Pubdate: Fri, 03 Jan 2014
Source: Anniston Star (AL)
Copyright: 2014 Consolidated Publishing
Author: Phillip Tutor


Legal Marijuana Isn't 'Public Enemy Number One,' But It Is

A premise: Never in American history has the hypocrisy of the nation's
stance on substances that affect our behavior been so apparent as it
was Wednesday morning.

Two days ago, untold numbers awoke with the mother of all hangovers,
expected but unwelcomed remnants of their alcohol-fueled New Year's
Eve revelry. It had the news value of another sunrise.

That same morning, people in Colorado lined up, in the cold and snow,
to be the first to legally buy marijuana for recreational use in this
country. Unlike our Jan. 1 hangover epidemic, the pot sales drew
national media attention. Which example bothers you more? Alcohol
affects people - their bodies, their moods, their behaviors, their
lives. It creates "mean" drunks and "sloppy" drunks. It's embedded in
criminal statistics. When overused, it destroys families and marriages
and, at its worst, it kills. But it is legal and socially acceptable
in most circles.

Pot affects people, too - otherwise, there would be no such thing as
"recreational" marijuana use. Like most drugs, its social side effects
when overused are steep. But, other than in Colorado, it is illegal
today in the United States to buy or sell dope for reasons other than
medical use. In many states, including Alabama, marijuana use is
illegal, be it for medical reasons or for fun.

In essence, this is yet another example of how the United States'
experiment with Jeffersonian government is so quirky and inconsistent.
In certain Nevada counties, prostitution and brothels are legal.
Gambling laws - on sports, on horses, on dogs, on bingo cards, on slot
machines - vary from state to state, if not county to county. Laws on
abortion and immigration differ across the map. Death by firing squad
remains an option for certain death-row inmates in only one state,
Utah. And in Colorado, you can legally buy marijuana - and, in a few
months, in Washington state.

Right or wrong, it's how we roll in America.

But let's be clear: All drugs, legal or otherwise, aren't equal.
Tobacco isn't marijuana. Marijuana isn't meth. Alcohol (a drug, by my
definition) isn't cocaine. Cheech and Chong are losers, and they're
funny, but there's no humor in someone hooked on heroin. (For that
matter, isn't it sad that Mayberry's town drunk, Otis Campbell, often
sleeps in a jail cell?) In other words, the one-size-fits-all argument
doesn't fit unless you're willing to tackle the impossible task of
proposing all of these substances - including booze - should be
illegal. Try getting that past the alcohol lobbyists in D.C.

That doesn't mean all drugs aren't serious business; they are. As
ubiquitous as beer, wine and liquor are in America, their negative
side effects are immense. Count me among those who see nothing wrong
with having a glass of wine with dinner or a dog and a beer at the
game, but the ramifications of binge drinking, driving while drunk or
alcoholism are irrefutable. Serious business, remember.

Modern-day marijuana use is caught up as much in discussions of fiscal
policy - tax it for public use - as it is morality and social harm.
(In Colorado, taxes on legal sales are around 30 percent.) It's
dangerous to compare one substance to another, but if you equate
alcohol use to pot use - in terms of health and social effects - then
legalizing sales becomes a sound argument. That is, in effect, what
Colorado lawmakers are banking on, literally and figuratively.

It's impossible for this week's dope discussion not to bring back
memories of Reefer Madness, that campy 1930s-era propaganda film that
tried to scare parents into thinking their children would go mad if
they smoked a joint.

Marijuana, according to the film, was "the new drug menace which is
destroying the youth of America in alarmingly increasing numbers.
Marijuana is that drug - a violent narcotic - an unspeakable scourge -
the real public enemy number one.

"Its first effect is sudden, violent uncontrollable laughter, then
comes dangerous hallucinations - space expands - time slows down,
almost stands still ... fixed ideas come next, conjuring up monstrous
extravagances - followed by emotional disturbances, the total
inability to direct thoughts, the loss of all power to resist physical
emotions - leading finally to acts of shocking violence, ending often
in incurable insanity." Still campy, 70 years later. Consider
marijuana what it is - a drug, mostly illegal, that shouldn't be toyed
with as if it's harmless fun. Even if it's legal, it sits alongside
booze, a substance whose effects are serious business, indeed. 
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