OPINION | MIKE MASTERSON: Keep it in wallet

A movement that began in earnest five years ago in some states, seeking to move driver's licenses from our wallets into our cell phones, has since been gaining steam.

What could possibly go wrong with that plan in an era where our social media accounts are regularly hacked and something as critical as a major multi-state fuel pipeline is cyberattacked?

Without a foolproof method to ensure your license can't be altered or stolen, I can't imagine an idea fraught with more serious privacy concerns.

At least nowadays, when I accidentally drop my current laminated license in the water, have it stolen, or leave it someplace I can't remember, the reliable version in my wallet can be retrieved or duplicated rather than shared across the globe.

Mike Chapple, a professor and computer scientist from Notre Dame, did nothing to allay such concerns when he was quoted about the ransomware that recently shut down the Colonial Pipeline, considered an irreplaceable East Coast petroleum lifeline.

"The attacks were extremely sophisticated and they were able to defeat some pretty sophisticated security controls," Chapple said.

I can't help but believe, valued readers, that anyone capable of such complex intrusion would have much trouble finding a way to get their hands on many millions of driver's licenses kept in easily damaged and vulnerable cell phones.

Plus what happens should the electrical grid fail and we can't charge the phones?

Taxing 'Devil Weed'

If you think times haven't changed that much in the past 50 or 60 years, just take a look at how our society perceives marijuana, once widely known as the dangerous "Devil Weed."

Back when I was a teenager, some states who caught those using or possessing marijuana were given life sentences behind bars.

Today, many of those same states are regularly reaping millions in taxes from selling the medical and recreational varieties of the mind-altering weed. Now, the psychoactive plant is as acceptable as liquor in society.

Ahh, the difference a truckload of money handed to government can make, even in matters of criminal jurisprudence.

Today, Arkansas has at least 32 cannabis dispensaries regularly filling orders for thousands of our citizens who use the plant's beneficial properties to alleviate pain, anxiety and other ailments. Meanwhile, marijuana remains illegal on the federal level and for recreational purposes in our state.

To say this plant isn't a financial boon to Arkansas is not to realize that 10.5 percent of every legal pot sale goes into state coffers. That breaks down to combining a 6.5 state sales tax with a 4 percent privilege tax. Then one can tack on local taxes.

In plain terms, what society once considered a crime terrible enough to punish by life in prison is now celebrated by states who are profiting handsomely from legalizing it, including our own.

But what of all those convicted "criminals" of decades past who spent lengthy sentences for cannabis? Does society simply write these folks off with a "So sorry. Your bad luck to be born at the wrong time"?

In 2015, Mother Jones Magazine wrote that each year, more people were being arrested for pot possession than violent crimes. "Around 40,000 people are currently serving time for offenses involving a drug that has been decriminalized or legalized in 27 states and Washington, D.C.," the story said. "Even as Americans' attitudes toward pot have mellowed, the law has yet to catch up, leaving pot offenders subject to draconian sentences born out of the war on drugs."

One report I found shows Arkansas has raked in a whopping $28.25 million in combined taxes after medical cannabis sales began here in 2019. Some 75,000 state residents have acquired medical marijuana cards.

Of course, these figures--none of which I expect will ever regress--change daily.

Reason over emotion

I read a truism the other day that fits so well with where our troubled nation finds itself today. "The quality of one's life depends on the quality of their thoughts."

Sounds closely akin to the old computer adage "Garbage in, garbage out," doesn't it?

Searching high and low, I could find no mention of how constantly resorting to one's emotions in making choices does anything to enhance quality of life. I say often it's just the opposite.

I do understand that emotions are as much a part of human existence as the ability to reason well.

Yet so much of the harm, disrespect and destructive behavior I see around us is fueled by unthinking emotional overreactions rather than quality of thought. In other words, using our "monkey brain."

One might say applying emotion over rational thought is akin to behaviors we exhibited as small children who resorted to hysterical screaming, crying and tantrums when we were unable to get what we wanted, or to express ourselves intellectually.

For many chronological adults, logical and civil discourse with others who would choose reason over infantile hissy fits has become impossible.

Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist, was editor of three Arkansas dailies and headed the master's journalism program at Ohio State University. Email him at mmasterson@arkansasonline.com.

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