COMMENTARY | 29th speech in this series to the Josephine County Commissioners, 4-25-2012:
Last week we had a presentation from our local cops through the ladies of our Department of Public Health, titled, “You can’t fight what you don’t know.” It was about the drug culture in our high school and on our streets: slang; acronyms and logos; clothing lines with such logos. The one I found most amusing was “SRH: Stoners ‘Reaking Havoc.” Stoners don’t wreak havoc.
Nonetheless, the cops are exceedingly interested in their culture, clothing, and the places one might stash a pipe, like a bracelet, or a belt buckle. One wishes that they were as versed in the culture of thieves.
But theft culture isn’t in your face. Thieves don’t advertise themselves, even to each other. People are not proud of being thieves. They don’t celebrate theft in song and clothing; they stay very quiet about their activities.
Thieves we have always had. Drugs we have always had. We have not always had drug culture. That began to really develop as people who used illegal drugs protested the Vietnam War and at the same time rejected the culture of war on their habits, including the habits they brought back from ‘Nam. Those men were yanked out of their lives and made slave soldiers in a foreign land for no good reason; they had plenty of reason to take opiates and cannabis.
In thanks for their involuntary service, Nixon declared war on drugs and the people who take them. Reagan, a few years later, declared zero tolerance.
As those men who went to ‘Nam become grandfathers and great-grandfathers and their sons and grandsons return from Afghanistan with heroin habits, the drug culture has become more bold. We put pot leaves and only slightly cryptic acronyms and logos on our clothing, to irritate the Powers That Be. As government tries to do too much and thus neglects the basics of law, which is keeping order, it loses power to harass and jail us for mere habits.
Perhaps police should stop trying to keep up with teenage slang and start getting people to clean up their properties. Stop making war on substances and start concentrating on catching thieves. Stop riding around in cars, stopping speeders, and start walking neighbourhoods, talking to people. It isn’t the distance one covers in a day that counts; it’s the amount of disorder one stops.
I ask this Board to tell our sheriff that you think that marijuana laws should receive the lowest level of enforcement, and support the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act, now collecting signatures for the 2012 ballot.