Lessons from Amsterdam
Legalize Pot Already
Debby and I went to Amsterdam recently and did a number of fun things besides smoke dope legally.
Actually, we never got around to smoking dope legally.
I wanted to. I intended to. There was a “coffeehouse” (as they’re called) half a block down the street from our apartment. Every night, when we dragged our tails home from our vacation festivities, we went past the place. Every morning I said to Deb, “Okay, tonight when we come home, let’s go in there and smoke a joint.” And Debby always said, “Yes, let’s.”
But every night, by the time we got home, I felt too bushed from doing other fun things to get stoned. And a peek into the coffeehouse never inspired me much–it just looked so dead in there: four or five stoners draped on the couches, looking bored. And the owner behind his counter, drearily sifting his product into little tins. He struck me as a small-businessman, struggling to make ends meet in a difficult business. He looked to be in his late forties, a little guy with long hair and a handlebar moustache, a dragged out parody of a stereotypical sixties hippie, which he could not actually have been: he was too young. This look of his was just a costume now. It was the uniform of the job.
The word low-key doesn’t describe the scene. One glimpse and I wanted to do something a little more active, like take a nap. Meanwhile, the bar down the block was hopping. Totally. The door was open, laughter and music were spilling into the street. In there, I saw young people joyously dancing and cheerfully chatting.
I got to thinking about the intense efforts we’re making in this country to keep pot illegal. I mean, really? I pictured the coffeehouses I saw in Amsterdam and thought, “This is what we’re scared of? This is what we’re pouring billions of law enforcement dollars into preventing? We’re putting arresting hundreds of thousands of people a year, and jamming up our jails, and creating a culture of criminality that has come to permeate our whole society–so that places like this don’t pop up in our cities?
For crying out loud! Let’s legalize marijuana and get on with life.
Oh, there might be a surge in dope smoking for a few months–I’ll probably smoke a couple of joints myself–but after that? I’ll bet you anything most people will go back to doing whatever they were doing bfore. The smoking of weed will shrink down to a barely noticeable coffeehouse phenomenon, such as I saw in Amsterdam.
The only noticeable difference will be that prison space will suddenly be available a-plenty, for murders, rapists, home invasion burglars, and thieves. And cops will suddenly have time to chase after those sorts.