Guess I’m stuck in a dream

High – Feeder

This article from Slate (I know, easy target, but still) is almost a perfect example of how the form in which you pose a question reveals far more than the answer you try to provide.

It asks why marijuana legalization remains a political non-starter despite increasingly strong support for it from an increasingly large portion of the country. One theory:

That may be partly a function of congressional demographics and partly a matter of incentives. Even if 50 percent of the public supports legalization, a pro-pot bill will never pass the Senate if those people are concentrated on the coasts. There’s also the fact that potheads tend to be less likely to vote than senior citizens, who came of age in the pre-hippie era and have never inhaled. If legalization opponents are willing to back up their conviction at the ballot box, there’s a lot of risk and little reward for a congressman to assume the marijuana mantle.

Right. The only people who support marijuana legalization are ‘potheads’ who, of course, can’t possibly remember to get up and vote. The context for the article is Obama’s recent Google+ townhall:

Potheads had high hopes for President Obama’s Google+ hangout on Monday. The Web superpower had invited citizens to submit questions for the president via YouTube, and it encouraged people to vote on the questions they’d like Obama to answer in a live video chat. The results: 18 of the 20 most popular questions were about marijuana policy.

Look, the underlying point is obviously correct. Legalization is the sort of thing where the strong advocates are smaller in number than the strong opponents – and, as a general matter, the middle of the country is going to tend to want to support the SORT of people who oppose more than the other side.

But that’s also tautological. If you think about marijuana legalization as a basically fringe policy supported by a small group of fervent advocates who basically just want to get high, then of course it’s going to have an image problem.

Really the point I want to make here is that political commentary is far too concerned with treating voters as embodiments of pure self-interest. Who wants drug legalization? People who do drugs. Who think Medicare should be supported? Old people. Who supports low taxes for the wealthy? The wealthy. Who supports affirmative action? Minorities.

Of course all of those things are mostly true. Those blocks are far more likely to support the policy than others. But there is a lot of room for people to actually consider what they think is good policy for the nation as a whole. And there ought to be more of it. Our political conversations would be improved if we consistently reminded ourselves of this, and didn’t denigrate (even implicitly or through tone) the idea that people might think beyond their personal interests.

The article in question clearly understands this. One of the concluding paragraphs says:

And for all the efforts of groups like LEAP, there’s still the Cheech and Chong factor. One of the RAND paper’s authors, psychologist and U.C.–Berkeley law professor Robert MacCoun, argued that pot’s place in pop culture makes it hard for even generally supportive people to take the issue seriously. (As a marijuana policy researcher, MacCoun says, he can’t grab a snack at a party without someone joking about the munchies.) That sets marijuana legalization apart from other socially liberal causes, such as gay marriage, with which an impassioned moral appeal can resonate deeply even with those inclined to oppose it.

All of which makes it frustrating that the hook needs to be ‘lol, potheads are obsessed with legalization.’

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