Note Cindi's column today about Sheriff Lott and Michael Phelps.
Originally (in a somewhat condensed form), it was going to be an editorial — that is, an expression of the consensus of the editorial board as a whole. Trouble is, we didn't reach consensus.
We were all in agreement that the sheriff was right to drop the case, and inadvisable to have taken it as far as he did. We agreed that the law should be applied equally, but that there was no case here, and discretion would dictate that the sheriff's department's resources would have been better spend elsewhere.
We also agreed that had Phelps been caught in the act, and in possession — say, if the cops had raided the party — he should have been prosecuted. The law is the law.
But then, we had a disagreement. Warren and I wanted to say that not only is the law the law, but it should be the law. We agree with Cindi that we don't need to have nonviolent offenders in our prisons — they need treatment and probation, not jail time. But Warren and I believe marijuana possession should still be a crime; Cindi isn't convinced of that. She's not sure what she thinks, but she is inclined to believe it should be regulated more the way alcohol is.
We didn't get deeply into WHY we thought what we did. We were too busy scrambling to rethink tomorrow's page, turning the piece into a column (as you should know, signed columns reflect the opinion of the writer; unsigned editorials the board view) and making other changes on deadline.
But I'll tell you one reason I think the way I do. And it's the classic case of personal experience shaping one's views, so be aware. You've probably read about how heavy use of marijuana can mess with the development of an adolescent brain. Well, I've seen that up close. Someone very close to me started smoking dope heavily when he was about 12. Over the next decade you could tell that something had gone wrong with a bright and engaging kid. For one thing, he didn't grow up. Up until the time he died at age 30, he still talked like a kid. He was very credulous, having trouble telling between what was likely to be true and what was not. He lost connection with the truth. He turned to petty dishonesty in pursuit of drugs (eventually going well past marijuana, of course). He never kept any job for long. He did several stretches in jail (for trying to pass forged prescriptions, not for anything violent). Eventually, his habits led to his early death.
Note that I'm not saying m.j. was a "gateway drug" for him. I'm saying that cannabis itself did something to him at a critical point in the development of his brain and personality that caused him to fail to be the adult he would otherwise have been.
So do I think that cannabis is worse than alcohol? No, I don't think so. Each is worse in different ways. But society made the decision a while back that it was NOT going to ban alcohol; it's too ingrained in our culture. So we do what we can with regulating it, taxing it (and by the way, in SC we tax it MUCH more heavily than we do tobacco, in case you were wondering) and keeping it out of the hands of kids. We do NOT have to make the same concessions for loco weed; the case just isn't nearly as strong. Maybe if Jesus had turned the water into Panama Red, dope would have the same central role in our culture that wine does. But he didn't. His very first miracle was to affirm the central role of alcohol in a sacramental celebration. And I cite that not to make a religious or theological point, but a cultural one. Humans stopped being hunter-gatherers so they could grown barley to make beer, or so I'm convinced. We just can't root it out.
Anyway, I'm meandering now. What do y'all think? Not all at once, now…