I’m a smoker. Well, I used to be. I grew up in a household where my father and brother each smoked three packs a day of cigarettes. I grew up hating the smell, the dirt from the ashes, and the fact that my clothes smelled. My godmother was a fierce smoker, and so were her sister and brother, and her daughter. This was the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, everyone around me smoked but my mother.

I swore as a young man that I wouldn’t smoke. That lasted right up until it was Casablanca night in college, freshman year. I can remember the night as clearly as if it happened yesterday.

I’m East Coast educated, and everybody had overcoats and hats. So of course, when you’re going to see the quintessential Humphrey Bogart movie, you have to don the entire look. And who could possibly look like Humphrey Bogart, wearing a fedora and overcoat without a cigarette — a Lucky Strike, specifically?

There I was, in the hallway as we gathered, my best friend shook a pack of Luckys just so, in that seasoned smoker way, to get just one or two cigarettes to pop out, and he said to me, “Come on, you gotta [sic] have one.” And that’s it.

I was off and running on a two-pack-a-day habit for the next 10 years. I love smoking. I wish I could have just one, every now and then. But I can’t. I’m a smoker. If I have one, I’ll have a carton by the end of the week. My law partner can have just one. I hate him for that.

It’s an addiction, and a mighty hard one to quit. It took me many tries to finally quit. I like to say that I just woke up one morning and I was done, which is true for the final time I quit. But there were many “This is my last cigarette” and “I’m never smoking agains.”

I’d like to blame my family for all for the years I spent smoking. But to be honest, I made the decision to smoke. I’m the one who chose to put a Lucky Strike in my mouth and suck deep.

Cigarettes are legal to buy, and to possess, but not smoke publicly in Santa Monica.

On Nov. 23, 2006, the outdoor smoking ban went into effect in Santa Monica. I find it ironic that this is the same city that decided marijuana possession for personal use in a resident’s home should be the lowest enforcement priority of the police department. As a city we are more concerned with our ability to toke a joint, than to smoke a butt.

Tobacco farming is a multi-billion dollar, global enterprise. It provides incomes for thousands of people and plays a major historical role in our nation. Globally it contributes to most world economies.

Marijuana is a multi-billion dollar, global enterprise. It provides incomes for thousands and contributes to many world economies. Marijuana doesn’t appear to have the same addictive properties.

The intelligent voters recognize that pot is just like drinking. Some like it, some don’t. Some outgrow its use, some don’t. Most pot smokers will eat a bag of Doritos, two pints of ice cream and go to sleep. It seems to me that most of us who have tried pot outgrow it. Its illegality is irrelevant to its use by most people.

Drinking is a legal drug and most people don’t abuse alcohol. Some people drink every day, others once a year. Some potheads smoke every day, others, once a year. Drunk driving causes far more accidents than people who are high on pot. Yet we spend millions of tax dollars each year to regulate alcohol use, and in trying to eradicate pot use. We have laws against driving under the influence. Billions of dollars are spent by the liquor industry to get us to drink, and billions more are spent annually to get us to limit our drinking.

The voters see a reality that the politicians don’t. They see that pot use is a minor issue, and the politicians see tobacco as a major issue. We need a rational policy on marijuana. It should be sold and taxed. Even if it doesn’t add significantly to our income, it would reduce our enforcement costs, and that alone justifies a policy change.

David Pisarra is a family law attorney focusing on father’s rights and men’s Issues in the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist. He can be reached at dpisarra@pisarra.com or (310) 664-9969.

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