Saturday, January 29, 2011

Should Pot Be Legal?

Should pot be legal? It seems like a harmless question. This question was posted on my friends' whiteboard on their door in the university dorms. The answers were "hell yeah" and "hell no." The last time we saw it, there were four votes in favor of legalizing and none against. This was erased by an RA who left a message claiming that it was offensive and inappropriate. So we decided to write it again without using the word "hell." It was later erased. My friend had told me that I should put something on his door regarding freedom of speech. I put the question up again and printed off a sheet saying the following in large letters:

Freedom of speech in the United States is protected by the first amendment to the United States Constitution and by many state constitutions and state and federal laws. Criticism of the government and advocacy of unpopular ideas that people may find distasteful or against public policy are permitted if they are not violent in nature.

Shortly after putting this up, the RA saw me and had a talk with me. After the talk, he made me take the stuff down (btw, there was another vote in favor and still none against). During the talk, he made a bunch of spurious arguments against the speech, including that it might have the impact of encouraging people so smoke pot in their rooms. As you can tell, it is a laughable suggestion. If we had put up a poll asking if the licensed age for driving should be 15, would we be suggesting that 15-year-olds should drive unlicensed? Another argument along these lines is that political speech is not allowed on doors. I doubt the driving example would provoke him, but since it is about drugs, all of a sudden it is inappropriate. Furthermore, its not as if the speech was encouraging support of a position, party, philosophy, or candidate.

After this, he claimed that it was not allowed in the housing contract. The contract says that you cannot display "harassing or demeaning material" on your door. It also says you cannot do door-to-door campaigning, "All forms of door-to-door canvassing and soliciting, whether for
commercial or informational purposes, are prohibited." It would take a loose interpretation to consider this door-to-door canvassing considering my friend did it to his own door. There is nothing else in the contract relating to what you can or cannot post on your door.

In addition to the arguments against our posting, he claimed we were disrespectful in disputing him and questioning his authority. He may have interpreted it that way, but I was just asserting our rights to free speech. I thought his actions were disrespectful. Why resort to "I am authority so you must obey now without question" (not his actual words, but my interpretation) instead of having a civil discussion and talking things out? At the same time, I think he was being disrespectful to everyone on the floor. I would find it disrespectful to have someone say that I cannot see speech like that because it had the potential to harm me. I'm an adult. I can make adult decisions, and I can engage in critical thinking.

We will be meeting with the Resident Life Coordinator later in the week, and I will post what comes of it.

PS I have seen a Democratic sign on his door, but it is no longer there. A little hypocritical for someone who thinks political speech shouldn't be on doors.

1 comment:

  1. I have had encounters similar to the one you mention here and indeed it appears to be a pervasive mentality amongst authority figures these days to essentially make up the law as they go along. The 1st amendment is eroding faster than anyone, at least in government and the media, seems to realize or care about. I hope your meeting with the RLC goes well and s/he is more receptive to your well-founded arguments.

    Just my two cents, you might think of bringing up the recent vote in CA to decide whether or not to legalize marijuana there. Since it's already been discussed in public I don't see how you can be criticized as introducing something inflammatory or demeaning. Good luck!