projects and writings of T.A. Burkholder
In September, 2016 I started a year-long personal challenge of doing something each week that I’d never done before then writing about it. This is week 13.
Funny how I’ve become a much bigger proponent of state’s rights than I ever was before. Not that the country’s bigger, broader and increasingly frightening problems don’t need to be addressed, but I find that as things grow drearier on the national stage, I’m more and more interested in the local. How is Oregon dealing with the climate crisis, criminal justice reform, racism, housing, etc.? Where can we make some tangible changes and where are we already leading by example?
The list of things that need to change in this state is very, very long. But this post is about one thing I think we’ve started to do right: the legalization of marijuana. Today, for the first time, I walked a couple blocks down the street, past five bars as well as the hipster barber shop that serves bourbon, and into my local, neighborhood pot shop. The sweet hippie behind the counter could probably tell this was new for me and didn’t waste any time showing me the cheapest edibles they had. I was in and out of there in less than five minutes. And yet, it was still plenty of time to feel as though I was doing something sneaky. Afterwards, I walked around with a single piece of THC-infused chocolate in my pocket repeatedly batting away the idea that I might somehow get caught with it.
I’ve never been a big fan of the stuff and most of the people close to me left it behind long ago. My neighbor grows and I curse him every day for the stench his plants send wafting into my yard. In other words, my pleasure in this doesn’t come from anything personal. I’m just happy that Oregon (much of it anyway) has started to move away from the moral hypocrisy and economic stupidity of weed being illegal.
While more and more states are legalizing pot in some form or another, The Washington Post reported a couple months ago that police still make more arrests for marijuana possession than they do for all violent crimes combined. Of course, a disproportionate number of those arrests are of POC. Not only are resources being wasted, but their being wasted on racist practices. And soon, Jeff Sessions will most likely become attorney general, a man who once claimed he had no problem with the KKK until he found out some of them smoked pot. Just this year he said “Good people don’t smoke marijuana.” I can only hope that the tides against this kind of thinking have turned enough that this miserable racist won’t be able to do much, especially here in Oregon.
I also hope that we continue to be an example in expunging marijuana-related crimes from people’s records. Why should the system continue to make people suffer for something that is no longer and never should have been a crime? Right now corrected records are only for people convicted ten or more years ago, but maybe someday that will change.
As legalization spreads there will be new problems to sort out. In Colorado, where retail sales were allowed to proliferate at a very rapid rate, some small and poor communities are having to deal with the problems of a disproportionate number of shops and growers. And there will be the old public health problems of use and abuse that may take on a different shape as legalization becomes the standard.
My own use will, undoubtedly, remain minimal. The half a piece of chocolate I ate three hours ago is doing its job. As expected, my body is filled with a numbing, high-pitched buzz. It’s not horrible. It’s not particularly enjoyable either. But at least it’s entirely legal.