Years ago a very buttoned-up friend of mine was negotiating her start date with a new employer. She was keen to get to work as soon as possible, she explained, but would they mind waiting until after the weekend of April 20, when she was scheduled to be going to Amsterdam?
It is a testament to the life-enhancing decency of her character that that her bosses assumed the date was a hilarious coincidence (she was, in fact, attending a Dutch religious conference), albeit one that was entirely lost on her. It is very difficult to imagine this happening today. A good-natured pious 20-something former homeschooled kid who loves getting baked would be totally unremarkable in an era when Chuck Schumer signs bongs at press events.
Which is why my heart goes out to America's pot heads. Of all the politicians to take up your cause, why did it have to be Wall Street's favorite senator? Couldn't you have at least gotten, say, the mop-headed shorts-wearing Rand Paul — college nickname "Randy" — who once, among other things, kidnapped a woman and took her to a river where he and a friend demanded that she pay homage to a deity known as Aqua Buddha, i.e., what was almost certainly a gigantic bong, to introduce a bill decriminalizing marijuana at the federal level? To repurpose a Bush-era cliché, which of these people would you rather smoke a joint with?
Schumer's speech on Friday introducing a bill to legalize weed was in its way a masterpiece. "The bill lets the states decide and be the laboratories that they ought to be," Schumer explained to reporters. "It also will ensure that minority- and woman-owned businesses have a dedicated funding stream to help them compete against bigger companies in the marijuana business. Critically, we ensure that advertising can't be aimed at kids, and put real funds behind research into the health effects of THC."
Marijuana is in some ways the least important thing about this speech, which tells you everything you need to know about the ideology and aspirations of the Democratic Party in 2018. First, we have a Tea Party-ish appeal to the virtues of federalism. Then there is an exhortation to minorities that if they want to get ahead, they should consider becoming entrepreneurs, small business owners who create jobs rather than demand them, which could have come straight from the lips of Jeb Bush. Finally, to make certain that older voters are not scandalized, there is a tut-tutting appeal to health and safety and an acknowledgement that of course everyone's thinking of the children here.
This is what passes for progressive politics in this country. The Republican president of the United States is an unhinged narcissist hated by everyone from Lady Gaga to the Harry Potter lady. This is still not enough to convince the youth that the party that gave us NAFTA and the Heritage Foundation's health-care plan is worth voting for in the midterm elections, which is why the senior senator from New York is asking how many of us cool cats out there are hip to the grass.
Unlike so many of the so-called social issues that continue to pay dividends for woke capitalists in the Democratic Party year after year, though, it is hard to see this as an especially valuable investment — except, perhaps, in the literal sense that it might attract future campaign contributions from the corporate marijuana industry. Abortion will be a wedge issue for the foreseeable future. So will the noble cause of importing wage slaves to wash our dishes and escort our children to the preschool co-op. There are still plenty of opportunities for bathroom bills before they get around to polygamy as a civil right. But once marijuana becomes legal it is useless except as one more revenue stream for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
Let me make a prediction. The Republicans are going to fold on marijuana before the end of Trump's presidency. Mitch McConnell of all people has already introduced a bill that would legalize the growing of industrial hemp. In Colorado, where the drug has been legally sold for half a decade now, there is virtually no disagreement between the two parties about what a valuable opportunity for growth, literally and otherwise, the pot business is. Meanwhile trying to appeal to the cultivated sensibilities of all three living Americans who actually oppose legalization is a mug's game. The GOP is dumb, but not dumb enough to let their opponents win on this one. Blue blazers look fine with green socks.
Sorry to be a buzzkill, Chuck.