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Let prisoners get
high on marijuana

By John Silveira

Issue #96 • November/December, 2005

Anyone who reads this column knows I don't think drugs should be illegal. I'm not saying I want to take them, because I don't. I'm just saying that what you want to do with your own body is your own business and not the state's nor your neighbor's. The primary reason the United States imprisons a greater proportion of its own citizens than any other is because of drug laws. Make most, if not all, drugs legal and the prisons will empty out. In fact, the price of drugs will plunge so far that you won't have to steal to buy an "eighth" of weed any more than you have to rob or burgle to buy a six-pack of beer.

Speaking of prisons, I've been watching documentaries on The History Channel, National Geographic, and others about American prisons and prisoners. Prisons are very violent places. I wouldn't want to be in one, not as a guard, not as an inmate. Then it suddenly dawned on me what the solution to prison violence could be: Let those who are incarcerated smoke marijuana, as in weed, pot, grass, maryjane, cannabis, etc. Let 'em smoke as much as they want. All day! Twenty years? Hey, do the time calmly. What do we care. Let 'em grow it in their cells.

What would a prison full of pot smokers be like? As many others have pointed out, when some guy's about to rob a bank, beat his wife, or steal a car, the drug he's going to take is a drink of alcohol, not a puff of pot. A puff of pot and all the plans go up in smoke. Stoners I've known want to socialize, not victimize. Inmates will be sitting around "zoning"—moving slowly, talking slowly. Many will just want to sleep.

The story of Clyde, the poker player

When I was young and playing lots of poker, drunks were tolerated in the game as long as they didn't slow it down. Drunks lost their money. But stoners? I hated them at the table. They couldn't lose their money fast enough to make up for the time they wasted. All they wanted to do was talk, socialize, or stare off into space. They couldn't focus on the business at hand. Everything slowed down. I figured in the games I ran, hands were dealt at about 20 to 30 hands per hour. More hands meant more money for me. But one stoner in the game slowed it to about seven hands an hour—one hand every 8½ minutes. It killed my hourly earnings.

One guy who frequented our game often showed up stoned. Each time the action came around to him he had to have everything explained to him again.

"Your bet, Clyde ....Clyde, your bet ...CLYDE!"

"Huh?"

"Your bet."

Who's in?"

I'd patiently explain to him what each player had done before him—who had checked, bet, called, folded, or raised. He'd stare at his hand for several seconds, examine his cards carefully, then he'd ask, "What's the game?"

I'd tell him.

"Who bet?"

Again, I'd go through who had checked, bet, called, folded, or raised. He'd call, then resume socializing or staring.

There'd be cards drawn, or another stud card dealt, or a community card flopped, and then the next betting round of the hand began. The action would get back to him, and I'd say, "Clyde, your bet ...Clyde ...CLYDE!"

"What's up, man?"

"The bet's to you."

He'd look around the table. "Who bet?"

I'd take a deep breath and go through the entire process once more. I'd even have to tell him, again, what the game was. Too many games of seven stud, with all of its betting rounds, made for a long night.

The downside is fat prisoners

In a poker game a guy like Clyde, when stoned, is exasperating. But if I were a prison guard, a warden, or especially if I were a fellow prisoner, that's what I'd want around me or occupying the next cell—guys like Clyde. Nice, slow inmates afflicted with logorrhea.

The downside? About the only things I can think of is that prisoners would exercise less, eat more, and gain weight. So what! The food bill would be going up on far fewer inmates. And gang warfare? Stoners aren't violent. Most would just want to socialize and satisfy the maryjane-induced munchies.

I know someone's going to say people will be committing crimes just to go to jail for the free weed. But I don't believe it. I don't know anyone who'd willingly go to prison, with the exception of some who have already been in so long that they're capable of nothing other than institutionalized lives. And even if there are some, don't worry. As I said, decriminalize drugs and there will be plenty of room for the few who think a nice way to spend what remains of their three score and ten is in a six-by-eight concrete condo.

You think I'm joking? Irresponsible? Insane? I'm not.

Legalize marijuana and we'll empty our prisons, and those violent people who do end up there will be more docile, making the prisons safer for both inmates and guards.

But for the love of Pete, whatever we do, let's keep it illegal to smoke the stuff at poker games.




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