American Recycler Rights: Stop Pot Prison Sentences

The past month was spent defending potential clients in Africa, who got dealt a particularly nasty set of hoax documentaries.  We have to defend the people who buy less than 5% of the material we manage, only the best reuse stuff we have, because of their ethnicity.   Clients and even Facebook friends tell me, "I've seen several documentaries about it."

But to the point... Well, who the hell manages Good Point Recycling while I'm off doing this?

Time to tip my hat to the Vermont employees who keep the ship afloat.  Like a parent who is so engaged in protecting a bullied child, I need to step back and remember the boys and girls of Good Point who are from Vermont, who take care of everything while I'm off fighting windmills.

Coming soon:  "My Company's Face and Hands:   Truck Drivers"

But I don't want to make that the title of a post that's decorated primarily with pot legalization celebrators because, well.. you know.

We don't want to describe truck drivers in the same blogs as we defend 420 laws to legalize pot smoking, and yesterday I found myself lung-deep in one of the largest, most outlandish, marijuana farmers-market-meets-Woodstock-meets-Dem-convention celebrations in the world.   And there were photographers everywhere, and people posing for photographers.  And my camera is full of exotic looking photos.  So let me park the tribute and write in defense of American scrap workers' domestic rights - not to  lose their jobs for exposure to marijuana smoke, either intentionally ingested or via second-hand.

The most likely way an American recycling company worker will wind up at risk of a Joe Benson prison sentence is for marijuana possession.   The "three strikes" laws should force us to not call strikes on pot possession.

Vermont should legalize marijuana.  They need the tax revenue, we need legal growers competing with drug lords, we need the grades to be labelled and regulated like alcohol, and we need to protect our nations truck drivers from being steered in a wrong direction.

"I promise you won't wind up in the Washingotn Post."

In an odd sense, yesterday's Vancouver 420 celebration in Vancouver was a time to think about our truck drivers.  As I know from being a CDL myself, they all have to get piss tested on a regular basis.   And while marijuana is far from the worst thing they could be doing during their weekends off, it is persistent in the bloodstream.   I've heard of drivers switching to heroin just because it is more quickly erases from urine and hair tests.   Pot can stick around for a month.

And they can even fail a urine test based on second hand exposure!

This is particularly important in Vermont because Truck Driver is the #1 job statewide, and has been for a long time.   Thanks to a Facebook share from Star Trek's George Takei, I see that Vermont is not alone, however.  The most common job in all states, from 1978 to 2014, converges on logistics.  Truck Driver.  New  Engand's food comes from California, our CRT glass goes to Mexico, and our loading docks are the four  Chambers of the Heart at the Good Point Recycling company.

Legalizing pot is, therefore, something our country needs to do in fairness to its truck fleet drivers.  Their sobriety is of course paramount, and I'm not advocating letting truck drivers pilot the highways while stoned.  But a law that tilts drivers towards beer and alcohol on their weekends off is damaging their health, and the health of USA's truck driving force is the most important guideline.

I agree with George Carlin who said Marijuana is the one and only drug that suggests its own disuse.  It triggers lack of confidence, and carefulness.  When I used to toke, I'd often clean my room or do chores that I became accutely more aware of.
I was here.  Pretty exotic.

Of course there is NO WAY that truck drivers should get high in the 12 hours before work.  But before truck drivers go home and crack open a beer, they should be allowed to consider a more mellow means of relaxation.

Now I find myself in a jam because I want to give the individual drivers at Good Point the same shout out that I gave the Technicians at Chendiba.

I have the photos... I have photos of Pete, Crystal, Ben, Jan, Pat and myself.  But taking pictures of workers and posting them on a web page without permission is a theme.  And posting peoples names and faces while posting photos of Vancouver's "420 Legalize Pot Worldwide" (its' already legal in Vancouver) is not exactly the same as shouting out the drivers names on Earth Day.

The 420 Movement would be wise to meet with the Teamsters Union and other logistics companies.   They would be wise to meet with blue collar laborers, many of whom have no time or patience with ratty looking stoners.  There's a cross cultural problem with the 420 movement which is not dissimilar to the challenges of African importers and technicians involuntarily represented by sweaty wire burning.

This blog can only get in the middle of so many things... but that's what I love doing and that's why I believe in splashing my foot in every dang puddle in the schoolyard.  If you never splash your foot in a puddle, you don't know what it feels like to have wet socks.  Wet socks aren't great, but it's not something to be so frightened of that you can't play outside.

Tom Bombadillo selling his wares
And that's what's happening to recycling.  We are telling our truck drivers, via piss test, that they can't play in the garden.  We are telling our asset recovery managers that they can't meet with buyers from non-OECD countries.   There are real cultural fears and standards which divide people, but we don't need fake divides to be created.  We have enough real divisions in the world not to go making up fake ones.

So when I get back, I'll meet with the Good Point logistics crew and thank them for keeping all the plates spinning while I took 4 weeks to save the endangered recycling species in Africa.  

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There are also a few American recyclers out there who tell me they are allowed to read the blog at work, and for once I wanted to write about an injustice that strikes them.  While the scrap industry wants to be portrayed as a large and professional and legitimate business, we are hiring and employing a lot of people who could be imprisoned for marijuana possession.   We should take a stand for our employees who may not be going to conferences or flying around in airplanes, but who don't deserve an arrest warrant if they want to protect their livers by drinking less and smoking more.

It's true I've been distracted so much by the war on reuse markets overseas, that I can seem to have forgotten about our American recycling family.   And yesterday at 420, I was thinking of them.

American scrap recyclers, the hands and backs who move TVs around, benefit from exporting the 5-10%.   They know that if 10% of the working equipment makes 80% of the income, that they earn more money by protecting buyers of that equipment.   They know that the same people who would ban exports to Africa would then automate their jobs with mechanical shredders.

Now there's a cross-cultural nuance to deal with.  The techs I met in Ghana were muslim straight arrows, and I don't know whether their boss would want me creating any kind of a link, even three degrees of separation, with Canadian legalization fighters.

I spent a few hours in the 420 melee, thinking about the ethics of taking pictures here, and the challenges showing pictures of Vancouver life to Africans on Facebook.   There are connections I see which the world may not be ready for yet.  Though I did smell the sweet odors of 420 in several places in Africa during the past 3 weeks.  Just not ready to put myself in the middle of that discussion here.  I wanted to share pictures of camera people taking pictures of Canadians, so that Africans know the exotic picture taking isn't just about them.

It's about a natural, Steve Pinker rooted, brain wired, fascination with exotic reality which overcomes our fears.   Like native American Arapahos landing a "coup" on a non-deadly-force battlefield, the photographers can be showing we've been somewhere.

The obligation is to tell the truth about what you see.  And the truth is that most of the people attending 420 were working class people who could be working at, or applying for work at, recycling companies.    

Where Africans worry about taking a picture of a government official or access to internet becoming the threat to a Mubarak dictator, Americans also have extremely high risk of prison sentences, and too many of the people in prison are there for possession of marijuana.  We need to change that, and not just by decriminalizing it.  We need open trade in the marketplace.

The Vermont Staff at Good Point Recycling have a connection with Ghana, Egypt, Malaysia, Indonesia, Mexico, Peru, China, etc.  They benefit from the work done a half a world away.   And I want to tell the African technicians that for every computer they get to fix, Vermont employees are sweating and humping and bulling to remove and disassemble the junk ones they don't want.  The junk was NOT dumped in Agbogbloshie, and those who want to pit the working class against each other are going to get called out for it once the press finds they funded documentaries which lie about shredding creating more jobs, and lie about "scrap boys" taking American jobs away.

This is not about "Vermont blue collar vs. African blue collar".   This is about employees united in support of each other, standing up to organized crime.  

I can say that in this context ... organized crime and marijuana.    I did not say anything about recycling or Vermont and organized crime.

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