Looking Askance: Pot legislation, it’s too early to get your bong

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“Got your bong yet?” Barney asked.

I don’t feign total innocence about the world of pot smoking but, on the other hand, I am hazy on the exact nature of what you do with a bong. “Breaking Bad” fans know it is used in some manner for inhaling marijuana.

Barney enjoys tweaking irritation and he sees New Mexico’s struggle with the idea of legalized marijuana a fertile field for his carping. He has long made fun of the Land of Enchantment. Barney’s rant is somewhat maddening in that it comes from a guy who lives in New Jersey, a state whose administration shuts down traffic lanes if it doesn’t get its way.

Governor Martinez confidant Jay McCleskey comes close to the New Jersey model, shrieking “Buster screwed us!” and “The gov is furious … It is VERY bad.” But he’s small time. Even Jay wouldn’t pull strings to shut down I-40 and strangle Santa Rosa if that city didn’t play ball with the state. Or I don’t think so, anyway.

I tried to explain all this to Barney but there was no deterring him. “So what will be the response of that two-bit column of yours to the idea of smoking grass while you are mowing it”? he wondered.

It’s a conundrum, for sure. The legislation being pushed by Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino would legalize marijuana and expand our state’s tourism appeal beyond the Carlsbad Caverns and the Taos charm. Question is, do we want people coming here to get stoned?

Ortiz y Pino explains, “The whole point would be that it would be a step toward a more rational approach to a use of this substance, more as we do with alcohol now.”

“Barney,” I said, “there are those who argue throwing people in jail for smoking marijuana is ridiculous, and others who say its use is the first step to a descent into hell. You might be interested in a couple of opinions that make sense to me.”

I told him about writer David Brooks who is one of the smarter guys around. Brooks recounts his early use of pot as a kid and concludes in the final analysis he and his friends left marijuana behind basically because it is kind of “dumb-down” lifestyle. Brooks said, “… being stoned is not a particularly uplifting form of pleasure and should be discouraged more than encouraged.”
Legalizing marijuana, he argues, drastically reduces the cost of pot and thereby makes it more available to the masses. That nurtures a society in which it is a bit harder to be the “sort of person most of us want to be.”

That is a somewhat compelling argument, as is the common-sense take of former Rep. Jack Skinner, now retired in Las Cruces and a keen observer of the New Mexico scene.

“I don’t think legalization is a good idea in the first place, but at the very least — the very least! — New Mexico doesn’t need to jump into this thing. We have the perfect opportunity to sit back and watch Colorado for a few years and observe its experience with legal marijuana. What’s the big rush?”

“What I am getting,” Barney said, “is this guy says this, another guy says that. What I want to know is what do you say? Dodging the issue, are you?”

“Hold on there, Barney!” I protested. But I hung up when he lapsed into a butchered rendition of the Peter, Paul and Mary classic:

Puff, the magic dragon,
Lived by the sea,
And frolicked in the autumn mist,
In a land called Al-Bu-Ker-Kee.

Ned Cantwell – ncantwell@bajabb.com – claims he is so innocent he thinks “bong” is what happens when you ring the church bell.