Originally posted on Drug Law Blog by attorney Alex Coolman
This week is the second anniversary of this blog’s debut in the world (with this unremarkable post) in April of 2006. I completely forgot about the first anniversary, but I’ve been thinking about the two year mark a lot because my life has changed significantly in the last year.
When I started doing this blog, the great Drug WarRant was the main blog that I was aware of that was writing regularly about these issues. I wanted to take a drier and somewhat more legally oriented approach to writing about the issue than Pete does at his site, both because I was in law school at the time and because there didn’t seem to be much of a web presence around the legal issues, in spite of their importance. I also had a self-interested motive: I thought it could be a way to “brand” myself as a criminal defense lawyer, and it would also be a way to talk about issues that are important to me.
Two years later, I would say that my motivations have changed.
In spite of what many people in the legal community seem to think, I don’t know that blogs are actually a smart investment as advertising. What they are, in fact, is a bottomless hole that swallows up countless hours of time that could otherwise be spent doing activities that actually produce income. I’m particularly aware of this now that I’m struggling to get my tiny legal practice together, because work I spend on this blog is work that costs me money and energy. I don’t have much of either to spare these days, and even the small monthly fee I spend on hosting feels like an extravagance. Plenty of people have contacted me regarding legal issues because of this blog, but almost all of them want free legal advice about random questions that I can’t answer in any event. It’s not a useful business tool, to say the least.
I also don’t particularly care any more about fashioning myself into some sort of “authority” on drug law. I realized not too long ago that I actually have no need to feel authoritative, for better or worse!
So whatever the old plan was, it’s not with me any more.
At this point, I’m just writing this blog because people need to speak up. I’m writing because I think our drug policy is a real moral problem, one that simply can’t be ignored in a country where one percent of the entire population is now incarcerated. As I’ve been writing about the move to criminalize salvia, for example, I keep being struck by the parallels between the facts-be-damned approach to legislation around that drug and the approach that was taken in 1937 around marijuana. What if somebody had demanded that some research be done before those initial laws were put on the books so long ago? Perhaps we wouldn’t have spent the last 70 years pursuing a policy that has caused a great deal of pointless suffering.
I’m also continuing to write this blog because I want to make the legal discourse around drug law more accessible to the everyday people who are affected by it. I really love the equalizing nature of the Internet, the way it makes law and government more open to anybody with a computer, and the way it upends the politics of information scarcity that have made law so inaccessible to regular people. I think the power of the Internet to open minds and challenge entrenched authority is one of the strongest factors that will encourage policy reform, and I’m really happy that I can be a part of it.
Those strike me as worthwhile concerns, and it’s enough to keep me going for now. The economics of this enterprise make no sense at all, and the tangible results of the work, unfortunately, are almost nonexistent as a practical matter. But I actually do think the discourse around drug policy is slowly shifting, and I hope this blog is part of that shift.
The other thing that I think about is that I’m part of a newer generation of folks who are picking up the drug policy reform torch after decades of work by other people. I had a funny conversation with Jack Herer (the “emperor of hemp”) not too long ago, and he was talking about how he and Eddy Lepp had sworn back in 1974 to work every day on the cause of legalizing cannabis.
To me, that puts things in perspective. I was born in 1974. Herer is an old dude now, a grizzled veteran of the the drug war . He’s still fighting the fight as best he can, but somebody has to take his place eventually. Even though I’m not a champion of marijuana in the way that Herer has been, I’m happy to take up the fight for laws that make sense. And many others are also involved in that fight, like the Drug Policy Alliance, Americans for Safe Access, the Marijuana Policy Project, and so on. Drug policy reform is not yet a reality for the most part, but I think it’s not crazy to expect that progress will be made before too long.
Maybe we’re even in a better position today to actually change the law. Folks like Herer have been essentially sailing against the wind for 30 years, pushing a liberalizing policy in the face of a general cultural backlash, cynical “tough-on-crime” politics, and all the rest of it. We’re now at what I think is the endpoint of that trend — where the hypocrisy of the drug war has become so manifest, and where the cost of waging that battle has become so extreme, that even people who don’t particularly care about drug policy can see that it might make sense to change course. At any rate, that’s what I hope.
It’s been an interesting and worthwhile two years. Thanks to everybody who has said hello or given a word of encouragement along the way.