Talking reefer in the land of Antonin Scalia | Bleader

Talking reefer in the land of Antonin Scalia


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Hey, its no Evanston.
As part of our mission to talk to anyone about anything, Mick and I drove to the University of Chicago to discuss marijuana—yesterday charter schools, today reefer!

We covered the waterfront.

The room's packed. Never knew so many students at the U. of C. cared so much about reefer.

First question: Who plays the better stoner—Jeff Bridges in The Big Lebowski or Brad Pitt in True Romance?

Just kidding, though I think we'll all agree that would make a fascinating topic for debate.

No, we're there to talk about marijuana laws and enforcement in the wider context of our criminal justice system.

Or, how come everyone smokes it, but only blacks get busted?

Or, why spend a freaking fortune to wage a war on marijuana that no one supports?

Well, according to Mick, Anita Alvarez supports it.

But she's the state's attorney. If you stop locking up people for smoking reefer, then what will her prosecutors do with their time?

Which leads us to the most obvious question of all: If hardly anyone wants to wage war on marijuana, why are we waging it?

Good question. For which there are many answers, none of them logical. Like....

Liberal politicians are too cautious to take a stand.

Or baby boomer parents worry that legalizing reefer will encourage their kids to smoke it, as if they aren't already smoking it.

Or, the lock-them-up policy is so much fun—why stop now?

This being the University of Chicago, the room's filled with really smart students who ask great questions. The economist on the panel—Jim Leitzel—knows more about prohibition and drug policy than any man alive.

This man should be making federal drug policy, people.

A reporter for the Chicago Maroon, the student newspaper, wrote an article about the talk and a photographer took a picture.

I look appropriately professorial, what with my new glasses and everything.

At the end of the talk, Mick asked for a show of hands: Who's opposed to legalization?

At least, I think it's Mick who asked that question. According to the article in the Maroon, I asked it. Not that it matters—we're together so much, sometimes I don't know the difference between the two of us. For the record, I'm the older one. In fact, I'm so old—I'm even older than our mayor.

Speaking of liberal politicians who are too cautious to take a stand.

By the way, not one hand goes up in response to Mick's question.

Now that surprises me. I had thought that the University of Chicago—once the home of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia—would fill a room with students who support tough marijuana laws.

But, as one student explains to me, U. of C. conservatives are not social conservatives so much as free market ones. Think Ron Paul as opposed to Rick Santorum.

And free-market conservatives have been for the legalization of marijuana since, like, forever.

They're also for things like deregulation and tax breaks for the richest of the rich—widely supported by lawmakers everywhere.

So the real nutty free market stuff becomes the law of the land while marijuana remains largely illegal.

Like I said, none of this makes any sense.

Well, anyway, can't figure it all out in just one night. Thanks for inviting us to talk about it, U. of C.!


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