Rocky's Drug War

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by Bill Kauffman The American Conservative

Recently by Bill Kauffman: Meet the Marlboro Man


I had drinks one night with an old friend who had spent the previous year in jail. Despite my entreaties, and my guarantee that it would provide rare cachet, he refused to loudly begin a sentence, “When I was in the joint…” In fact, he denied that prisoners ever called their domicile the joint, the rock, or the big house, and he confessed to not having met a single grizzled veteran of the pen who dispensed such gnomes as “Do time; don’t let time do you.”

You mean the movies lie about all this?

My levity shamed me. There’s really nothing funny about having to live in a cage. My friend’s fellow penmen ranged from the violent to the pathetic, from apparently unredeemable scumbags to the luckless and the dumb. Innocent was seldom an apt description of these men, but look hard enough and you can see the face of Christ in each one.

The prison-industrial complex depends upon the drug war for its seemingly limitless supply of bodies. (I write, by the way, as one so drug-averse that I don’t even like taking Tylenol for a hangover – I much preferred Minor Threat to Johnny Thunders.)

Although we have reached a stage where the jock potheads of my boyhood have their avaricious little hands on the levers of power, the bong throng – including three consecutive deracinated ex-coke-sniffers in the White House – lack the guts even to take the gateway step of saying that to imprison men and women for buying and selling marijuana is an affront to personal liberty. (Not to worry: the empty cells can be filled with Thought Criminals.)

Who are the national political figures willing to say that marijuana ought to be legalized? The noble ascetic Ralph Nader, the heroic physician Ron Paul, and former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson, the triathlete running for president on the Libertarian ticket.

Governor Andrew Cuomo, no one’s idea of a libertarian Democrat, has proposed decriminalizing the open possession of less than 25 grams of marijuana. This is the latest meliorative attempt by New York Democrats to soften the state’s drug laws, which took an infamous turn toward the draconian four decades ago under Governor Nelson Rockefeller.

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Bill Kauffman’s [send him mail] most recent book is Ain’t My America: The Long, Noble History of Antiwar Conservatism and Middle-American Anti-Imperialism.


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