Sunday, February 08, 2009

The Arizona Reefer Review

Smoking pot in dormitories is rude. As is smoking tobacco in dormitories. Or smoking either while walking on a crowded sidewalk. And smoking anything while sitting in front of Espresso Art and pooh-poohing "consumerism" is hilarious for reasons lost on the average non-analytic thinker.

But marijuana possession or consumption is at least as peaceful and safe as having a bottle of Riesling in the fridge or having a glass thereof with lunch. There's no secondhand drinking--but secondhand smoking of any kind can be regulated separately. (And why did we get a private property ban but not a public sidewalk ban? That's exactly backwards!) Moreover, if a pot smoker gets violent or kills someone in a car wreck due to his consumption, it's so rare that it's remarkable in the true sense of the word. To be arrested and penalized for possession, even if the penalty is the "referral to the Dean of Students" given to privileged University of Arizona students--Joe Average gets probation if he's lucky--is simply wrong.

And it's largely unnecessary. Avoiding arrest if in possession doesn't require a Jedi mind trick a la "These are not the drugs you're looking for." Under ordinary circumstances--unless evidence of crime is in plain sight, the police are in "hot pursuit" of a criminal suspect or the public is immediate danger--one can refuse police entrance to a place one rightfully occupies until they produce a search warrant. Over on the Desert Lamp, Connor Medenhall has begun to review University of Arizona marijuana cases and found that many students could have avoided trouble if they simply stood on their rights.

Learning your legal rights--and if you live in a dorm, review your lease carefully--can save you much time and grief, whether or not you're breaking the law. It takes a little more effort than waving a sign at the Capitol and chanting a slogan, too, but you'll be doing yourself a direct favor with tremendous positive externality.

What do I mean? Imagine if Maricopa County had to hire a process server to deliver each photo-radar ticket. A certain cost/benefit analysis would completely change. Now imagine if the police had to go before a judge every time they wanted to have a look around for a couple of spliffs in the desk drawer. Try justifying that one to the supervisor when there's real crime--the sort with victims--to fight.

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