FLYOVER COUNTRY—ON SMOKE AND MIRRORS
As a society, we Americans have never been serious about ending the “scourge” of intoxicant abuse. We have undertaken some flamboyant half-measures, such as Prohibition and The War On Drugs, but we aren’t really serious about such things despite the real world violence and imprisonment that arise out of the good versus evil pantomimes we produce.
Places like Singapore and Malaysia are serious about drug abuse. Remember former “Jail Blazer” Damon Stoudamire? In 2002, a pound of marijuana was found in his Lake Oswego home. Whether the pot was really his or his father’s would have been immaterial in Singapore, where both men would have been a mere two ounces away from mandatory capital punishment because the search thrown out of court here would have been entirely valid over there. Regardless, in the island city-state they’d have likely been convicted and Damon would have been looking forward to twenty more years in prison with caning scars on his backside rather than being an assistant head coach at Memphis.
In 2003, Stoudamire was arrested at the Phoenix airport after being caught with 40 grams of marijuana. Those charges were dismissed four years later in a plea deal.
In Singapore, Damon would have been a presumed trafficker by possessing any marijuana in excess of 15 grams. For the metric impaired, that is a couple of stems over one-half ounce. Caught at the crossroads of Asia with the ounce and a half he had in Phoenix that day, he’d have been facing a mandatory five year prison sentence and some lashes from a cane. Of course he would have already been in prison and never had the opportunity to be busted again had he lived in Singapore.
I am not going on about Stoudamire to trash him, but to illustrate a problem that really has little to do with him individually and everything to do with us as a whole:
We are a nation of hypocrites. Not all of us, but enough of us that it really doesn’t matter that there are a few holdouts. Despite this, the downsides of chronic marijuana use upon focus and motivation are pretty well known. What to do?
An extensive treatment of the history of marijuana in this country is beyond the scope of this column. Suffice it to say that just like alcohol we’ve had a shame inducing love affair with the stuff. In countries where marijuana, and all “harder drugs” are treated as mala in se, their manufacturers/growers, distributors, and customers all face severely life altering or life ending penalties for their actions. In societies such as ours, where drugs of all types are treated merely as mala prohibita, we make the laws to be progressively harsher on the suppliers whilst giving their customers a laughably easy pass.
Al Capone intimately understood this hypocrisy which afflicts us. He was a supplier being pursued by a fraction of his erstwhile customers for having the audacity to supply them the illegal alcohol they consumed. It was he who said, “When I sell liquor, it’s called bootlegging; when my patrons serve it on Lake Shore Drive, it’s called hospitality.”
This is the part of the column where hypocritical American convention requires my sermonizing on the evil that is a fraction of the Ducks football squad, and indeed, a good minority of all male NCAA athletes, partaking in marijuana. Sorry, but no.
I won’t do it. I’ll spare everyone my hypocritical speech about, “Say as I do, and don’t do what I did,” and only inflict that upon my own children. As to the Ducks players, and even to all of their spliff smoking PAC-12 counterparts along the coast in these three states overgrown in marijuana according to the DEA, I’m just going to say this: You’re all adults now.
Undoubtedly your parents would prefer you don’t smoke marijuana, if not out of concern for your health, then out of concern for your judgement. Your coaches don’t want you smoking the stuff because it’s a distraction, one which can get you run off of the squad for breaking team rules. Your sober teammates don’t want you baked during a film session or blowing your academic eligibility away in a haze of Purple Kush. Your prospective NFL general manager would much prefer you put your money into an index fund rather than into a bong with your entourage, and to work out rather than play Madden all evening with a buzz.
And perhaps they’ll all be saying those things out of acute self-interest, but what of it? It is impossible for many people to tell you not to do something because it is “wrong” as they themselves have done it too. That doesn’t mean people who know better lack the wisdom from which to inform you that smoking marijuana and expecting to continually perform at a high level are mutually exclusive. They are saying that they are unwilling to be hypocrites about it. Like every successful person who has had a dalliance with weed, eventually you find things out for yourself–or you don’t until it’s too late. You eventually learn that the high itself, and/or the doing what it takes to pursue it, becomes more trouble than it’s worth. Why wait to see it for yourself?
So, if you are a Pac-12 footballer smoking dope today during your down time, come away with a few realizations the next time you look into a mirror; 1) you will likely grow out of this phase, so why not get busy today? 2) by God, some of your buddies or rivals just got a league wide head coaching crackdown launched and you might want to quit while you’re ahead, and; 3) if you think you need to keep smoking despite heightened scrutiny, it’s also probably time to admit you might have a problem.
Any folks weighing in on this topic are likely not doing so from a tee totaling background either. I know I am not. We don’t bring morality to the discussion, we bring the light of past experience.
As for Damon Stoudamire, of all things he peed in a cup for John Canzano some years back to prove he was clean. Apparently, he understood he’d never have a career in basketball, let alone in coaching, if he was continually seen to be popping rivers of eye drops throughout the day and having close calls with law enforcement. His unofficial drug test, (blasted by the NBAPA by the way for being outside of the collective bargaining agreement), was the first step in a long road back, not to respectability per se, but to having credibility. He nearly allowed a “benign drug” to kill off the prime earning years of what turned out to be a $70 million, 13 year NBA career. Now he works with the players of the Memphis Tigers’ men’s basketball program. What do you think he’d have to say to his players about marijuana smoking being “no big deal?”
Thought so. It’s never a big deal—until it is too big of a deal to ignore. The time will come when you look in the mirror and a stranger with different goals than you remember having stares back at you “blown.”
When you ignore how your appetites control you, and your conduct continually colors the perceptions of the people around you, you become the butt of jokes, fairly or not.