Who are the people in your neighborhood who legalized marijuana?
Write to the Point
Anyone sitting through the Jan. 14 hearing on a proposed marijuana growing and processing facility in Cheney likely took away any number of observations.
What struck me was the emotion those opposing the facility projected during testimony. The heartfelt desire for maintaining a good, strong, family-oriented community wasn’t just expressed, and expressed well, but was a virtual physical presence.
But several statements caused me to pause and wonder – how well do we really know our community. How well do we really know those who live next to us, who we meet at the grocery or auto parts store, sit a row down in church or on the bleachers at a football game?
One of these statements was a confident assurance about those 55.7 percent statewide that voted for Initiative 502 legalizing marijuana for recreational use in 2012. Most of them “seven-eighths” were west of the Cascade Mountains.
The other, made by most everyone speaking in opposition, seemed to reflect a confidence about the demographic make up of marijuana smokers. Most of this was negative, conjuring up the dregs of society.
It got me thinking back to the night the initiative passed. Sitting at the Free Press analyzing the incoming general election data, I was surprised not just that 502 was passing but also because of where.
Yes, 13 of the 16 counties in Western Washington and Puget Sound approved legalization. But seven-eighths is 87.5 percent, and only King County came close at 63.49 percent. Most of the rest were right around the statewide result.
Then there’s that bastion of conservatism, Eastern Washington. Five of the 20 counties – Chelan, Okanogan, Ferry, Whitman and Spokane – approved legalization, 52.7 percent in Spokane.
With the vote long since completed we can go back and see precinct results, of which Cheney has five. Every single precinct approved 502. Overall, 55.7 percent of the city’s voters siding in favor of legalizing marijuana.
So out of say 10 houses on a block, 10 apartments in a complex, 10 people at a Safeway, Mitchell’s or Cheney Trading Company check out line, almost six voted to legalize pot. Using “Family Type” table data from the 2010 Census that would mean 55.7 percent of the 1,669 families, the 1,093 husband-wife families and the 473 with children under 18.
That’s too generic, but we can ask this: Who are these people? Are they all drug users? That would be hard to ascertain specifically without more information, but it illustrates a point that those who approve of legalized marijuana, at the least, are pretty mainstream. In a column last Sunday, Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker – who is generally pretty conservative with her viewpoints – admitted that “yes, I toked too” when she was younger. Further on she added that those who have or still do aren’t “nefarious denizens of the underworld” but people who are “selling you a house, golfing on the ninth hole and probably an editor or two here and there.”
An editor or two? Huh?
It’s true the drug culture has created, and still does, shady characters. So does alcohol, smoking, the gun culture and even Wall Street.
I’m not here discussing the moral question of legalization, as some of those who testified did. There certainly is one, and it should not be shortchanged. It’s a topic for another column.
But the fact is, if you lined up 10 ordinary, every day, tax paying, hard-working nurses, doctors, mechanics, salespeople, advertising and marketing reps, teachers, professors, administrators, security guards, accountants, bankers, bakers, candlestick makers, men and women who just want to pursue the American dream, raise good children, create good schools and communities and ask someone to point out who among them smokes pot, or approves of it, you’d be hard pressed to do so.
It’s something to keep in mind next time you feel with assurance that you know who your neighbors are.
John McCallum can be reached at email@example.com.