The PJ Tatler

Liberal totalitarians carve out a niche for marijuana smoke

Sometimes you read a news article that perfectly encapsulates a certain mindset.  When I read in today’s Marin Independent Journal about the soon-to-be enacted anti-smoking ordinance — one that excludes marijuana and herbal cigarettes — I thought to myself “That’s it!  That’s the perfect example of Progressive totalitarianism nicely packaged with the usual dollop of hypocrisy.”  Here’s the story:

Marin’s war on smoking was blunted Tuesday as a measure cracking down on tobacco and other “weed” was sent back for revision to make clear the crackdown does not include marijuana.

Although supervisors were in agreement with the policy when county staff last month asserted an ordinance outlawing smoking in unincorporated-area apartments included marijuana and other herbs as well as tobacco, the county board Tuesday abruptly called for revisions making clear tobacco was the only weed at issue.

The move came at the urging of Supervisor Kate Sears, who called for changes in ordinance language defining smoking as puffing “tobacco, weed, spices, herbal or other plant life” to make clear only tobacco products were involved.


The county law, modeled on a strict anti-smoking measure in Larkspur, outlaws smoking in private indoor spaces including balconies, carports, decks and common areas; requires landlords to set up “smoking permitted” areas; requires existing apartment complexes to be 80 percent smoke free and new complexes to be smoke free. Landlords and condominium boards could seek exemptions for up to 20 percent of units, which would then be grouped in a “smoking section.”


The law would be enforced by county health officials and violators could be fined $100 and/or five days of community service. A second violation would generate a $300 fine and/or 10 days of service, and a third violation within one year, $700 and/or 15 days of community service.

When asked why she made the exception, Sears said that marijuana is already illegal.  Of course, as Sears well knows, the fact that it’s illegal doesn’t stop anyone from smoking it.  Her answer strikes me as somewhat ingenuous.  After all, goal behind the law is to protect third parties from smoke, so that it shouldn’t matter whether the smoke is generated legally or illegally in order to achieve that goal.  Indeed, one of the supervisors, Susan Adams, understood this, since she “expressed concern about those who inhale second-hand marijuana smoke….”

I happen to loath the smell of tobacco smoke.  I’ll do anything to avoid it, and happen to benefit a great deal from the ever-increasing number of non-smoking laws.  Having said that, I still find disturbing a mindset that thinks it’s appropriate to dictate to people what they can do in their own homes if they’re unlucky enough to rent, not own.

These kinds of prohibitions are a bizarre form of redlining, one that bans poor people (who, in Marin, are more likely to be renters) from an activity in which richer people can freely engage.  More than that, this kind of policing strikes me as hypocritical when it comes from the very same people who routinely lambast conservatives for trying to impose control over people’s private lives.

Naturally, this kind of “liberal fascism,” to use H.G. Well’s peculiarly infelicitous phrase, is par for the course here in liberal Marin, which only recently banned grocery stores from offering their customers plastic bags and that forces them to charge for paper bags.  What makes the above story so delightful to those of us who enjoy the ethical tangles in which Progressives manage to trap themselves is the way in which marijuana gets thrown into the mix.

There’s good evidence that marijuana use is just as damaging, in its own way, as tobacco use — but marijuana, unlike tobacco, is a counter culture drug.  It therefore comes complete with the politically correct stamp of approval.  The net result is that Marin’s poor people are barred from engaging in Dangerous Behavior “A” because it’s associated with capitalism (i.e., Big Tobacco) while they’re free, under Marin ordinances, if not under criminal law, to engage in equally Dangerous Behavior “B”, because it comes under the pop culture/counter culture rubric.  Likewise, third parties in Marin will now be relieved from the burden of inhaling politically incorrect second-hand tobacco smoke, but must still suffer the hardship of inhaling hip, politically approved second-hand marijuana smoke.

Stories such as this one remind me that one of the best things about leaving liberalism behind is the fact that I no longer have to grapple daily with the cognitive dissonance and hypocrisy that is an integral part of the “liberal” mindset.