old Confederacy.
As a lifelong Tennessean, I am keenly interested in how this vote turns out.
Many characteristics of the South have frustrated advocates of marijuana reform. For example, there are lingering Bible Belt influences. (“I feel for those seeking pain relief, but God meant for fallen man to suffer, and — Hey, deacon! If we don’t get those new comfy pew cushions, I’m cutting my donation in half!”)
A southern overemphasis on cardiac matters sometimes leaves little room for sympathy. (“Bless his heart — but his cancer-ridden OTHER organs can just suffer without dope!”)
Macho posturing is another factor, with would-be coaches advising glaucoma patients, “Walk it off! Walk it off!”
Southern cooks with a fear of embarrassment also contribute to the glacial progress of marijuana laws. (“But…but…what if we don’t have enough equipment to DEEP-FRY all that medical marijuana?”)
Many southern officials are sincerely concerned that looser marijuana laws would send the wrong message to our youth: that SPEED TRAPS are the only way to keep the ticket count high.
I have a grudging respect for the grassroots pro-reform movements that spring up naturally in given states, but I worry about the influence of outside agitators. I’m not sure we need a condescending education from outsiders who buy into the stereotype that all southerners are toothless, barefoot and need the Church of Scientology to match them up with their cousins.
I believe there are many sincere people on both sides of the issue, but some individuals really should recuse themselves from the debate because of vested interests. For example, if you actually thought you saw President Obama in that chair Clint Eastwood was talking to, YOU JUST MIGHT BE INELIGIBLE.
I respect those who have a personal stake in using medical marijuana to handle a terminal illness, or who want a safe environment for others in that situation. I’m not so sure about voters who get giggles and vicarious thrills from the notion of a “trickle-down” effect, who treat marijuana reform as one more way to Stick It To The Man or who convince themselves, “Golly, if I vote for it, then maybe the COOL voters will let me hang out with them at the malt shop and eat pecan pie and…”
The issue has made for some strange bedfellows. Despite 17 states and the District of Columbia having already adopted some form of medical marijuana program, distribution is still a violation of federal law. So it’s a STATES’ RIGHTS issue. I wonder how supporters will feel if there are separate smoking areas for “whites” and “coloreds”?
I welcome a debate about side effects, the costs of criminalization, the costs of regulating dispensaries and other issues. Just as long as we don’t adopt a carefree “Hey, what could possibly go wrong?” attitude.
I would rather not see the rallying cry of the South become “The South’s Gonna Do It Again…because, frankly, we sort of forgot that we had already done it, dude.”