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In the Matter of Richard Polk

our long, national hypocrisy continues

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, April 11, 2007.

The depth and breadth of our national hypocrisy on marijuana and other currently illegal drugs came into full focus here in Boulder when a City Councilman was pulled over for erratic driving and found to be stoned out of his gourd, the car full of pot smoke, a warm pipe and the weed itself in plain view. Further, he admitted he’d been smoking, and that it wasn’t particularly strong stuff, and could he go now? All this to the Boulder Police, if the newspaper was correct.

In the hands of the Boulder District Attorney, the case suddenly became vague and hard to convict, and charges were reduced, and then the City Council had to decide if intoxication by an illegal substance willingly obtained and used by one of their own was, indeed, a crime, and if driving under the influence of same was a crime, and if the level of responsibility for public safety shown by this individual was a crime, and golly gee what the municipal founding fathers really meant by “crime” and “felony” in the first place, and this because it had to be clear if they were to remove him from the Council. Last night, this turmoil came to an end, with Councilman Richard Polk given a stern talking to and allowed to continue. Mr. Polk felt his unwilling departure would be a disservice to his constituency, who had, after all, elected him. Naturally, the hypocrites on both sides of this issue took to the streets. Well, the keyboard, anyway.

Let me be clear from the get go – and you need to think about this, given the University and the Hill District - there has, on occasion, been no bigger drunk in Boulder than myself in public exhibiting shameful behavior, so I’m not lecturing from a point of moral purity even if I were not a convicted felon. Thirty years ago, I left a band I was managing in at a club in western Colorado to drive home to Boulder. It was icy, and I’d been drinking. Rather a lot. I drive slow when I drink, but I hit black ice, reacted slowly, hit the brake and spun across I-70 into oncoming traffic and between cars who fortunately reacted well. I have few bad dreams, but that is one of them. I could have killed people that night, and the fact many of us might say as much doesn’t really clear the slate, does it? I had no damned right to put people in that position.

And, of course, what if something had happened to deprive the world of me? Have I no sense of that loss to history? What was I thinking? Well, I wasn’t, obviously.

I’m also long on record as saying the War Against Drugs is both idiotic, counterproductive, and impossible to enforce, and that most of the restrictions for them should go away. The result of these strange restrictions has been several generations with low regard for the law and our justice system in general because of arbitrary enforcement, hypocritical application, and nonsensical reasoning to justify the two, punctuated with numerous examples of the powerful and famous getting a pink wrist while some long haired punk gets prison time.

In aggregate with the RICO level industry of false identifications made on college campuses to allow the under aged to drink alcohol, our Puritan institutional fear of people seeking respite and enjoying themselves has managed to do more damage to our regard for law than anything else, including the avaricious attorneys working the system for profit.

I also agree, from first hand knowledge, that pot tends to calm and allow the deep reflection and insight that alcohol rarely does, whatever we think.

But I also get upset that the subculture of pot smoking, which is top to bottom across the economic scale, refuses to acknowledge it as dangerous or addictive at all. They insist on being seen as the morally pure in a fight for freedom, not addicts defending their jones. They cannot even admit that being stoned on the job is as bad as being drunk. And they choose to view a city councilman, sworn to higher standards and pulled over – not for smoking pot but for bad driving – as a martyr for their addiction.

Polk is a good guy. He is generally a conscientious member of the Council. Further, between his arrest and last night, his wife passed away. Boulder is a compassionate town, and as one who has benefited from that as well as paying for its hypocrisies, I’m not an ideal frontman.

But I am someone to point out that, sooner than later, this grotesque hypocrisy will rot out any remaining regard for law or justice, and that is not something restored by one election or a witty letter to the editor. Nor is it a conflict easily solved. Even when stoned.