A Backstage Perspective on Legalized Drugs

 

After reading about Chris CricochetPot1hristie’s aggressive stance against the legalization of marijuana in Thursday’s edition of The Daily Shot, I thought I’d share my experience with both illegal and legal drugs from the “backstage at the rock concert” perspective, based on two recent experiences. Mind you, I don’t take drugs, so my experience as an observer will have to do.

In February and March of this year, The Vandals were on a big tour in Australia with some of the biggest bands in the business. I’m not going to mention any names because I plan on incriminating some. Some, of course, are sober after abusing their privileges to various degrees, but some are definitely not. It was sad but interesting for me to watch them (i.e., artists and/or the crew) hit the bars after their set, then eventually begin “fiending” for illegal drugs. The drug portion of their evening doesn’t really get underway until the illicit retailer shows up at the hotel room after the bars close at 2 AM. That leaves them up all night with very risky people up to very risky business — and unable to do a good job the next day.

Contrast this with a corporate party we played for a licensed marijuana dispensary in Colorado a week after we returned from Australia. I would normally reject an offer to play an event like this. I’m not an advocate of legalized drugs. However, I’m sort of proud of these advocates for going through the process and making it legal. And they have a ton of money.

ricochetPot2This is my version of selling out. For some, it’s a Google or a Ford event. In short, my experience with the legalized marijuana industry was entirely positive. They were hard-working, professional, and treated us like, well, rock stars — which, despite releasing a dozen or so albums, we’re not used to. They had a ton of employees at our service (real commerce). What looked like a thousand dollars worth of “product” was laid out for us in the dressing room, in addition to our regular rider of food, beer, wine, whiskey, and candy.

The display was quite impressive. Out from the shadows, their products include lots of candies, gummies, dabs, buds, and the dreaded “marijuana cigarette,” each individually wrapped in a plastic tube with a bar code. We touched none of their product, however. We don’t take drugs and the exotic array did not tempt us to start (or resume, as the case may be). But we all had a great time with these people. We gave the drugs to one of the other bands and they didn’t die from it.

The most remarkaricochetPot3ble thing was that, because it was legal, those who were interested in it treated it more like a cocktail than an illegal activity and enjoyed it while I had a Jamison and white cranberry juice, (a drink I’ve dubbed the Racist Leprechaun for those keeping track).

Nothing was weird. They weren’t hiding in the seedy back alley (and trust me, there’s always a seedy back alley at these things). And this event was finished relatively early. When I laid my head on my hotel room pillow at 10:45 that night, I kept thinking of the poor saps on my last tour who were lurking around past 2 AM looking for a felon to engage in illegal commerce and “party.” That was a much worse scenario.

Neither are good for you. I get it. But the illegal version was much, much worse in my unscientific sample of two. As Chris Christie says, there is a terrible problem with addiction in this country and I agree there are negative consequences from legalizing drugs. I’m not an advocate for it, per se, but when it comes — and more is definitely coming — my experience tells me it’s not going to be as bad as I once thought.

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  1. Ryan M Member
    Ryan M
    @RyanM

    Joe – I’ve been a proponent of the legalization of Marijuana (with some reservations) and a staunch opponent of the legalization of some of the harder (and far more destructive) drugs.  But you don’t make that distinction in your post.  I have to imagine that your fellow musicians are not waiting up at 2am for a pot dealer; I also have to imagine that you would draw the line at a legal-meth party or a legal-heroin party if those were possible and available.

    I think it is important to still keep in mind the distinction between various types of illegal (or legal) drugs in conversations like this.

    • #1
  2. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Like.

    • #2
  3. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Ryan M:I also have to imagine that you would draw the line at a legal-meth party or a legal-heroin party if those were possible and available.

    How about a legal “seven per cent solution” party?

    ;-)

    • #3
  4. George Savage Contributor
    George Savage
    @GeorgeSavage

    I think it was Milton Friedman who once observed that the US faces the twin problems of drug addiction and drug-related crime.  The latter can be erased at the stroke of a pen.

    I am not a fan of full legalization and mainstreaming of currently illegal drugs, but I am foursquare in support of ending the federal War on Drugs.  Our current draconian approach to prohibition creates more problems than it solves.

    • #4
  5. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    Those applauding the legalization of the drug have little to say about the rise in emergency room visits where children are nearing death because they got a hold of some marijuana laced edibles.

    Unlike the alcohol industry this stuff is unmonitored for strength. And it’s invited people who would normally shy away from it to think it’s safe because it’s been bought at a state-endorsed store.

    At least one murder and one suicide have been directly linked to marijuana candies.

    • #5
  6. Tommy De Seno Contributor
    Tommy De Seno
    @TommyDeSeno

    Joe,

    Occasionally beer companies and cigarette companies will take flak for advertising that looks like it might attract kids.  Think Joe Camel.

    Wouldn’t it be best for the proponents of legalized marijuana to stay away from all the candy items for right now?

    It just seems to give the other side something to tie to the whipping post.

    • #6
  7. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    George Savage:I think it was Milton Friedman who once observed that the US faces the twin problems of drug addiction and drug-related crime. The latter can be erased at the stroke of a pen.

    I am not a fan of full legalization and mainstreaming of currently illegal drugs, but I am foursquare in support of ending the federal War on Drugs. Our current draconian approach to prohibition creates more problems than it solves.

    Indeed, almost no other country where recreational drug use is also illegal spends nearly as much money or effort on interdiction and/or enforcement.

    One could argue the US is different because it’s such a large market that is geographically close to producer countries, but that can’t be the whole story.

    • #7
  8. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Tommy De Seno:Joe,

    Occasionally beer companies and cigarette companies will take flak for advertising that looks like it might attract kids. Think Joe Camel.

    Wouldn’t it be best for the proponents of legalized marijuana to stay away from all the candy items for right now?

    It just seems to give the other side something to tie to the whipping post.

    The problem is that the anti-tobacco people and the anti-marijuana people are a whole different group of people.

    Tobacco isn’t evil because it’s unhealthy. It’s evil because it’s “corporate”.

    Marijuana producers are progressive folk, so it’s fine for them to market to children.

    • #8
  9. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    EJHill:

    Unlike the alcohol industry this stuff is unmonitored for strength….

    …for now.

    Never underestimate the administrative class’ ability to regulate legal products into submission.

    A health inspector doesn’t need a search warrant to inspect a restaurant. I can’t imagine that legal marijuana producers will be free from the inspectors’ gaze for very long.

    • #9
  10. The King Prawn Inactive
    The King Prawn
    @TheKingPrawn

    Misthiocracy

    Tobacco isn’t evil because it’s unhealthy. It’s evil because it’s “corporate”.

    I theorize it’s evil because without it there would have been no colonies, no revolution, and no Unites States.

    • #10
  11. J Flei Inactive
    J Flei
    @Solon

    Joe Escalante:The most remarkable thing was that, because it was legal, those who were interested in it treated it more like a cocktail than an illegal activity and enjoyed it while I had a Jamison and white cranberry juice…

    As you say, it is possible to use marijuana responsibly, like a cocktail.  Like wine or a beer, recreational pot can enhance one’s life if used in moderation.

    • #11
  12. Ryan M Member
    Ryan M
    @RyanM

    J Flei:

    Joe Escalante:The most remarkable thing was that, because it was legal, those who were interested in it treated it more like a cocktail than an illegal activity and enjoyed it while I had a Jamison and white cranberry juice…

    If/when pot is legal, people are going to get less high because part of the buzz is just knowing you’re secretly doing something illegal and you have to hide it.

    As you say, it is possible to use marijuana responsibly, like a cocktail.

    well…  I can’t agree with your closing statement.  At least not the “like a cocktail” part.  As a person who has consumed plenty of marijuana in my day, and currently consumes probably the adult average amount of alcohol, I will say that I prefer alcohol over weed precisely because it is possible to control your intake.  I can have a single beer, or even several over the course of hours, and never be drunk.  If you smoke weed you get high.  You cannot just smoke a little weed and get a little high… you’re either high or you’re not.  Obviously there are still somewhat varying degrees (say, for instance, if you eat a pot brownie), but not nearly to the extent that you can control alcohol use.

    • #12
  13. user_1008534 Member
    user_1008534
    @Ekosj

    I have to second Ryan M’s opinion

    While I no longer indulge, and haven’t in forever, I NEVER knew anyone (myself included) who smoked marijuana and didn’t smoke-until-high. That’s the whole point.

    If,whenever I drink, I drink-until-drunk … Someone is going to demand I get help for what is clearly a drinking problem.

    • #13
  14. J Flei Inactive
    J Flei
    @Solon

    Ryan M:

    … I can have a single beer, or even several over the course of hours, and never be drunk. If you smoke weed you get high. You cannot just smoke a little weed and get a little high… you’re either high or you’re not. Obviously there are still somewhat varying degrees (say, for instance, if you eat a pot brownie), but not nearly to the extent that you can control alcohol use.

    What’s so bad about being high?  You can’t drive or function at work, but you can relax with it on a weekend just like having a few beers.  Plus, being really really high usually means you fall asleep with Dorito dust on your shirt.  Being super drunk is way more ugly.

    • #14
  15. user_138562 Moderator
    user_138562
    @RandyWeivoda

    I’ve never used marijuana but I have known a few guys from the Woodstock generation who smoke it and never appear to be high.  Maybe the signs aren’t as obvious as I’ve been lead to believe by Cheech and Chong movies.

    • #15
  16. J Flei Inactive
    J Flei
    @Solon

    Ekosj:If,whenever I drink, I drink-until-drunk … Someone is going to demand I get help for what is clearly a drinking problem.

    If someone smokes 5 joints every day they have a problem, but someone who has a few puffs on the weekends does not.  You can drink just to catch a buzz without going overboard, same thing with pot.

    • #16
  17. user_541971 Member
    user_541971
    @DavidDeeble

    Joe – Would you be so sanguine if Christie next came after your Jamison?

    • #17
  18. Marion Evans Inactive
    Marion Evans
    @MarionEvans

    All drugs should be legalized and regulated, like alcohol and tobacco. It would eliminate drug-related crime, move hundreds of billions of dollars every year from the underground economy to the official economy and free up tens of thousands of law enforcement personnel to monitor other threats. Drug use MAY tick up but probably not so much that it will offset all the benefits.

    Not enough has been said about the impact of drug laws on other countries. It can be argued that prohibition has destroyed countries like Colombia in the 1980s, Afghanistan in the 1990s etc. Most terrorists and rebel groups (like the FARC) get their funding from illegal trades, drugs being one of the main ones.

    • #18
  19. Joe Escalante Contributor
    Joe Escalante
    @JoeEscalante

    Ryan M:Joe – I’ve been a proponent of the legalization of Marijuana (with some reservations) and a staunch opponent of the legalization of some of the harder (and far more destructive) drugs. But you don’t make that distinction in your post. I have to imagine that your fellow musicians are not waiting up at 2am for a pot dealer; I also have to imagine that you would draw the line at a legal-meth party or a legal-heroin party if those were possible and available.

    I think it is important to still keep in mind the distinction between various types of illegal (or legal) drugs in conversations like this.

    I don’t know what the answer is. I’m just giving an anecdotal account that what we fear might be less horrible than we think.

    • #19
  20. Joe Escalante Contributor
    Joe Escalante
    @JoeEscalante

    EJHill:Those applauding the legalization of the drug have little to say about the rise in emergency room visits where children are nearing death because they got a hold of some marijuana laced edibles.

    Unlike the alcohol industry this stuff is unmonitored for strength. And it’s invited people who would normally shy away from it to think it’s safe because it’s been bought at a state-endorsed store.

    At least one murder and one suicide have been directly linked to marijuana candies.

    True. It makes one think that relaxing one government regulation might just create the need for  many more more to monitor all this kinky stuff.

    • #20
  21. Joe Escalante Contributor
    Joe Escalante
    @JoeEscalante

    Ryan M:

    J Flei:

    Joe Escalante:The most remarkable thing was that, because it was legal, those who were interested in it treated it more like a cocktail than an illegal activity and enjoyed it while I had a Jamison and white cranberry juice…

    If/when pot is legal, people are going to get less high because part of the buzz is just knowing you’re secretly doing something illegal and you have to hide it.

    As you say, it is possible to use marijuana responsibly, like a cocktail.

    well… I can’t agree with your closing statement. At least not the “like a cocktail” part. As a person who has consumed plenty of marijuana in my day, and currently consumes probably the adult average amount of alcohol, I will say that I prefer alcohol over weed precisely because it is possible to control your intake. I can have a single beer, or even several over the course of hours, and never be drunk. If you smoke weed you get high. You cannot just smoke a little weed and get a little high… you’re either high or you’re not. Obviously there are still somewhat varying degrees (say, for instance, if you eat a pot brownie), but not nearly to the extent that you can control alcohol use.

    My understanding is that the brownies and such are even less controllable.

    • #21
  22. Joe Escalante Contributor
    Joe Escalante
    @JoeEscalante

    David Deeble:Joe – Would you be so sanguine if Christie next came after your Jamison?

    My bathtub is ready for that.

    • #22

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