Sunday, May 24, 2009

Legal Pot? Or Status Quo?

There's been more chatter than normal about considering changes to the nation's marijuana laws, mostly because cash-strapped governments are realizing how expensive this prohibition regime is to enforce. The Christian Science Monitor has an editorial that made me yell at my screen.

First, there's the argument that marijuana is not harmless. Well, the prohibitionists have always exaggerated the dangers associated with marijuana, and the supporters have tended to minimize the dangers that pot smoking poses to some users. This is a valuable discussion to have, but harmlessness should not be a prerequisite for legalization. Alcohol is dangerous. So is driving a car. Slicing a bagel is dangerous, too. We don't criminalize every potential danger. This is ridiculous.

They discount the role that marijuana money plays in empowering gangs such as the Mexican cartels. The article further pooh-poohs the idea that prison populations are swelled because of incarcerated pot smokers. Sorry. I'm not buying it. The drug prohibition laws should be renamed "The Criminal Employment Act" or the "Prison Hack Employment Act." That's who seems to be benefiting from all this illegal business.

Then they trot out the argument that parents should ignore their own experiences and buy into the prohibitionist line.
Parents need to resist peer pressure, too.
Legalization backers say the country is at a tipping point, ready to make the final big leap. They hope that a new generation of politicians that has had experience with marijuana will be friendly to their cause.
But this new generation is also made up of parents. Do parents really want marijuana to become a normal part of society – and an expectation for their children?
Yes! Yes! Yes! Marijuana needs to become a normal part of society. How else are we going to speak honestly to the kids? How else are we going to have a conversation about drugs that is based on science and medicine, rather than politics? Tell the kids the truth, because if you try the scare tactics about pot, the kids will learn soon enough that you're lying.

If we teach the kids that marijuana is like hard drugs, then they'll think that the hard drugs are like marijuana. How is that desirable?

The article makes some very good points, even if I don't agree with the conclusion.
Parents must make clear that marijuana is not a harmless drug – even if they personally may have emerged unscathed.
And they need to teach the life lesson that marijuana does not really solve personal challenges, be they stress, relationships, or discouragement.
In the same way, a search for joy and satisfaction in a drug is misplaced.
The far greater and lasting attraction is in a life rooted in moral and spiritual values – not in a haze, a daze, or a munchie-craze.
This is all true. But it's not an argument for maintaining marijuana prohibition. We can teach these lessons to the kids and still salvage respect for adults' own right to make decisions about what they smoke. We don't need the threat of arrest and incarceration to nudge people into making "moral and spiritual" choices about what they smoke or don't smoke. Most people already make reasonable choices.

The availability of legal alcohol doesn't cause most people to turn into Nicholas Cage in Leaving Las Vegas. Neither should we believe that criminal sanctions are the only thing saving potential pot smokers from Reefer Madness.

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