Pushing for pot


POSTED: Friday, October 09, 2009

As Hawaii and the nation seek ways to maintain public services without cutting salaries or raising taxes, comedian Doug Benson has a simple and easy solution to covering at least part of the deficit: legalize marijuana!

“;I think when people get the opportunity to decide whether or not someone who is in a hospital bed, or just at home minding their own business, should be able to smoke marijuana, they decide it shouldn't matter to anybody else,”; Benson explained on Sunday. “;I think what's bringing it around (toward legalization) is the overall compassion for other people, but then I think what's ultimately going to really do the job is making marijuana legal everywhere is the ability to tax it.”;

Benson called from Ann Arbor, Mich., where he and comedian Graham Elwood were on the fourth day of a 13-city, 13-day tour of the 13 states where medical marijuana has been legalized. The tour started in Providence, R.I., and ends here on Tuesday at the Pipeline Cafe.

Although the schedule sounds like a tough one, Benson doesn't expect burnout to be a problem.

“;The travel is quite frustrating and exhausting, you're sort of at the mercy of the airlines, but so far, the energy level, both on our part as performers and the audiences', has remained high,”; he said. “;I think that it will be quite refreshing when we get to Hawaii because the weather will suddenly be better. We're hitting fairly cold weather everywhere we go.”;

Anyone encountering Benson for the first time will meet a man with a fertile mind.

For instance, in 2007 he embarked on a marijuana research program, inspired by Morgan Spurlock's 2004 expose, “;Super Size Me.”; Just like the firsthand account of what can happen to someone who eats three meals a day at McDonald's for a month, Benson explored the results of daily marijuana use in a project he dubbed “;Super High Me.”;

First, he abstained from marijuana for 30 days, then took a series of tests measuring his physical and mental health. He then smoked marijuana — or consumed it in other ways — every day for 30 days and again measured his physical and mental health.

His SAT score increased, as did his performance in other areas. (FYI, local stoners, Benson did not drive at all during his marijuana month.)

“;Before we made the movie there were questions — 'Aren't you going to get into trouble doing it?' — but we were mostly in California, (and) as long as you're not blowing (the smoke) in children's' faces, you can pretty much — if you have your medical marijuana card — you can pretty much get away with it,”; said Benson. “;Just going about my daily life, I'm not crazy open about (smoking), and so I don't have run-ins with the police.”;

“;Super High Me”; was released on DVD in 2008.

GOING BACK farther, Benson is one of three creators and original cast members of “;The Marijuana-Logues,”; a 2004 off-Broadway comedy that took the basic concept of “;The Vagina Monologues”; and applied it to marijuana.

Is there a theme here?

“;With 'The Marijuana-Logues,' 'Super High Me' and my comedy in general, I am trying to present how a stoner can just look like just anybody — you don't have to look for long hair and tie-dye shirts. It's everywhere, and I sort of am representing the people who don't necessarily come off that way.”;

Despite the fiscal logic involved in granting marijuana the same legal status as tobacco, Benson isn't optimistic about legalization occurring soon.

“;We're headed for legalization because every state could benefit from that tax money they would make, and because as human beings we shouldn't be holding it back because it does help people —cigarette smoking doesn't make anybody get better or feel better when they're sick,”; he said.

“;Whether that will happen in my lifetime, I'm not sure. The problem with marijuana reform is that people really don't care one way or the other as much as they used to. People that are pro-pot know how to get it, so it doesn't really need to be legal, and people that are anti-pot have so much more to worry about.”;





        Doug Benson

» Where: Pipeline Cafe, 805 Pohukaina St.
        » When: 8 p.m. Tuesday
        » Cost: $20 general admission, $40 VIP priority seating
        » Info: 589-1999 or hsblinks.com/uj