(NASHVILLE SKYLINE is a column by CMT/CMT.com Editorial Director Chet Flippo.)
In the wake of Hurricane
Katrina, Willie Nelson was one of the first celebrities to hold a fundraising benefit for the victims. He also mobilized Farm
Aid's resources to aid Gulf Coast farmers in distress, and he was quick to take part in several other benefits, including
one in New Orleans organized by Arlo Guthrie.
Now, the state of Louisiana rewards Willie Nelson for his good deeds
for disaster relief by busting him for a relatively small amount of marijuana (well, a pound and a-half of weed is brunch
and dinner for Willie, I can testify, as a sometime Willie bus passenger) and for a few ounces of mushrooms (no doubt intended
for Saturday night's spaghetti supper on the bus).
You know, this is just plain silly. Seems to me that America's war
on drugs has become as phony and ineffective and clueless and pointless and endless as its war in Iraq.
This was an
easy bust, a career-boosting, gold-star-rating, guaranteed AP story kind of bust for an ambitious, Dudley Do-Right state trooper.
Willie's bus is very recognizable, and anybody who doesn't know that Willie takes a little toke every now and then must live
in a backward state.
Is this really the face of the war on drugs? There are a lot of people sitting in stir and doing
serious time for small-time marijuana possession. Over the last two decades or so, I've known several decent guys who went
off to prison in Texas for small amounts of marijuana.
I think what most people would rather see is major busts of
crack factories and meth labs, the sources for the serious drugs that are truly crippling America's inner city and heartland
youth. But those busts are harder to get. We're not seeing those. Those are hard work. The Dudley Do-Rights might get their
creased trooper uniforms dirty, trying to bust sleazy crackheads and meth freaks. And politicians would get no headlines or
photo ops out of those difficult tasks.
Even Johnny Knoxville has weighed in on this matter, declaring, "He [Willie]
gets arrested in Louisiana for weed? I mean, if he's not singing a benefit for Louisiana or for the farmers, he's singing
a song about the city of New Orleans -- and they bust him for weed? He should have rolling fields of marijuana to harvest
at any time. Leave Willie alone, man. ... Let Willie smoke."
Not that Johnny Knoxville is the voice of a thoughtful
nation, by any means, but I know his family from when I lived in Knoxville, Tenn., and his father regularly worked on my Jeep
at his car repair shop, R.T. Clapp Car Center, and I know that such families are the backbone of the heartland. Their voices
should be heard, and I know that's where Johnny's values were formed. The city of Knoxville is conservative territory, but
it's also territory where individual freedom and liberty are still championed. And I think Johnny's grassroots opinion on
this matter is that of most down-to-earth people.
I will tell you what, and you can bank on this: In the long run,
marijuana is by far among the least of the threats facing this nation. Legalize it. And minimize it.
That will neutralize
it. You won't see any more fish hooks dangling at eye level in state and national parks where the renegade weed growers hide
their crops and try to maim or trap and then kill trespassers. You won't see any more deadly, sharpened and poisonous punji
sticks guarding those same illicit marijuana patches. You won't see any more worthless, vicious thugs running the underground
smoke trade -- because there won't be any underground smoke trade. Instead, we'll have state or national government-administered
smoke shops run by the usual inefficient, bumbling, corrupt civil servants. Unless they turn it over to Starbucks.
old friend Kinky Friedman, the next governor of Texas, has called for the legalization of marijuana, saying "We've pretty
well lost the war on drugs doing it the way we're doing it." Kinky's not a user, but he's a realist. And I think that's the
issue. Chasing smokers is a waste of time, money and law enforcement resources. There's little to show for it, except trophy
busts such as Willie's. Legalize it and neutralize it and therefore make it middle class and unhip.
Look at Amsterdam.
The legal cannabis coffee shops there are really safe ... and kind of boring. That's why dope really is dope.
marijuana into your father's boring little indulgence or into your wise old grandfather Willie's harmless afternoon smoke
and no teenager will be attracted to the illicit lure of a glamorous, banned substance. No danger and no risk equal no thrill.