Marijuana legalization debate by Philip Bonifonte
With the recent passage of Initiative 502 in the State of Washington and the Colorado Amendment 64 it might be time to take a breath, step back and take a rational look at marijuana legalization debate and a few of the lingering stereotypes, half-truths and outright lies that are still making the rounds among the less-knowledgeable of the population.
Initiative 502 basically makes it legal for adults over 21 to possess and smoke marijuana, but there are still many caveats in these bills that the public should know about. Smoking in public will be a civil infraction; personal “grows” in the home are still illegal, except for certified medical marijuana patients. DUI provisions are heavily emphasized, with limits of 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood, but how this will apply to medical marijuana users remains to be seen. There is also a question in this regard as to the long residency time of THC in the body – it is possible to have these levels yet not be impaired.
DUI … which brings us to my first point, namely that many people that are against legalization of any sort insist that smoking weed and driving is just as dangerous as drunk driving. While I agree that in principle both substances will affect one’s driving abilities, I would add that the actual effects of them are as different as night and day. Alcohol often gives a person “beer muscles” and brings out the aggressive, extroverted side of their personality. When they drive they tend to speed, overestimate their abilities and either ignore or totally miss traffic control devices such as stop signs and traffic lights.
The typical marijuana smoker, on the other hand, will usually be seen driving 15 MPH in a 40 MPHzone. They are more likely to fall asleep at a stop sign than run it, and their general attitude is one of introversion, underestimating their abilities and erring on the side of being overly-cautious.
Which would I rather deal with on the street? Can you guess? At least I stand a chance with the pot smoker – the alcohol consumer, I won’t see THEM until the very last moment when it’s too late to avoid them.
BRAIN DAMAGE … opponents of marijuana point to research findings that indicate brain damage, memory loss, loss of IQ and other afflictions as a result of smoking marijuana. They claim these as fact, when in actuality they are nothing more than the results of research that really could have gone either way. The choice of subjects, the scientific method that is followed (or not), confusing correlation with causation – all will lead to erroneous results and even more erroneous conclusions. While I agree that there is often some short-term memory loss involved in smoking herb (“Where’s my hat? Oh my God I can’t find my HAT!!!”), long-term memory loss, as well as the other losses cited, do not occur in the majority of smokers that exercise a modicum of restraint in their smoking. If you blaze through a few dozen bong-fulls of Purple Haze morning, noon and night of COURSE you’re going to experience problems – that’s true of the abuse of ANY substance, be it weed, aspirin or bottled water.
LOSS OF INTELLIGENCE … yeah, explain THATone to the hundreds of high-achievers such as Sir Richard Branson, Michael Phelps and Barack Obama that regularly partake (partook?) of the herb. As a result of a battery of tests I had to take a few years ago for a high-security position I know that my OWN IQ has not only NOT fallen, but has actually INCREASED since I started smoking, a span of over 35 years.
WEED DESTROYS YOUNG MINDS … well, to that I would say that ANY substance that has the potential to alter one’s perceptions, whether legal or not, should be avoided in one’s youth. Of course, that would kill a large portion of the prescription drug trade, because they’d lose out on all those billions they make from control drugs such as Prozac, Zoloft and Lexapro, among hundreds of others given like M&Ms to our kids.
That’s why the “Over 21” stipulation on the new bills is, I believe, a wonderful idea.
WEED IS A GATEWAY DRUG … and here I thought we were in the 21st century! The facts are that (1) an addictive personality will advance through the ranks of their personal Hell, starting with the most easily procured; alcoholics start with beer and work their way up (or down) to White Lightning and Mad Dog. Drug abusers will start with weed simply because it is the cheapest and easiest to score in the neighborhood.
But just as every drinker is not a drunk, so too every smoker is not an addict. Once again, correlation is NOT equal to causation.
WEED MUST BE ILLEGAL FOR A GOOD REASON … yeah, and that “good reason” is that starting back in 1930 we had such luminaries as Harry Anslinger and William Randolph Hearst who used yellow journalism, prejudice and strong-arm tactics to make marijuana illegal for the benefit of their own hidden agendas – Anslinger to further his position as head of the newly-formed Federal Bureau of Narcotics, and Hearst to protect his timber interests (hemp was a direct competitor to wood and pulp products – a superior one, in fact).
Throw in a church-funded propaganda film such as Reefer Madness and you had the masses fearing the wild-eyed, piano-playing Mary Jane addicts that would come and devour their children in the dark of night.
Me, I prefer Twinkies, but c’est la vie.
WEED IS STILL ILLEGAL FEDERALLY … I think that says more of the duplicitous juggernaut that is the U.S. Government than anything else. Obama sent his Federal stormtroopers into California’s State-legal medical marijuana dispensaries starting in the late months of 2011, where they smashed windows and display cases, arrested legitimate users and distributors en masse and, in the process, broke Obama’s vow of “leaving them alone”.
Well, Obama has said the same thing again now in regard to Washington and Colorado, so let’s just sit back and see, shall we?