Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Right to Smoke

(Final paper submitted for IHR, II AY 08-09. This is more a reflection paper, not an academic paper.)

Let me start off by introducing you to Mario. Mario is a bright, recent college graduate. He graduated cum laude, and applied at once for a job. He was denied the position because it was found out that he smoked marijuana. He has been smoking pot since he was sixteen.

Then there's John, also a college graduate. He married a girl who was a US citizen. During the interview for immigration, he admitted to having smoked weed a few times when he was in college. He was denied immigrant status for something he smoked several years ago.

The names of these people are, of course, all fictional. But their scenarios are real. I personally know people who have experienced this kind of discrimination, all because of their marijuana smoking.

What I would like to point out here is that the right to smoke marijuana should be recognized. People should be allowed to smoke, or at least given the choice to smoke or not to smoke.

Before we start, let me just define some terms I will be using in this discussion. Marijuana is, of course, that infamous plant that is used for mind-altering purposes. Its active chemical is delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. The plant belongs to the genus Cannabis, of which the most popular species for human consumption is indica. It may be smoked, like tobacco, or it may also be ingested. The act of intoxicating oneself with marijuana is known as getting high.

Marijuana is also known by several names, the most popular being "weed" and "pot". The term "pothead" refers to chronic smokers, or those who get high at least once everyday, or almost everyday. I will be using the term "pothead" a lot in this discussion, simply because the alternative name "addict" is too harsh in my opinion.

Marijuana is of course outlawed by Western society, and by most of the world in general. They have declared potheads as criminals, because their acts (of getting high) are defined as criminal.

The criminalization of marijuana is rooted mostly in economics. This began way back in the early part of the twentieth century, and the war on marijuana was instigated by William Randolph Hearst, a rich American tycoon. Hearst owned a huge part of the US cotton industry, and declared war on the hemp industry to preserve his semi-monopoly on American fiber. He spread rumors about marijuana being "the devil's weed", used mostly by the African-Americans and Mexicans in committing atrocious crimes. In 1937, the United States Congress passed the Marihuana Tax Act[1], which is the law that criminalized the marijuana plant.

But that's just the American scene. The rest of the world followed suit following the United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs[2] in 1961. Previous treaties only mentioned opium and coca, and this is the first UN Convention that incorporated cannabis as a controlled substance. Several conventions followed, of which the latest is the United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances[3] in 1988. And even today, marijuana still remains in the criminal category.

Of course, this is not to say that all states have the same marijuana laws. The Netherlands is one of the most popular countries where marijuana use is not considered criminal. The Dutch people actually “overwhelmingly approve of current cannabis policy which seeks to normalize rather than dramatize cannabis use.”[4] Take note that what the Dutch government decriminalizes is only drug use. “Production, trading and stocking drugs remain a criminal offence, as in any other country.”[5] Some American states and European nations have lowered the penalty for marijuana possession and drug use, but the Dutch government is still the leader in decriminalization for providing no penalty at all for personal marijuana use.

And since marijuana laws are not the same in all countries, despite the existence of all those conventions, then it follows that potheads are not treated the same in every country in the world. This then is where the problem lies. The right to smoke is recognized in some jurisdictions only. But I would argue that it is, and it should be, a universal right that must be enforced. The criminalization of marijuana has caused more harm to society, has broken up more families, and has shattered more futures than the actual plant itself.

Okay, so the anti-legalization advocates will argue that it is illegal because the law says it is, and because the United Nations classified it as such. And yet the power to reclassify marijuana, or to move it to a different schedule, also lies with the same body that declared it illegal. Somehow the illegal status of marijuana based on statutes is the first hurdle that must be overcome for decriminalization.

But assuming that there is no international convention or treaty in the way of decriminalization, marijuana use should still be afforded the same status as alcohol and tobacco. What alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana have in common is that these are all substances consumed for the sake of pleasure only. Alcoholics, smokers, and potheads should thus be given equal treatment, for the reason that people similarly situated should be treated equally. And the only thing that differentiates alcoholics, smokers, and potheads, is that potheads are, in the eyes of the law, dangerous criminals.

The difference in society’s perception between all these vices is actually one of the causes of discrimination. People who have drinking problems are sent to support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous; people who smoke pot are sent to jail. In the workplace, people who drink are reprimanded; people who smoke pot are fired. And again, what is the difference between the two but a few words on some piece of paper?

Another argument I would like to pose is that discrimination against potheads is a discrimination based on culture, or more specifically, a subculture. I firmly believe that pot smoking is already a valid yet unrecognized subculture. Among all the so-called substance abusers, the potheads are the only ones that satisfy the characteristics of a legitimate subculture. Let’s take for example the junkies (the heroin users), and the ravers (the party people who love dropping ecstasy). One could also argue that these people also form their own subculture, since they too have their own jargon, their own terms, and this subculture is also seen in the movies when they portray junkies and ravers, most of the time with startling accuracy.

But the pothead universe goes way, way deeper than the other so-called subcultures of the drug users. Potheads have their own websites, and their own literature. They have their own monthly publications, like High Times and Cannabis Culture, both very popular magazines with international circulation. Potheads also have a wide range of paraphernalia, which include, among others: bongs, or water pipes; rolling papers, with different grades, depending on the thickness of the papers; rolling machines, for those who do not know how to roll a marijuana cigarette with their hands; pipes, literally in all shapes and sizes, wooden, glass, and other materials, and even special pipes for smoking hashish; and hookahs, also in all shapes and sizes. These paraphernalia are sold online through the websites, or through the magazines, or physically at the marijuana coffee shops in the Netherlands. The companies who make these paraphernalia are devoted solely to that. They don’t make pipes on the side. They make pipes especially for these customers. These companies were created to cater solely to the potheads’ needs.

The potheads have their own line of clothes, the most popular being ordinary t-shirts emblazoned with the marijuana leaf. They also have their own music, embracing the laid-back sound of Jamaican-born reggae as their own, being compatible with their own laid-back lifestyle, and declaring Bob Marley as their official icon. They also have major organizations like NORML (National Organization for the Reformation of Marijuana Laws), whose sole mission is to see that potheads are protected from the unjust arms of the law. And they have countless celebrities, including famous actors, as well as athletes, all endorsing their call for decriminalization. Now I’m pretty sure the alcoholics, smokers, junkies, and ravers have nothing like this under their belt.

Much as I would like to stretch this topic into a full-blown academic paper, it would require tremendous research on my part, which I am not sure I would be able to do right now. But still, I hope I got my point across. Though some people may not recognize the right to smoke marijuana as a human right, something still has to be done about the discrimination that potheads go through simply because they refuse to stop smoking. Despite its illegal and criminal status, marijuana smokers continue to thrive, and I don’t see them decreasing in number in the years to come. So either the governments of the world start to reform the marijuana laws, or the potheads of the world will unite and start demanding their rights.


Sunday, March 29, 2009

How to Study for Crim Pro

1. Smoke.

2. Swim.

3. Read Rules of Court.

Repeat 'til sunset.

And I pray that I pass this semester.

*first two pics from Facebook. Last pic from Dino.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Last Day of Class: Gender

Fri, 20 Mar 2009.

This is another elective subject. And like most electives, we have no exams.

That's my professor, Carolina Ruiz Austria. Here are a few things I have learned about her since the start of the semester:

  • She is a hard-core feminist;
  • Her political alignment is red (not really sure, but I am almost certain);
  • She is smart;
  • She is pretty;
  • She is smart and pretty;
  • She is married (but does not wear her wedding ring);
  • She has a daughter.

I have a schoolboy crush on her. If she wasn't married, I would ask her out. Haha.

*pic taken without consent

Friday, March 20, 2009

Last Day of Class: Crim Pro

Thurs, 19 Mar 2009.

Goodbye, Sir Arno. I love Thursdays because of you.

Because we are a chummier class, we can have pictures taken like this:

That's Sir Arno Sanidad in the middle. Everyone present except Doc Jan Esquivel.

Thanks to Christian Silva for the not-so-high-quality pic. Ho-hum. (Why is everyone smiling except Sir Arno? And me. Hahahaha)

You can also join The Arno Sanidad Fan Club on Facebook. Another senseless Facebook group created by me. I love senseless Facebook groups. (Coming soon: I Heart Sir Barry on Facebook.)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Last Day of Class: IHR

Wed, 18 Mar 2009.

The semester is indeed almost over. I will miss Sir Barry.

I will always remember him as the professor who was able to explain the difference between "equality in law" and "equality in fact," in less than a minute, in a way that you will never forget for the rest of your life.

I heart Sir Barry. Despite the previous dismal grades. Sir Barry is funny without even trying. Or maybe it's just me.

*pic taken without consent.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Sharon, Gabby, and the Baranggay Protection Order

Mon, 16 Mar 2009.

More adventures outside Malcolm.

My neighbor and childhood friend (codename Gabby), male, police officer with the rank of PO1, had an argument with his wife (codename Sharon) last Saturday night. He hit his wife at the back of the head four times with the butt of his standard issue handgun. Then he left. As a police officer, he spent weekdays at his assignment (somewhere south) and weekends with his family. He would be back on Friday.

I went to his house and saw his mother. I gave her a copy of the Baranggay Protection Order form, told her to tell Sharon to fill it up, take it to the baranggay, then wait for the protection order, which should only take a few minutes. That would be valid for fifteen (15) days, at which Gabby would not be allowed to come near his wife and children.

Yay. I feel so lawyerly.

However, I sense a certain weakness with the mother, as if she is not brave enough to go against her handgun-hitting first-born. I also remember that there is also a certain weakness with the wife Sharon. Maybe by Friday, her head would have cooled off. Maybe she would miss her husband. Maybe they would have great make-up sex afterwards. Maybe the protection order would be forgotten. But still...

Yay, I feel so lawyerly. (Lawyerly may not even be a word.)

I would like to thank my professor Bing Guanzon, for teaching me to start acting like a lawyer outside the classroom. I heart Bing Guanzon because she makes me say I heart.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Happy Birthday Miss President

Thursday, 12 Mar 09.

Happy birthday to our beloved class president, the soon-to-be-married Ms. Maricel Casison. She is 27 years old.

That's her on the right, calling everyone to eat her cake. Behind her is the usually tense Ms. Monica Marcelo, and the one in red is the always bitchy Mr. Rex Paras.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

My First Client(s)


I missed classes to save my friends. I didn't really teach them the legal stuff. I taught them more about human relations and interactions with law enforcement agents (I am the first-born child of a police officer, after all, which makes me the most experienced).

Received a text message that said: Gp.nahuli kami.punta ka d2.dali.

I answered: San kyo?

Reply: grandstand (referring to the grandstand of the UP Sunken Garden).

I immediately went there, and I soon learned that my friends from undergrad were caught smoking pot by the Special Service Brigade (SSB for brevity).

To hide their true identity, I shall call the people involved by codenames. The students caught smoking were Marcos, Denver, Champoy, Byron, Airwalk, and Superstar, the only female in the group.

It seems that these students were smoking pot in the middle of the Sunken Garden, but no pot was actually found in their possession. All the SSB had was an unmistakeable lingering odor of marijuana and a couple of red-eyed kids. They were apprehended by two SSB agents, who we shall call B1 and B2.

When I got to the grandstand, Marcos was already conversing with B1. Among those caught smoking, Marcos was the most experienced, and he already knew what to do. So I let him be. Denver, however, was a little rattled, and kept whispering to me, "Geeps, pa'no to?"

I assured him, "Wala 'yan. Makakaalis din kayo mamaya."

Denver asked me, "Gaano pa katagal, man, kanina pa kami dito."

I looked at B2, and jokingly told him, "Ser, baka pwedeng sorry na lang, hahaha."

Champoy looked at me strangely, wondering how in the world I could manage to make a joke like that at a time like this. But that was part of my strategy, to let the SSB agents loosen up a bit.

Surprisingly, B2 answered, "Naku, hinihingi ko nga ID nila kanina e, ayaw nga ipakita e."

I looked at everyone and told them, "Bakit 'di niyo pinakita ID niyo? Titignan lang naman nila kung enrolled kayo e, para siguradong estudyante kayo ng UP. 'Di ba ser?"

B2 replied, "Oo, mga estudyante pala kayong lahat e. Sinu-sino pa ba magtutulungan dito?"

Lesson #1: SSB agents are nicer to bona fide students. Most offenses you get caught doing will be mitigated by the fact that you are enrolled.

Marcos approached us after talking for a long time with B1. "OK na pare, kakausapin nalang 'yung brod ko. Pero pupunta pa raw 'yung Team Leader nila." (referring to the Team Leader of the SSB agents B1 and B2.)

So while waiting, I decided to go and talk to B1 and B2. To get them on our side.

(points to me) Kasama ba 'to sa mga positive?

Hindi kasama 'yan.

Hindi ako kasama, pero kaibigan ko ang mga 'yan.

(to the ones caught smoking) Ser, itigil niyo na kasi 'yan e. Idol pa naman namin kayo. Kayo ang mga susunod na presidente ng Pilipinas.

Oo nga ser, 'di ba. Mainit pa naman ngayon ang Alabang Boys, kaya dapat mag-ingat sa mga ganyan.

Oo nga, tama 'yun, blah-blah-blah...

Lesson #2: Appeal to the human side.

These people are not the enemy. They are not monsters. They are people, with feelings, and hence, can be manipulated.

Team Leader then arrives. I tell Marcos to keep it at the same level, and apparently he already knows this.

Lesson #3: Keep it within the same level.

If we cannot settle this on the SSB level, they will take it to the UP Police. After the UP Police, still without settlement, they take you then to the Quezon City Police. So as long as we still had it on the SSB level, we had to make sure it stayed on that level only. Do everything you can to keep it from reaching the UP Police.

Then the Team Leader talks to Marcos, whose fraternity brother was the head of the SSB. They are able to reach a compromise, and they call for me.

Geeps, gawa ka raw ng promissory note, na hindi na raw natin uulitin 'to.

Ano, affidavit?

(points to me and explains to Team Leader) Kaibigan kasi namin 'to taga-College of Law.

A talaga? Misis ko nandiyan, sa Library nagtratrabaho, si Ma'am Trixie.

Sa second floor ho?

A hindi, sa baba siya e.

O sige ano isusulat ko?

Basta isulat mo diyan na atin-atin na lang 'to tsaka hindi niyo na uulitin.

A sige alam ko na.

Lesson #4. The name "UP LAW" carries so much weight that the law students sometimes take it for granted that they are studying in the best law school in the country.

And so I drafted something really quick for my friends to sign.

We, the undersigned, do acknowledge that we were apprehended by the Special Service Brigade this night, the 11th of March, 2009, at the UP Sunken Garden, for unruly behavior and loitering after curfew hours.

We were let off with a stern warning that repetition of said incident would result in strict disciplinary action in accordance with the rules of the University.

There. Not one mention of marijuana. Everyone signed it with their name and student number. I even volunteered to sign my name as witness, as a sign of good will to my friends.

Lesson #5. Never leave your friends/clients. They will rely on you to see them safely through the whole ordeal.

After that, they let us off the hook. It still cost my friends around P500, I think. Still, it's better than going to the police, right?

I kept saying "Thank you" to the SSB men involved, including their team leader. They were really nice after that.

Lesson #6. Never stop saying thank you. It boosts their ego.

Before leaving, I tried my hand at one more joke. I told them, "Ayan, mga ser, 'di ba may Alabang Boys? Eto naman po ang mga Diliman Boys."

Everybody laughed, both the potheads and the SSB guys.

You'll know it's a happy ending when everybody laughs.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Bing Guanzon Show: Free Drinks Special

The first group to present a report on the Baranggay Project was our group. After that the professor was so happy, she bought the whole class a round of (non-alcoholic) drinks.

Memorable lines:

Who doesn't know how to use a condom? I don't want you leaving my class without knowing how to use a condom. So that when you have sex, you'll think of me!
-Bing Guanzon

* * *

There was also a happy memory, though not as happy as "The Assassination of Anthony Soprano".

* * *

Another quote from Bing Guanzon:

Who's that? (pointing to a picture of me on the screen. I raised my hand.) Oh, I thought it was a kagawad.

That's definitely not the first time someone told me I looked like/sounded like/reminded them of a kagawad. Whatever.

* * *

Lesson learned: Sorority sister-relationships are stronger than mere friends or classmates.

Duh. What the hell was I thinking.

Anyway, whatever happened to equal treatment and cold neutrality?

The Assassination of Anthony Soprano

Encrypted for protection.

Date: W24BD+1

All events on this day are condensed into one single memory, codenamed "The Assassination of Anthony Soprano".

*Play back memory. Repeatedly.*

                       So far.