Pubdate: Thu, 23 Jan 2014
Source: Tulsa World (OK)
Copyright: 2014 World Publishing Co.
Author: Bill Hanks
Page: A10


It is said that Mother Nature is no fool. She created the marijuana
plant, just like she created the coca plant (cocaine) and opium poppy
(morphine). But, then again, Mother Nature created tonsils.

On Nov. 6, 2012, the states of Colorado and Washington legalized the
recreational use of marijuana, thus taking the great marijuana debate
to another level. Prior to that, medicinal use was the discussion of
the day. But make no mistake, the transition from medical to
recreational was carefully orchestrated years ago by marijuana
advocates. By that I mean the transition has come full circle. When
marijuana proponents realized long ago that the country was not yet
liberal enough to gain any traction on their bandwagon to legalize,
they quickly adopted the medicinal angle, playing the humanity card
with the notion that once medical use was accepted, then legislating
recreational use was just a nine-iron away.

It was actually a brilliant move on their part. You see, Washington
and Colorado legalized medical marijuana in 1998 and 2000,
respectively. Today, 22 states have medical marijuana on the books,
many of whom have the proverbial recreational putter in hand.

So the great debate continues, with each side professing; "We're right
- - you're wrong." As a recovering addict of 18 years, my take on this
debate is quite simple - legalizing recreational marijuana is a bad
idea - a real bad idea and here's why: Marijuana is, in fact, a
gateway drug.

Very few addicts started out as intravenous heroin users. The common
denominator with most addicts is that they began with marijuana and it
escalated from there - in search of a higher high. Ever heard of
tolerance? That's why we call addiction a progressive disease. I know
this from personal experience and also from the thousands of addicts
in rehab I have worked with.

Proponents who dismiss the gateway effect are also the same people who
profess that marijuana is not addictive, when in fact, it is addictive
- - just ask the nearly 300,000 people who annually list marijuana as
their drug of dependence when entering drug treatment. Marijuana
dependency has all the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual
consequences that define substance addiction.

With respect to medicinal use, I have no problem, if it proves
beneficial to the end-user. If smoking marijuana could have helped my
mother in her fight against Lou Gehrig's disease, I would have gladly
rolled her a joint. The medical community has recognized legitimate
uses and in 1985 developed a drug called Marinol, a marijuana designed
drug to treat pain and nausea caused by HIV/AIDS, cancer,
multiple-sclerosis, and other conditions. However, marijuana activists
dismiss the pill form by claiming that smoking cannabis works better,
which, again simply promotes their agenda. Science would agree that
smoking works faster, but pill form works longer.

Another reason I'm against legalizing recreational marijuana is that
it would make it a socially accepted temptation for our young people.
In addition, legalizing marijuana puts legalizing other drugs about a
five-iron out. I am, however, for decriminalizing (mitigating)
possession of one-ounce or less. But that's a debate for another day.

Earlier, I mentioned first-hand experience with the gateway effect.
For me, it began at a party in the early 70s when I was offered a
choice of smoking marijuana or snorting a line of THC (the active
compound). I resisted at first, but was convinced that since I was
already smoking the active ingredient, there wouldn't be any harm in
snorting it.

Well, I assure you, there is a big difference between smoking and
snorting the compound, which quickly took my drug use to new levels.
It was a no-brainer when someone soon thereafter offered me a line of
cocaine, hitting yet another new level. I hit new level after new
level until 22 years later when I woke-up at the corner of desperation
and despair running in circles and barking at the moon.

Bill Hanks is the Tulsa author of "Serenity: It's a God Deal" -
(finding your way to sobriety, sanity, and serenity).
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