September 2010

September 2010: HE SAYS, SHE SAYS - Legalizing Marijuana?

Author: Keith Kelson & Maggie Washo | Photographer: Photography by Anne

I remember back in the 1980s when the “Just Say No to Drugs” campaign first began. I recall sitting in a classroom listening to a teacher/third base coach telling us that marijuana was a “gateway drug,” and while it seemed harmless, using marijuana would only lead to harder drug use, run-ins with the law and eventually death. We were, of course mortified, and it wasn’t just because of his attempt to “scare us straight.” The guy had on a pink shirt, lime-green polyester pants and white patent leather shoes.

Anti-drug classes are a good thing, but when the lecturer looks like Cheech and Chong picked out his wardrobe, it’s easy for the message to get lost in all the giggling.

I’m in favor of legalizing marijuana for medical use only. Aids patients and cancer patients have benefited from its use, as marijuana helps fight nausea, relieves pain and stimulates hunger. I’ve seen what chemotherapy does, and I say anything that can possibly help with the unfortunate side-effects should be used. A qualified physician should administer the drug, and it should be done in a hospital setting or doctor’s office. No one can fake having cancer, so it’s a safe bet that you won’t find any stoners hanging around those areas looking to score some weed.

That being said, it’s not the cancer patients who need to be kept away from marijuana. It’s the hard partying crowd I’m concerned about. They’re the people who always point out how uptight and stodgy you are because you’re not willing to fry your brain cells with the latest, greatest legal or illegal narcotic substance that happens to be making the scene.

I’ve never understood the urge some folks have to tinker with their brain in search of enlightenment or spiritual awareness. Well, that’s what they claim to be after anyway. I’ve never smoked pot or used any drugs. My mom didn’t do timeouts; she specialized in knockouts, and that’s exactly what would have happened to me if she ever thought I was doing drugs.

I’ve known plenty of people who used pot because they said it relaxed them and gave them some kind of special connection to the universe. For example, marijuana allowed them to hear rain drops falling from a blade of grass or hear a butterfly beat its wings from a mile away. But when you ask them if the universe gave them any solutions to the problems in the world, the answer was always the same: The universe suggested that everyone needed to smoke pot.

Now, it’s not that I don’t trust the universe, but I find it little suspicious that the universe never tells the pot smokers that we need to drink more root beer. I’m pretty sure that the universe likes root beer more than it likes pot, especially since no one ever crashed a ferry boat into a dock after drinking a root beer. The “enlightened crowd” will disagree and tell me that what I need to do is lighten up and, of course, fire up a joint.

It’s not that marijuana is a gateway drug. It’s that people willing to smoke marijuana, are willing to turn anything into a recreational drug. Recently a high profile NFL quarterback was found in possession of a controlled substance known as “purple drank.” This is a dude willing to risk 70 or 80 million dollars all because he’s got to have his “purple drank.” (Purple drank, by the way, is prescription cough syrup mixed with soda pop and Jolly Ranchers candy.) Now, maybe I’m a square and my street cred isn’t what it used to be, but if you’re willing to risk your life and career because you’re hooked on cough syrup and Jolly Ranchers candy, you need a swift kick in the rear.

I just find the whole crowd of people using drugs for recreational purposes laughable. I could see it if what they were actually experiencing was indeed a life-changing message from the universe. But they’re just fooling themselves.

Marijuana can and should be used as a medicine to help people who need it. But anyone using it just to get high needs to grow up, face facts and live in the real world like the rest of us or face a little jail time.

I asked a local pharmacist what he thought about marijuana for medical use. His response was “Does it help cancer patients? Sure. Is there another medicine that works just as well? Probably.”

I am not a doctor, pharmacist, DEA agent or economist, so my opinion on the subject is not really based upon any deep study of the effects of marijuana on the body or our economy. Truth be told, I don’t really have a strong opinion on the subject. So I polled several people on their thoughts and received a variety of answers. Most are in favor of legalizing marijuana; it’s the reasons that differ.

I had a friend who smoked pot like it was her job (it wasn’t). She didn’t drink, so to her it was like a cocktail at the end of the day. Would I be comfortable riding in a car with her high as a kite? Absolutely not. But then again, I didn’t like riding in her car when she was sober either.

One esteemed member of our community had this to say, “Sure. Legalize marijuana. I don’t think it would affect usage much, because if you know where to find it, it’s everywhere now. Make it a business and you could regulate it, tax it and create jobs.” This is a point of view I agree with. I don’t smoke pot now, and if it was legal, I still wouldn’t smoke pot. I, like Bill Clinton, have tried it (but I think I did actually inhale). I just didn’t like the way it made me feel. You could legalize it and sell pot brownies in the candy isle of every Walgreens, Publix and BP gas station, and I still wouldn’t buy it or smoke it. I would rather spend my money on a new pair of four-inch BCBG heels.

The economics of legalizing pot is an interesting argument. Make it legal, SIN tax the hell out of it (like cigarettes, alcohol and the newest addition…tanning beds) and create new jobs. The end of Prohibition created new jobs. But it probably cut down on law enforcement jobs, too.

My poll would not have been complete without asking a parent for an opinion. This person has been known to light up on occasion, but when it comes to actually making it legal for his kids to do the same, the answer was as I expected. “No way, José.” If I were a parent, I bet I would feel the same. Young people cannot be expected to make the best decisions with no life experience from which to draw.

After all of my investigating and polling, I still have no more of an opinion than when I started. I can see all different sides of the issue, and there are many good points on either side. However, if push came to shove and I was sitting in Congress making the call, I guess I would vote against legalizing marijuana. I wouldn’t want to be the one responsible for opening Pandora’s Box.

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