My buddy Sam sells weed for a living. Some might disparage him as a dope dealer. He prefers to describe himself as an importer of agricultural goods from California.
"I provide a quality product, demand is high, and I rarely have to search for clients," he says.
This being the first weekend when some D.C. residents can legally catch a buzz, since Congress didn't kill the city's new medical marijuana bill, I asked Sam if he was worried about the competition from city-sanctioned pot dispensaries.
"Not a bit," he says. "The city's regulations make it so hard to buy marijuana that my business might actually benefit."
Indeed, the medical marijuana bill passed May 4 by the city council is one of the more restrictive in the nation. It allows doctors to recommend pot to relieve the pain for patients who have cancer, HIV, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis or other conditions where weed has proven to ease suffering. Patients can purchase four ounces a month -- which is plenty. The District's health department would permit five to eight dispensaries to sell pot. The bill prohibits weed growing in D.C.
"Way too narrow," says Sam.
Sam is betting the city's official pot stores will be no match for the moist buds he imports from Humboldt County. But does the city's slouching toward semilegalization of pot mean we are on a slippery slope to legalizing possession of small quantities? Begs the question: Is it time to legalize pot and make Sam a taxpaying pillar of the community?
Let's be real -- pot is ubiquitous in our fair capital. Whether I'm walking down Columbia Road in Adams Morgan, strolling Wisconsin Avenue in Tenleytown or touring Martin Luther King Avenue in Anacostia, the unmistakable scent of pot has filled my nostrils. People, young or old, light up at Carter Barron concerts or high school athletic events. Federal substance abuse statistics show that 11 percent of Washingtonians older than 26 smoked pot last year. That puts D.C. higher than Vermont on the stoner scale.
So why not just legalize pot? Let me count the reasons.
Reefer madness aside, smoking pot messes up your brain, especially if you are younger than 18, when the brain is growing. I believe research that shows pot can do permanent damage to young people. In short, pot makes you dumb and forgetful.
I have seen its effects firsthand of late. Two of my daughter's friends were failing out of college. They quit toking up; both are better engaged in classes and their grades are soaring.
Funny how my daughters' pot-head friends can't seem to stay in college. Not so funny. I have seen marriages and relationships fail because one member was a stoner.
So, yes -- legalizing pot is a dumb idea. People will get high, they will rarely get busted, and Sam will have a thriving business. But there's no need to put the government's stamp of approval on a practice that fries your brain, especially in the nation's capital city. Apologies for the buzz kill.
Harry Jaffe's column appears on Tuesday and Friday. He can be contacted at email@example.com.