Opinion » Bill Cope

Weed Out

What's next? Dreadlocks?

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I've been breaking the law. Again. Forty years ago, I did it quite a bit. Not nearly as much as some people I knew back then. Jeez, they were breaking it all the time. Some of those guys wouldn't go to a movie unless they broke the law first. Or listen to a Pink Floyd album. Or drive down to White Castle in the middle of the night and order a dozen of those little onion-y gut busters. (I was in Ohio at the time. Most Idahoans have never had the opportunity to go to a White Castle at two in the morning and eat a dozen tiny hamburgers for a quarter each. But then, most Ohioans have never had the opportunity to go whitewater rafting, so I suppose things even out.)

My law-breaking was of a relatively mild nature. I was what you might call a "recreational law-breaker." Weekends only, and only then if I knew I wouldn't be running into a lot of irritating people.

However, about 35 years ago or so, I quit breaking that law. Not because I was afraid of getting caught. Nope, if I'd been afraid of getting caught enough to quit, I would have never started breaking that law in the first place. Maybe I quit because it wasn't as fun anymore. Or because it was getting more expensive all the time. Or because it seemed to me that there were a lot more irritating people around than there were when I started.

Now that I think about it, I can't remember precisely why I did quit. I suspect it had more to do with me having new things to do. Like being a husband, working a job, helping raise a family, deciding I no longer wanted to spend my weekends giggling at every silly little thing and gorging on Fritos and Ding Dongs.

Actually, now that I really think about it, it's not so much that I quit. I just took up other stuff and had less and less time to break the law. I put it off to later. And later, and later. Thirty-five years later, or so.

It's probably a good thing I put it off. I was breaking the law, after all, and had I continued on like I was doing, my chances would have risen every year, every day, every time I did it, of becoming one of those thousands and thousands and thousands of people who got caught breaking the same law I broke. And had I been caught, it's likely I would have gone to prison, along with all those other thousands who did get caught. Then it would have been a whole 'nother life I'd of lived instead of the one I did live. All because I'd broken a law that millions and millions of Americans were breaking continuously, over and over.

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But just lately, I've decided to break it again. I no longer have any bosses to pee into a cup for, the family is done raised and after 40 years of marriage, if my wife suddenly decides I am no longer a fit husband, I'm confident her list of reasons is long enough already without having to add my criminal behavior.

Yet that doesn't explain why I started again. Is there a medical issue that would be alleviated by me taking up my old scofflaw ways? No. There is for a great many people--even people who don't live in states where you're not breaking that law if you have a doctor's permission. I guess those are the people I feel the worst for, those people with medical issues that could be alleviated if only they'd been born in... say, California, instead of... say, Utah. Or Idaho.

So does it have anything to do with the change of legal status down in Colorado? Nah. Only in that the controversy has reminded me how many Americans have broken the same law I broke... am breaking... will continue to break until the same change in legal status comes to Idaho. And I'm not holding my breath for that to happen anytime soon.

But it will happen, you know. Idaho might be the last state in the Union to change that particular legal status, but in time, it will happen. That's the thing conservatives never understand: Once a social barrier is breached, it can't be un-breached.

Of course, that doesn't stop them from trying, does it? No matter how many people have to pay the price of their intransigence, no matter how overcrowded our prisons become, no matter how many lives have been squandered and families broken, they hang onto their unlivable dream world down to the last raggedy thread.

But, just as in all those other things conservatives fight to prevent, it happens anyway. Inside the law, outside the law, skirting around the law, scooting in under the law... it would seem there are some things which all the laws in the world can't do much about.

Leaving me with a question for those people charged with enforcing a law that everyone but the densest conservatives understands is going to change, eventually: Will you cops and prosecutors and jailers continue disrupting young lives, perhaps even ruining young lives permanently, over an offense that in five years, 10 years, will no longer be an offense?

As for me, I'd have a hard time living with myself if that's how I made my living.

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But I still haven't explained why I've taken it up again, have I? Honestly, I don't know if I can answer. I'm not doing it out of peer pressure, that's for damn sure. I'm not doing it because I think it will make movies seem groovier, or television shows spacier or music more intense. I'm not doing it to relax, or for inspiration, or for any reason I might have done it 40 years ago.

If it matters to you so much why I'm doing it, how about you tell me why you do it. But keep it short, OK? We both know how irritating long-winded people are.