In her debate with Vice-President Mike Pence last Tuesday, Senator Kamala Harris noted that a Biden-Harris administration would decriminalise marijuana possession and its use when it came to power.
Pot stocks went through the roof which indicated that investors had a pretty good idea about the outcome of the US presidential race. Meanwhile, the hospital that recently treated President Trump for Covid-19 quietly changed its name to the Walter Weed Medical Centre.
That it was a surprise at all was, in itself, surprising. Pot is legal in 11 American states while it’s already been decriminalised in 16 others. As actor Bill Murray wryly observed: “I find it ironic that the only thing dangerous about weed now is getting caught with it.”
Which just goes to show how much the US has changed over the years.
In the 1960s while the Beatles tripped out and turned on, US Poet Laureate Ogden Nash disapprovingly observed that “Pot Is Not.”
This was in sharp contrast to American football legend Joe Namath during the same period. Asked which surface he’d prefer, Broadway Joe replied famously; “I don’t know if I’d prefer Astroturf to grass. I’ve never smoked Astroturf.”
Still, the football legend pales beside a musician like Willie Nelson who reserved his pot intake to only two occasions: when it rained and when it didn’t.
In the 1980s, Ronald Reagan advised American youth to “Just Say No” to grass while just saying yes to an ice-cold Scotch and soda.
Things began changing in the 1990s when Bill Clinton admitted to smoking pot in college while famously insisting “I did not inhale” even when he was known to inhale whole steaks for dinner at the White House, an idiosyncrasy that might have had a hand in the heart condition he developed later.
Things moved up a gear a generation later. Asked the inevitable question, Barack Obama admitted that he did indulge at Harvard.
And did he inhale?
Frequently, countered the President, “I thought that was the whole point.”
Enter Senator Kamala Harris, a former Attorney General for the state of California. She not only has freely admitted to having smoked pot in her younger days, but cheerfully espouses it, saying recently “it brings joy and we need more of that around.”
It also seems to have had an American tradition stretching way back. George Washington used it occasionally while Thomas Jefferson said it was one of his greatest pleasures.
And it could reduce at least one intractable problem. For all its power and wealth, the US has some very dubious distinctions. Standout example: on a per capita basis, the US has the largest number of prisoners behind bars. Decriminalising pot would certainly improve matters.
As actor Morgan Freeman noted: “Treat it like alcohol and you’ll put the pusher out of business. Sell it and tax it.”
Indeed, it’s getting to be big business. By 2027, it’s estimated that the legal market for marijuana will top US$73.6 billion: put that into your Treasury pipe and smoke it.
Meanwhile, more and more countries are jumping on the medical marijuana bandwagon. Canada, Mexico and Brazil have already legalised it while, closer to home, you can get it legally in Bangkok.
In the future, there might be little shame in selling the product. Since it is a plant after all, you might still get away with calling yourself a florist.