The commentary back and forth in our student newspaper, The Daily Targum, was predictable. Opponents argued Moonies were poor brainwashed souls, and anyone interested in religion should try to talk them out of their insanity, not encourage it.
I wrote a letter in support of the Moonies, and received a private reply from a fellow student. He expressed concern over my mental health, and encouraged me to come to my senses. He reflexively assumed I was fellow Moonie myself. The thought that perhaps I simply believed in freedom of religion and separation of church and state – Rutgers is a taxpayer funded university – appeared to have never occurred to him.
I am Jewish, and I find much of religion, including the ancient practices of my own spiritual forefathers, to be a mishmash of a primitive thinking and institutionalized oppression. The Jews of the Bible were polygamous, homophobic slave-owners who engaged in tribal warfare and believed Jonah lived for several days in the belly of a fish. But they also believed the world was fashioned by a Creator who prefers good over evil, and that theme is what defines modern Judaism today.
I sense a similar perceptual blind spot to my long-age Rutgers critic in the rear-guard argument against the gradual legalization and social acceptance of pot. “Don’t you realize how harmful marijuana abuse is?”, so many opponents of legalization, such as former drug czar William Bennett continually ask. I find myself occasionally contributing to the comments section of the Wall Street Journal, usually against my better judgment. Articles on certain topics – gay marriage, immigration reform, and legalization of pot – inevitably draw hundreds of responses, some of which are shocking in their ignorance and racism.
I threw my two cents in yesterday in a pot-related article regarding Nebraska and Oklahoma suing Colorado over its marijuana legalization. Their argument of the plaintiffs is that citizens of their states are smuggling pot purchased in Colorado, and since the evil weed remains illegal under Federal law, this is a violation of the rules regulating interstate commerce. Amid the voluminous comments was one from a doctor, with the tired point that people in favor of legalization of pot don’t understand its health risks and are encouraging its consumption. He added this liberal viewpoint was ironic, since lefties oppose tobacco but are promoting a different dangerous plant.
The good doctor’s blind spot, identical to that of Mr. Bennett and similar to the Rutgers incident over thirty years ago, was his inability to realize people could be in favor of marijuana legalization and simultaneously fully aware of its risks. I voted for pot legalization when it was on the ballot in Washington in 2012 for the following reasons:
· 90% of pot smokers consume in moderation; the health risks for them are negligible.
· For the 10% who smoke excessively, their problem is better treated by medical professionals than the criminal justice system.
· Pot prohibition has been unevenly enforced and racist in its implementation. Blacks use pot at the same rate as whites, but are arrested ten times more frequently. College kids at private schools, predominately white and middle class or wealthy, toke up without any concern law enforcement is going to harsh their mellow. African-Americans in poor neighborhoods, on the other hand, have borne the brunt of the “War on Drugs”.
· Pot is less harmful than alcohol and tobacco. We should have consistency in our laws.
· Criminal records, even for arrests, follow people for a lifetime. The destructive impact of pot prohibition is many times more harmful than the health risks.
· Taxpayer funds are always in short supply. The many billions spent pointlessly locking up black people along with a few poor whites for smoking pot are better spent elsewhere.
Finally, we live in a free democracy, and the United States Constitution itself declares that its purpose is to uphold life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. If happiness for my neighbor is a pot-infused cupcake, well that’s what we fought the Revolutionary War for. The good Reverend Moon could tell you that