Pubdate: Mon, 23 Dec 2013
Source: Las Vegas Review-Journal (NV)
Copyright: 2013 Las Vegas Review-Journal
Author: Ben Barber
Note: Ben Barber has covered the Middle East for 30 years for the 
Baltimore Sun, London Observer, Toronto Globe and Mail and other publications.


There is a mad rush to legalize marijuana these days, but it's time 
to rethink that generous yet foolish move - generous because it lifts 
the onus of crime from peaceful smokers, but foolish because it harms 
mental development and health.

Legalization, as we have seen it in Colorado and Washington state, 
lifts the cloud of legal fears from the shoulders of millions of pot 
smokers - some of them actually languishing in prisons for decades 
for selling or possessing a few ounces of pot.

But legalizing pot would almost certainly lead to much wider smoking 
of the weed, leaving millions damaged for life, especially today's 
youths. "People who started smoking marijuana as teenagers and 
continued into adulthood showed an average IQ drop of 6 points 
between age 13 and age 38" reported US News and World Report in 2012.

I know the effects of weed intimately and have seen the good minds of 
my generation squandering their talents and health on the addictive 
buzz of pot.

Back in the '60s, I made my way to one of the best communes in 
Northern California, a place where we built our little houses in the 
forest, cut firewood for the winter and delivered our babies in the 
pure mountain air.

But time moved on for many of us and we spread out into the wider 
world. I traveled to India, North Africa and the Middle East. Finally 
I decided to study journalism and swore off weed until I graduated 
and got my first full-time reporting job.

When that day came, I began covering the city council, traffic 
accidents, school conflicts, labor strikes, corruption, elections and 
the other meaty stories of smalltown life in Massachusetts. I found 
that weed meant nothing to me compared to the rush of participating 
in public life, searching for truth and serving our readers.

In fact, the journalism career enabled me to return to India, Nepal 
and Pakistan with a changed view. Where previously I had smoked with 
the Sadhu holy men and was exalted by the beauty of the Himalayas and 
the rice paddies, I now began to understand the injustice behind it 
all: the lack of women's education, the feudal land arrangements, the 
limitations of caste. Under every rock were the worms that undermined 
human efforts to better their lot in life. Things were not so groovy 
as they seemed under the buzz of weed.

Years later I returned to the commune and found a few old-timers 
still ensconced in the redwoods. On that visit, a couple of the 
young'uns - second generation, mostly born on the ranch - were 
sitting around the main house smoking up a cloud. They said they were 
going to take the chain saw and cut up some fallen Douglas fir trees.

We left them in the gloomy house, rolling up yet another joint, and 
wandered across the hills visiting the old houses decaying in the 
forest like spacecraft from an ancient invasion. After two or three 
hours trekking down to the river, picking blackberries and gasping in 
awe at the 150-foot-tall second growth redwoods and Doug fir, we 
returned to the house and - guess what? No wood was cut. Nothing 
happened but hours lost in fantasy.

Pot destroys - in many people and at many times - all initiative. If 
the brain needs to itch before we scratch it through meaningful work, 
pot soothes that itch and makes it go away.

Aside from the hacking cough so many of the older smokers developed, 
most likely linked to cancer as well as to emphysema, pot reduces the 
ability to interact with the modern world.

Too many pot smokers simply divide the world into "us" and "them." 
Those who do not smoke are often dismissed as "the Man" and not worth knowing.

Legalizing pot may take us to a place we will not want to be in a few 
short months and years.

Hundreds of thousands of American kids may find themselves without 
the intellectual maturity to contribute to the greater society or to 
even feed and clothe themselves.

Certainly some people can smoke and still maintain - still hold jobs 
or carry out productive work. There is a tribe in Africa that smokes 
in the morning because it lets them work in the fields all day 
without rest or food. Some smokers can use grass and still hold down 
complex jobs.

Some artists smoke to unleash their muse, to guide their paint across 
the canvas, enhance their music or find the right words to spin a 
poem down a page.

But for every one of these there are many more who simply will fail 
to graduate, fail to learn, fail to specialize, fail to excel and 
fail to contribute.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom