After high school, I served four years in the U.S. Navy. It was something I wanted to do before college, and it was a great way to get my university education paid for with the GI Bill. I was stationed in San Diego on a guided missile cruiser called the USS Leahy (CG 16). It was close to heaven for a 20-year-old old single guy.
There was a Navy recruiting slogan back then that I remember: “It’s more than a job, it’s an adventure.” The Navy was definitely an adventure, and the year we spent steaming from port to port in Asia in 1979/1980 was a real eye-opener. One of the funny things I remember from that time was how the Captain got on the ship’s intercom every time we entered a new country. He invariably gave the entire crew a lecture about the dangers of using or buying drugs in the ports we visited. As it turned out — and we learned this quickly — the reality of drug availability and attitudes were often inversely proportionate to what he said.
“South Korean drug laws are harsh, and all drug stores are off limits to American sailors” translated to “Their drug stores have lots of stuff and you’re not required to have a prescription.”
This happened at almost every port. We were warned about marijuana laws, but it was readily available and often openly consumed in the Philippines, Taiwan, South Korea, Hawaii, Japan and just about everywhere else we docked. (Singapore being the one glaring exception!)
I mention this because it seems to be just another example of how silly the long prohibition against cannabis has been. Anti-marijuana laws have been in place for years, and yet for the most part, they’ve been willfully — and widely — ignored. Sure, you don’t want to get caught with 100 kilos of weed in Mexico, but speaking from experience, if you were a U.S. sailor based in San Diego with a few joints on you in the ‘70s or early ‘80s, the Mexican police in Tijuana would ignore you even if you smoked it in front of them. At the very worst, you’d have to give them a joint and receive a $10 “fine” (which was immediately pocketed). In the end, it was all about money, and the Mexican Federales knew sailors had little of it, and that it was a waste of their time to enforce the so-called “harsh” Mexican drug laws.
Which leads me to what’s been going on in the USA: As you read this, it’s quite likely that several more states have voted to legalize recreational marijuana, or will be shortly. Why on earth did it take so long? Are we humans really that stupid? Why do we allow social conservatives to dictate how we may behave in the privacy of our own homes if that behavior hurts no one else? Why would anyone possibly think it’s okay to drink whiskey, but not be allowed to have a toke of pot? (Or for that matter, think that straight couples can get married, but not gay couples?)
Civil rights, women voting, gay marriage, the end of slavery, marijuana legalization, a woman’s right to choose … each issue, a long, expensive fight, yet with outcomes as predictable as the sun rising in the morning. Stupid seems to me to be the best way to describe most of these drawn-out battles over the inevitable advances in what is regarded as socially acceptable behavior.