Pubdate: Sat, 07 Aug 2004
Source: Columbia Daily Tribune (MO)
Copyright: 2004 Columbia Daily Tribune
Author:  Bill O'Reilly
Note: Prints the street address of LTE writers.
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Popular)


Star Miami Dolphins running back Ricky Williams has walked away from
millions of dollars in part because of marijuana. Williams told The Miami
Herald that he smoked weed constantly and masked his use by consuming a
substance called "Extra Clean." Nevertheless, Williams failed three drug
tests administered by the NFL and finally decided to retire at age 27,
citing his desire to continue smoking pot as one of the reasons.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, less than 2
percent of American youths had ever used marijuana back in 1962. Forty
years later, that percentage had increased to an astounding 54
percent. The simple question is: What dynamic has changed in America
to account for the drastic increase in the consumption of marijuana?

The watershed event, of course, was the rise of the anti-war movement
in the late 1960s. Smoking pot became the appetizer for the Vietnam
protest entree. The rock world immediately got involved, and
intoxication celebration was under way.

Since that time, marijuana use, especially among young people, has
steadily increased, and now about 20 percent of high school seniors
smoke pot on a regular basis.

Interestingly, up until 1992, marijuana use was far more common among
whites than minority Americans, according to a study by the National
Institutes of Health. But in the '90s, pot consumption by black men
and women between 18 and 29 increased 224 percent!

The 10 years between '92 and 2002 coincided with the rise of the rap
industry. Icons such as Snoop Dogg and Ludacris consistently glorified
marijuana, and I believe their message fell on willing ears. A
generation of American kids, of all colors, were - and continue to be
- - pounded by rhythms and lyrics encouraging a libertine lifestyle with
a heavy emphasis on drug use and exploitative sex. How could this not
take a toll?

Anyway, Williams and millions of other young Americans love their pot
and are willing to make great sacrifices to consume it. Think about
all the good Williams could have done with the money he was earning.
Life in the National Football League is no easy venture, but athletic
ability is a gift that should not be discarded lightly.

The bigger picture is that marijuana use now is largely accepted by
American society, even in the case of young people. This is a disaster
for kids. Awash in drugs and alcohol, we are now a culture in which
children are exposed to intoxicating agents practically from the time
they reach the age of reason - 7 years. And any child who becomes
involved with mind-altering substances loses his or her childhood
instantly. He or she is never the same.

But how often do you hear the media speak out against substance
consumption? It is winked at, excused and even tacitly encouraged by
many pundits and activists. That is the great change since 1962.
Getting high is no longer even an issue in many quarters - it is
standard procedure.

Williams should be the poster boy for the marijuana debate. The man
obviously is seeking emotional comfort, and the price of that comfort
is somewhere around $15 million. You can't get much higher than that.

Veteran TV news anchor Bill O'Reilly is host of the Fox News show "The O'
Reilly Factor." He writes for Creators Syndicate.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin