Now that Main Street Marijuana has opened for business in the uptown village area of Vancouver, WA, the widespread panic among those who fear we’re all on the path to becoming drug-addled zombies has begun. Their contention is that legalization will lead to America’s yoot turning on in ever larger numbers and that legions of formerly frightened non-users will now smoke their brains out and file for welfare money to keep themselves stocked in marijuana brownies and cheap red wine.
Let’s get real for a moment. For those of you who think law enforcement should be slapping those who use THC to alter their state of consciousness into jail and throwing away the keys, let’s review some facts.
- The war on drugs has been a hideously expensive, paranoia-driven, delusional failure. Illegal drugs are less expensive and easier to obtain than at any time in history. Despite more than a trillion dollars spent fighting the war, according to the UNODC, illegal drugs are used by an estimated 270 million people worldwide and organized crime profits from a trade with an estimated turnover of over $330 billion a year – the world’s largest illegal commodity market. At least with legalization, some of that fountain of money can be siphoned toward treatment and education.
- Our kids already use marijuana. In fact its very illegitimacy, its outlaw vibe probably contributes to many kids trying it. Kids rebel. That’s what raging hormones and peer pressure will cause. If there’s any viable strategy to keep kids away from pot, it has to center on realistic drug education and an emphasis on the very real negative impact of the drug on people’s lives. Plus, we should be more concerned about the number one drug abused by our kids, alcohol.
- Students of human nature will note that just because it can now be bought legally, doesn’t mean thousands of otherwise straight people are going to light up and stay high all of the time. Whether you recognize them or not, there are a large number of hard-working, respectable, stable people of all ages, living within walking distance of your home, who smoke pot occasionally for the same reason you have a cocktail or two after work. They’re not hugger-muggers, biker mommas or chainsaw slayers, they’re your neighbors. They’ll probably continue to roll their own, post legalization. Those who enjoy the cocktail hour probably won’t. The desire to smoke or not to smoke has no relationship to the drug’s legality or illegality.
So what am I saying here? That we should let the druggies run wild? That drugs are a good and beneficial thing to our society? That we should throw a Cheech and Chong film festival at the Kiggins theatre, wallowing in a cloud of green smoke and calling each other “Dude?”
Nope. Let’s be clear. Drugs are a bad thing. Period. Our society might be much better off without any and all mind altering substances including: marijuana, strawberry margaritas, double-caff-non-fat soy macchiatos, new age music, methamphetamine, gun-worship, tobacco, Zumba and extremist religion. Those who use one or more of those substances probably look down their noses at the total losers who use the others. But the fact of the matter is; that (or those) ship(s) have long since sailed. People always have and always will look for a way to escape the hum-drum realities of their existence and to blunt their fear of the unknown.
So, with legalization a reality (at least here in Washington State), is there a sane way to approach legalized marijuana? Here are a few ideas.
- Make the penalties for misbehavior while screwed up on drugs stiff. Driving under the influence, endangering other human beings and selling to minors should all carry stiff fines and/or jail time.
- Let employers terminate employees who habitually show up at work stoned. There’s nothing more irritating than having your own work load double because some bozo decided to smoke up the roaches in his car ash tray before clocking in. Plus, if there’s any machinery involved, the potential for injury is multiplied.
- Make treatment for drug dependency easy to find and enroll in, fully covered by any and all insurance and encouraged by signage at any business that sells drugs and/or paraphernalia of any kind. (Including prescription drug stores and liquor stores).
- Emphasize in our educational materials that legal does not equal smart. There are plenty of compelling reasons not to smoke pot including loss of productivity, decay of relationships, and negative impact on your health. Use the same strategies to discourage alcohol and tobacco abuse. Fact-based strategies are much more effective than hysteria and fear-mongering.
What seems to me the smartest way to handle this situation is signing a treaty ending the war on drugs but launching a new, rational, war on stupidity. It should be much less expensive and easier to win.