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Ironic and Absurd

Marvin R. Shanken, Gordon Mott
From the Print Edition:
Andy Garcia, March/April 2014

It is now legal to sell and smoke marijuana in Colorado and Washington. More states, including California and New York, have begun making noises about legislation that would turn marijuana into a legally available substance. In the two states where recreational use is now legal, retailers are being licensed and regulations are being created to govern things like how much a person can buy at one time and what levels constitute driving while impaired with marijuana in your bloodstream.

Even President Obama opined that marijuana is no more dangerous to society than alcohol. From the president on down, the general drumbeat has been to end the ruinous war on drugs that has put thousands of people into prison for offenses like selling even small quantities of pot or just possessing the drug for personal use. Lives have been ruined for these non-violent crimes, and in part, have given rise to the drive to legalize marijuana, to take it off the streets and into a regulated environment.

How ironic is that? Right now, the Food and Drug Administration is considering regulations that would eliminate all walk-in humidors by prohibiting consumers from handling any cigars. They would undermine one of the best ways for cigars to be regulated by making it hard for the legion of brick-and-mortar retailers to keep their businesses thriving; seriously, if a tobacconist can’t talk to you and walk around a humidor with you, what value does he add to your cigar-smoking experience?

That’s just one example of how the government’s attitude toward tobacco is becoming even more aggressive than it is toward a substance that has been illegal for nearly a century. Instead of seeking compromises with smokers, the prevailing attitude is to do everything short of declaring tobacco illegal while making it difficult or impossible for people to enjoy what is still a legal product. We even read one news story where an ordinance was passed to prohibit smoking in public; one cop was quoted as saying he’d probably give a free pass or two to people smoking pot instead of ticketing them. We know that a cigar smoker probably wouldn’t get the same free pass.

We are not arguing that there should be no regulations of tobacco or marijuana. Age limits. Licensed vendors. Even reasonable taxes. Those are all ways that a society can protect those who might be vulnerable to unlimited access. But we would like to see some consistency in the way the rules are being applied. If licensed vendors are seen as a way to minimize the risk of sales of marijuana to minors, then tobacconists are already in place to keep a premium handrolled cigar out of the hands of underage smokers.

It is just absurd to hear arguments being made that marijuana is OK for you, yet there is no acceptable way to enjoy tobacco. Let’s get back to a level playing field, and stop trying to take away one of life’s great pleasures: a premium handrolled cigar.

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