Brainiac on Banjo: The Weed of Crime Bears Bitchin’ Fruit

Earlier this month the Illinois legislature passed and sent to the governor a bill legalizing the sale and possession of marijuana. Within 24 hours, I had received a half-dozen emails and texts asking me when I was moving back home.

I’ve been gone a third of a century, but – like most obnoxious Chicago ex-pats – the city remains imbedded in my heart. The people, the traditions, music and the folklore, and the highly dangerous but totally fabulous junk food that is all such an integral part of the city’s culture remains remarkably seductive.

Of course, I don’t have to move back home to experience these newly legalized pleasures: despite the fact that Connecticut (my present locale), New York, New Jersey and Rhode Island failed to finish negotiating all the many sidereal issues regarding legalization before the early June end to their legislative terms, all four of those states – much like almost all of the other states where recreational weed remains under legal sanction – desperately need the tax revenue. For some reason Republicans feel that ending welfare-for-the-wealthy is somehow un-American, cigarettes have been taxed to the point where plummeting sales are making it counterproductive as a revenue producer, and we’re simply running out of new syn-taxes. Hence, legal weed! You can tax the shit out of that!

Of course, the private prison industry, big pharma, and the alcohol distributors (but not necessarily the retailers) are fighting these efforts tooth and nail, and they can count on the support of all those prissy busybodies who have yet to succumb to an overdose of their own sanctimonious behavior. They have yet to appreciate that the only thing Frances Willard, Ruth Tibbets Tooze and their fellow travelers at the Women’s Christian Temperance Union – established just off the campus of Northwestern University in beautiful downtown Evanston Illinois where next year weed will be sold openly – ever accomplished was solidifying the mob’s illegal hold on our economy. Membership in the WCTU is at an all-time low, and that is 118 years after they called for the outlawing of the game of golf on Sundays.

You can see the tide shifting. We can no longer afford to investigate, persecute and incarcerate weed wackies, as if that was ever a good idea. By and large, police departments feel there are better uses of their budgets and energies. Those people who are not white Americans – soon to be the majority, taken in the aggregate – are tired of being tossed in prison while most of their white counterparts roam about freely making the nation smell like midnight on St. Mark’s Place.

Of course, there are dangers inherent in ending weed prohibition in Illinois. Chicago is home (and damn near the only decent locale) for that most tasty of all delicacies, the Italian beef sandwich. It just so happens that my favorite Italian beef is served at a location that will be a mere one-quarter of a mile from a cannabis outlet.


As William Powell told his victims in the movie Jewel Robbery (1932) as he was handing them a “cigarette” that they were about to find quite amusing, when they awake they’ll have an enormous appetite.

This same outlet is even closer to one of those ginormous supermarkets East Coasters confuse with airports. I truly pity those straight folks who will be walking down the Oreos aisle. They’re going to be in for something rather unusual.

Maybe this will lead to a revival of underground comix. Sales of wireless headphones might increase. People who otherwise would drive to their local bar and get into fights and spend the night with beings of other species will stay home, saving gasoline and therefore narrowing our global footprint.

Best of all by far, the holy-holies will become even more pissed and, yes, that is possible. Same-sex marriage, open cohabitation, safe and legal abortion in a majority of America’s major population centers, condoms and vibrators available for purchase at the Wal-Mart … it’s been a rough couple of decades for the preposterously pious.

So… I think now you know the real reason why I’m looking forward to legalization.

(The author would like to thank singer/songwriter Tom Paxton for the “midnight on St. Mark’s Place” bit.)

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