Monday, April 20, 2015

Stoned to Death


The helicopters were whirring outside my window all morning and when I finally got out on my bike, I had to weave through large numbers of people, themselves weaving a bit. Didn’t take me too long to catch on —it’s National Weed Day! And I'm not talking about the things you pull out from your garden. Judging from the number of folks on the streets on a Monday afternoon, it’s a very important San Francisco holiday. The mood was festive, the policemen were everywhere, but just watching and enjoying. Given that marijuana is still illegal, an interesting social comment that on this day, it’s “Yes, but…”. Even the law can sometimes be flexible.

But not in Singapore. Interesting to have just come from a place that has a sentence on its arrival form: “Remember: The penalty for drug trafficking is death.” Perhaps Singapore also has a flexible attitude, distinguishing between massive heroin smuggling and someone with a joint tucked away in their backpack. But I wouldn’t count on it. According to Amnesty International, over 300 people have been executed since 1991 for possession of drugs, some of it marijuana and many of the people the users rather than the big-time dealers. Often with a dubious trial.

And so in one place, weed smokers are stoned to death (well, technically hung) while others are just stoned. Some are caught by killer cops while some partake of killer weed. And there you have the full range of the human comedy and tragedy.

On the plane ride back, I read John Grisham’s non-fiction book “The Innocent Man,” a sobering account of innocent men in Oklahoma put through a broken judicial system and one coming within four days of execution for a crime he clearly didn’t commit. Without giving away too much, he finally is freed, but only after he spent 12 grueling years in a horrible prison. At the end of the matter, the prosecutors who clearly rigged the trial didn’t think it necessary to apologize.

Maybe had the lawyers smoked a little weed at the trial, they would have mellowed out a bit and not been so cruel.

But I wouldn’t count on it.

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