"A plague upon it when thieves cannot be true one to another!"

- William Shakespeare, "Henry IV, Part 1"

That disgust is expressed by Falstaff - the mischievous fat character, not the defunct American beer.

A similar pang of betrayal allegedly occurred in our community nine days ago when a dope deal went bad.

As reported in the Dec. 20 Post and Courier, a man told the Hanahan police that he and a companion were robbed at gunpoint while trying to complete the sale of less than an ounce of marijuana.

The man said that while they were sampling the product with a prospective customer in an apartment complex's parking lot, an armed man stole their pot, money and cellphones at gunpoint.

Hanahan Police Lt. Michael Fowler told me Friday of the robbery suspect: "We haven't found that guy yet."

Fowler also said the alleged victim who admitted that he was selling dope has not been charged with a crime.

Still, as Fowler put it: "Who in his right mind" would tell cops that he was robbed while selling marijuana?

Well, folks in Colorado and Washington state, where marijuana is now legal for recreational use, would. It's also legal for medicinal use there and in 18 other states. But it's not legal at all in our state.

On CBS' "60 Minutes" Sunday night, Steve Kroft interviewed, among other pot movers and shakers, Tripp Keber, CEO of Dixie Elixirs.

Keber, whose enterprise supplies most of Colorado's 537 marijuana "dispensaries," told Kroft: "I truly believe that whether it's Big Alcohol, Big Tobacco or Big Pharma, a company like one of those is going to look very, very closely at medical cannabis. It's about a $2 billion market in 2012, growing to just under $9 billion in 2016."

Tripp Keber?

Hey, he could market his strongest herb as "trip weed."

A futile effort

Back to Hanahan: Lt. Fowler told me Friday, "I'd much rather get a gun off the street than a little bag of weed."

That makes sense.

Yet it also implies that large quantities of "weed" merit high law-enforcement priority.

So which pot busts, including one that allegedly caught Mexican smugglers trying to bring nearly two tons of it to North Charleston last month, have prevented how many Americans from getting pot?

Why should Colorado reap a growing marijuana tax base while so many other states, including ours, keep spending taxpayer money in the perpetually failed mission to significantly limit the pot supply?

And why should buyers of illegal drugs be legally regarded as helpless victims of a sort while sellers are punished with lengthy prison terms?

Forty-five years ago, St. Andrews High School students (including this budding delinquent) were shown a Navy film that packed unintentional comic punch reminiscent of "Reefer Madness." It warned that if we smoked that stuff, we just might jump off the roof, kill our mothers and/or rip out our eyeballs.

A few years later, anti-drug voices warned that cocaine just might eat a hole in our noses while making us turn against family and friends, lose our jobs, flunk out of school and generally destroy our lives.

Lots of folks in my generation assumed that the anti-coke pitch was phony, too.

Only it wasn't. Think "The Boy Who Cried Wolf."

Think how much money, police work, prison space and lives have been wasted in the losing Drug War over the last four decades. Think how much seed money Prohibition gave organized crime in the Roaring Twenties.

Under the influence

Sure, pot can make you lazy and stupid - though it's far less likely than whiskey to make you belligerent.

Sure, while this libertarian leaner wants government out of the Drug War business, that doesn't mean we should legalize coke and heroin.

But we should legalize marijuana, which has relatively benign effects.

Still, before falling in with a bad crowd looking for good times by getting stoned on pot, buzzed on cocaine, zoned out on heroin or drunk on demon rum, heed this timeless lament from Falstaff (again, the character, not the beer):

"Company, villainous company, hath been the spoil of me."

Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is wooten@postandcourier.com.