As you may know by now, in a tragic act of insane violence, Arizona Rep. Gabby Giffords was targeted for assassination, but survived the point-blank gunshot allegedly fired by Jared Lee Loughner, a 22-year-old man whose rambling internet paranoia calls his sanity into question. Loughner also allegedly fired into the crowd, killing a 9-year-old girl (born on 9/11/2001, incidentally), a federal Circuit Court judge, a Giffords staffer, and three others, and wounding several more. All of us at NORML are shocked and saddened by the event and our condolences go out to all the friends, family, and colleagues of the victims who are suffering so much at this time.
Much is being made of Sarah Palin's imfamous "Take Back the 20" website, where 20 representatives were "targeted" with bullseyes, including Giffords, because they voted for the Obama Health Care Bill yet serve in districts won by McCain/Palin in 2008. In announcing the map, Palin had tweeted "Commonsense Conservatives & lovers of America: 'Don't Retreat, Instead - RELOAD!'" and in covering the results of the election, she tweeted, "Remember months ago "bullseye" icon used 2 target the 20 Obamacare-lovin' incumbent seats? We won 18 out of 20 (90% success rate;T'aint bad)". Also, Gifford's opponent, Jesse Kelly, held an event advertised as "Get on Target for Victory in November Help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office Shoot a fully automatic M16 with Jesse Kelly." (By the way, not a typo in missing the periods after "November" or "office".) Others in response say Loughner was just a fringe crazy person whose actions cannot be blamed on inflamed political rhetoric using firearms and battle allusions.
But while "insane loner psycho just lost it" or "violent rhetoric leads to violence" works for most people as an explanation for Loughner's actions, for some there has to be better scapegoat. Whoever had "less than 24 hours" in the "when will they blame this on marijuana" pool just won:
His exact motivation was not clear, but a former classmate described Loughner as a pot-smoking loner who had rambling beliefs about the world.
High school classmate Grant Wiens, 22, said Loughner seemed to be "floating through life" and "doing his own thing."
"Sometimes religion was brought up or drugs. He smoked pot, I don't know how regularly. And he wasn't too keen on religion from what I could tell," Wiens said.
And on Huffington Post, we find comments like this in response to the news:
Looks like my neighbors kid. He wears long black rain coats, I've seen him strung out on the grass, carries a 357 magnum in hand outside of his house....walks with an attitude, rumors have it that he has been in court for drug possesion.....don't you love this world. Sad, sad and sad.
"another endorsement for the medical marijuana lobby I am sure."
If Loughner at age 22 is a pot smoker all that tells us is he is a fairly typical 22-year-old male. Among young adults, 31% will use cannabis at least once this year - almost one in three! 12.4% of people that age will use cannabis at least twice a week. And that's all young adults, male and female, aged 18-25. If we drill-down to just 22-and-23-year-old males, 56% have tried marijuana, 30% will use marijuana this year, 18% will use this month, and 6% will use marijuana almost every day. (All data from the 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, which doesn't identify data for only 22-year-olds.)
Now, Loughner does sound like the kind of person who should not be smoking pot. It's never a good idea for people with mental illness like schizophrenia to use cannabis. However, locking up mentally healthy adults who use cannabis in Arizona didn't stop Loughner from smoking pot, did it? In fact, it may have made it easier for him to do so, as he could acquire it from anonymous dealers who don't care if he's mentally disturbed instead of being forced to enter a secure dispensary with video cameras and licensed clerks who could be trained to spot mental illness and offer treatment resources paid for by marijuana profits (much like the lotto bars here in Oregon train bartenders to spot problem gamblers, require all such bars to offer gambling addiction literature, and all treatment is free for those who need it.) Unfortunately, Rep. Giffords opposes decriminalization of marijuana for fear of the violent Mexican drug organizations. In the last Congress she sponsored a resolution supporting the Merida Initiative to send more money and guns to Mexico to fight the cartels.
The part that really disturbs me is that just last year, Arizona Gov. Brewer signed a law that allows adults 21 and older to carry a concealed weapon without a permit, joining Alaska and Vermont as the only states where any citizen can be legally packing heat in public at a political rally without any sort of registration or training to do so. Had Loughner been approached by a police officer and that pistol was found in his pocket, legally there would have been nothing the police could have done.
But if Loughner had a joint in his pocket, police could have arrested him and he may have faced six-to-eighteen months in jail. If Loughner had been pulled over driving to the rally and a piss test revealed he had smoked a joint last week, he'd be placed into mandatory 24-hour custody and faced six months in jail.
Arizona: If you look Mexican, we need to see your papers. If you're smoking pot, we need to throw you in jail. But if you want to take a concealed gun to a political rally, we don't need to see any papers and we won't throw you in jail.