Pubdate: Sun, 17 Feb 2013
Source: Record Searchlight (Redding, CA)
Copyright: 2013 Record Searchlight
Author: Bill Gundy


The recent campaigns to legalize marijuana for recreational use are an
interesting study in semantics.

Now, when I think of "recreation," I envision people playing tennis,
riding bicycles, or maybe boating on Lake Shasta. Even considering the
broadest connotation of the word wouldn't conjure images of somebody
getting stupefied on a bowl of ganja weed. If smoking marijuana is
recreation, then drinking a six-pack of Dos Equis must be the
equivalent of a workout.

Better still, why not do both and reach the pinnacle of a healthy

If Washington and Colorado, where legalization measures passed in
November, are guilty of using semantic manipulation to put a positive
spin on what is essentially a self-indulgent and unhealthy habit,
California goes even further in its attempt to, as they say, "put
lipstick on a pig." In the Golden State, marijuana is legal for
"medical" use. Our residents, in order to avoid being labeled a
criminal, must use the drug to treat a medical condition.

The law legalizing cannabis for this purpose is the "Compassionate"
Use Act of 1996. Surely, any caring human being would want those
suffering through the horror of chemotherapy to have legal access to
any drug that might ease their misery.

So, despite the well-documented health risks associated with smoking
marijuana, and the availability of less harmful FDA-approved
alternatives, Californians showed their "compassion" and supported the
concept of medical marijuana.

Unfortunately, the legislation that ostensibly was going to ease the
suffering of people with major health issues, including AIDS and
cancer patients, contained loopholes the size of the Grand Canyon.
These loopholes, if you haven't noticed, make hypocrites out of
countless Californians. Though, without a doubt, there are those who
use cannabis to self-medicate for legitimate health problems, the
intent of the law is obviously obscured by the multitudes who abuse
it. When asked about their habit, many marijuana users have difficulty
looking you in the eyes, as they describe the myriad maladies for
which they take their "medicine." In addition to being
self-delusional, this is embarrassing.

Predictably, the notion that marijuana is a pharmaceutical cure-all
has been enthusiastically embraced by our youth.

I once had a high school student, for example, justify his daily
morning smoking habit by declaring that it was the "best treatment for
acne." A parent admitted that he had a medical recommendation for
marijuana to treat his "nervousness." He provided this information
when confronted with the fact that his child was using Dad's stash to
get stoned every day before school. "But," the boy's dad explained, "I
knew he was smoking before school. ... It really helps his ADHD." I
can't attest to how the student's ADHD was affected by his morning
bowl of weed, but I can report that he didn't seem that concerned
about failing all his classes.

Though it may be amusing to see marijuana depicted as a medical
panacea, or a form of "recreation," it is downright scary to consider
the impact of this blatant misrepresentation. Dr. Andrea Barthwell,
the former deputy director of the White House Office of National Drug
Control Policy, notes:

"By characterizing the use of illegal drugs as quasi-legal,
state-sanctioned, Saturday afternoon fun, legalizers destabilize the
societal norm that drug use is dangerous.

They undercut the goals of stopping the initiation of drug use to
prevent addiction. ... Children entering drug abuse treatment
routinely report that they heard that 'pot is medicine' and,
therefore, believed it to be good for them."

Regardless of which side one falls on the issue of legalized
marijuana, I would argue for a little more honesty in packaging
proposed legislation. Rather than portray pot as "medicine," or good,
clean "recreation," why not send the more accurate message that people
smoke weed to get high, despite undeniable medical and social risks.
Instead of legalizing the "recreational" use of marijuana, or
appealing to human compassion, let's offer voters the chance to pass
the I'm so Wasted/Let's Ponder my Navel Act of 2013. Though this might
not generate the kind of support from the public, it would be
significantly more honest than the distorted sales approaches voters
have seen. If this were to happen, we would not only send a more
honest message to our kids, but pot smokers may once again be able to
look at you directly in the eyes when they unabashedly ask, "Anyone
for a little volleyball and Acapulco Gold?" 
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