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Apr. 28 2010 - 1:50 pm | 510 views | 0 recommendations | 6 comments

Marijuana Legalization and Tobacco Demonization Are The Latest Salvos In The War On The Working Class

welcome to stepford — June 23

Image by theogeo via Flickr

It may strike many as odd that even as local governments across the country wage war on cigarettes, drinking, tanning, fast food, and lap dances, marijuana smoking is increasingly tolerated. (I know that I used to be baffled by the phenomenon) A closer examination of the issue demonstrates that there actually is an internal coherence to these developments, however. In sum, these regulations and developments stem from the American Middle Class’ attempts to enforce its values through all of society. Middle Class prejudice, in other words, explains why a Californian can’t smoke a cigarette in a bar, but will soon be able to buy a joint from a corner store.

The American Middle Class – and particularly those sainted “Middle Class Families” – has a stranglehold on American politics and policy. Most every candidate for political office in the United States, from the Reform Party candidate for assistant Dog Catcher of Loving County, Texas, to those running for the highest offices in the land, claims to be running in order to protect “Middle Class Families.” Electoral strategies hinge on the turnout of Soccer Moms and post 9/11 Security Moms – code words for suburban, Middle Class voters. Once they’re installed in office, winning politicians continue to pander to the Middle Class, as well. Last month, our president pitched his new plans to “fight” for the Middle Class. The recently passed Health Insurance Reform bill was really a protection measure for the Middle Class. (Poor people have access to health care through Medicaid. Obama’s bill was about allaying Middle Class concerns such as health insurance portability.) Plans for a “cap and trade” environmental bill are also about allaying Middle Class environmental anxieties.

That “cap and trade” bill has not yet passed, so how (aside from buying a reusable grocery bag) is the typical suburban Middle Class American to allay her fears of imminent environmental doom? By sparking a joint, of course.

Indeed, in recent decades, marijuana has increasingly become the favored high of the Middle Class. Whether because they think it’s “medicinal” or “natural,” it is now standard and accepted for Middle Class Americans to get stoned. “Pot-growing takes root in the suburbs,” reported an AP dispatch from 2007, and Science Daily reported in 2008 that the Canadian “Middle Class is relaxing with marijuana.” Television programs like Weeds, and popular movies like American Beauty, routinely depict suburbanites getting high. The children of the Middle Class have embraced pot smoking as well. A recent 4/20 rally at that bastion of Middle Class kids, UC-Santa Cruz, brought out thousands of suburbanites demanding the “right” to get stoned. Researchers Richard J. Bonnie and Charles H. Whitebread suggest that the Middle Class acceptance of weed stems from the fact that today’s Middle Class Americans were children of the 1960’s – the time that pot smoking became widespread in the US. Whatever the reason, it is clear that the days of Reefer Madness are far behind us.

Viewed through this lens, it becomes clear why marijuana is increasingly tolerated by our political overlords: it’s yet another Middle Class pander. This also explains our government’s ceaseless attacks on cigarettes, drinking, tanning, eating fatty foods, and other “working class” behaviors.

Let’s just stick with cigarettes – after all, like marijuana, tobacco is smoked. Cigarette smoking is vilified by suburbanite Middle Class types, yet remains a hallmark of working class culture. As a Gallup survey found in 2008, “among Americans, smoking decreases as income increases.” Working class bastions Kentucky and West Virginia boast the highest smoking rates in the country, and, until last year, smoky taverns filled with working class loggers, machinists, and welders, abounded throughout my great state of Oregon.  Clearing those rooms of smoke represented an imposition of Middle Class values on working class culture. Yet again, the Middle Class was able to dictate the terms of what is “acceptable” in America. This also explains the various wars being waged on heavy drinking, eating fatty foods, and tanning, for these behaviors are linked with working class culture, and vilified by the eternally anxious Middle Class. 

It would be fine if the Middle Class kept its pot smoking, anti-cigarette ways back in Stepford, where it belongs. By why does its second-hand intolerance and anxiety have to waft towards the rest of us?


2 T/S Member Comments Called Out, 6 Total Comments
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  1. collapse expand

    These posts are jokes, right? I mean there’s no other explanation for how ridiculous this has become.

    Viewed through this lens, it becomes clear why marijuana is increasingly tolerated by our political overlords: it’s yet another Middle Class pander.

    On the other hand, viewed through the lens of reality, we can see how totally fucking stupid this is: the judicial burden of the War on Drugs falls mainly on the poor and minorities. African-Americans represent 13% of the American population but over 60% of those incarcerated for non-violent drug offenses. Low-income drug users get harsher sentences for possession of the same kinds and amounts of drugs as their richer peers.

    By why does its second-hand intolerance and anxiety have to waft towards the rest of us?

    Right! Take a stand for tolerance and against oppression by supporting marijuana prohibi-wait, what?

    It would be fine if the Middle Class kept its pot smoking, anti-cigarette ways back in Stepford, where it belongs.

    Except that it’s illegal to smoke pot in Stepford, stupid.

  2. collapse expand

    A few more papers on how marijuana arrests and convictions are harsher for lower-income minorities:


    Reefer Madness: Broken Windows Policing and Misdemeanor Marijuana Arrests in New York City, 1989-2000

    The pattern of misdemeanor marijuana arrests in New York City since the introduction of “broken windows” policing in 1994 is remarkable. By the year 2000, arrests on misdemeanor charges of smoking marijuana in public view (MPV) had reached 51,267 for the city, up 2,670 percent from 1,851 arrests in 1994. In 2000, misdemeanor MPV arrests accounted for 15 percent of all felony and misdemeanor arrests in New York City and 92 percent of total marijuana-related arrests in the State of New York. In addition, the pattern of arrests disproportionately targeted African-Americans and Hispanics.

    Ethnicity and Sentencing Outcomes in US Federal Courts: Who Is Punished More Harshly?

    “Middle class” oppression? Not by a long shot. The poor and minorities disproportionately bear the sentencing burden of the counterproductive and racist War on Drugs.

  3. collapse expand

    I think you’re right, let the loggers kill themselves eating a greasy steak while drinking a pitcher of Budweiser in a smoke filled tavern outside of fucking Reedsport. Those soccer moms will be littering half smoked joints of BC Bud outside the supermarket, mingling the roaches with the Marlboro Light butts of the common working man. Remember when the guy at the table next to you in a restaurant could indiscriminately light up (cigarette) one after another, sometimes pressing the hissing butt into his half-eaten mashed potatos? I sure miss those lumpen proletariats. Tom Medlicott

  4. collapse expand

    Ethan, you’re a globetrotting writer with a college education at a pricey liberal arts school. You’re not working class. You’re an ignorant privileged dilettante who earnestly believes that “cigarettes, drinking, tanning, fast food, and lap dances” are working class values. Maybe if you knew any working class people you wouldn’t stereotype them as jolly hedonists.

  5. collapse expand

    Did the expression “pot stirrer” originate from the slang expression “pot”? or the word “stirring”? Might need some adderal to figure this one out. Be back to in a bit….

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    About Me

    I'm a writer based in Portland, Oregon. My work has appeared in the Weekly Standard, the American Spectator, the New York Press, The Big Money, sp!Ked online, the Epoch Times, the Daily NK, and others. From 2005 to 2007, I wrote a column on culture and politics for the (alas, now defunct) Seattle-based Internationalist Magazine. In so doing, I filed dispatches from Berlin, Seoul, Paris, New York, and, yes, Reno - among other places. In 2009, I reported on business from Shanghai. I attended Reed College, in Portland, Oregon.

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