Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Marijuana - The Premise is Wrong

I had lunch at Market Street Grill the other day and ran into the Sheriff and one of his Detectives. We chit-chatted for a while. I told him I disagreed with a recent interview in the local paper in which he stated that we should not consider lessening the penalties for possessing marijuana. Told him I thought it should be legalized, regulated and taxed.  That would help the country's deficit since pot is one of the largest cash crops in the U.S. It would mean that every joint sold would reliably be what it claimed to be, just like every shot of Jack Daniels is the same as every other shot. I said if I was still in the market for getting high, which I'm not, I'd much prefer smoking to drinking, all things being equal.

Both the Sheriff and the Detective were adamant that I was wrong. Their main objection to marijuana is that it is a "gateway" drug, leading to ever worse addictions. The Detective stated this as an absolute fact.

He is probably 25 years younger than me. I was out running around in the 60's and 70's. Back then, society and law enforcement were tolerant of weed. You could almost light up in front of a cop and he (all  were "he" then, of course) would simply shrug and wave you on.

I told my Detective friend that he would be surprised at who smoked grass back in my day. It was people who are now his banker, his lawyer, his doctor, his secretary, his insurance agent, some of them are even cops! They smoked in their youthful, party days and now they don't. It didn't lead to snorting cocaine or shooting up heroin or injecting meth.

Did some people I knew become "potheads"? Yep, some of them did. It made them dreamy and shiftless and unproductive until they decided to back off. One of them is a college professor now.

Did some people graduate to harder stuff as the Detective indicated? Yes. But some portion of the population are addictive personalities and they will find their fix no matter what laws are in place. For some some addictive types, moving on meant coke or speed but for most in my circle, it meant becoming full-fledged alcoholics.

Of course, law enforcement is invested in the drug war, so I suppose you'd expect them to hold a hard position against legalizing any type of drug and be able to cite the reasons why. In my opinion, it is more likely that if marijuana is, in fact, a gateway drug now, it is because we put people in jail for possessing it. It isn't the pot itself that is the gateway, it is the incarceration. It is condemning youthful users to undeserving criminal records. It is forcing them into the company of others who truly are hard-core abusers, people who will teach them how to navigate a more dangerous world and make it seem desirable. It is inculcating in them a distrust of society, the legal system and law enforcement, all of which caused them untold pain for a minor transgression.

The Sheriff and Detective believe that smoking marijuana is the contributing factor to higher crimes but actually, it is the consequences we inflict that are the real cause.

Marijuana is no worse than alcohol. We should treat the two the same.