The question this week asks us whether we think marijuana should be legalized.
This topic has always been extremely difficult for me to reconcile logically and emotionally. In my intellectual brain, I see the benefits of legalizing the drug, taxing its sale, and benefitting from the economic contributions of the industry. Something like 30% of Americans smoke marijuana, anyway, so in my rational mind, I don’t see the harm in legalizing its use. Emotionally, though, I can’t help but cringe at the thought of allowing marijuana use the same status as alcoholic beverage consumption. Yes, the rational mind cries out that they’re both equally harmful, and I hear the NORML data echoing in my head about how deadly alcohol is when compared to weed. I still can’t bring myself to advocate its legalization, though, because of my own experiences with both drugs and alcohol.
I’ll admit it, I smoked a little weed in the past. I was living in ski towns, it was abundant, and I was young and adventurous. In fact, much of the culture in these areas focused on two things: finding the sickest powder to ride and scoring the best pot. I suppose that’s all well and good in this context; people are mostly on vacation, no one is really driving (the buses were great), and there wasn’t much to lose because no one drug-tested employees. Smoking is a huge component of the cultural experience of a ski town, and I understand its contribution, but I’ve seen people get hurt while skiing stoned. I’ve seen people get fired because they missed work or couldn’t add up their restaurant tickets while wasted.
Furthermore, although it’s a cliché that even I’m annoyed by, I do see pot as a “gateway” drug. How many friends do I have that started off smoking some weed, and soon they were doing coke? I don’t think I could even count. I don’t even think I could count the ones who started selling weed, coke, hash, and assorted other substances after they became immersed in this culture. I just don’t think we can trust people to be responsible when they’re high, despite the rational arguments that support pot legalization. Pot wouldn’t be so commonly characterized as a point of entry into the drug culture if it didn’t fit the bill. Also, if you legalize pot, where do you stop? Are we all going to agree that coke and meth are equally harmless?
We can’t compare drugs to freedom of choice in other areas. Although I am free to buy whichever car I like, I can assert that a car can be safely operated and thus not pose a public health problem. Similarly, it is possible for me to consume a diet that is beneficial for my body, which requires me to choose my foods. There is no safe amount of pot consumption, or shroom consumption, or coke consumption; drugs necessarily degrade emotional and physical health. However, we do still sell items that are known to harm, including tobacco and alcohol products; how can we balance these two facts?Ultimately, I can’t come to terms with the fact that we allow the sale of tobacco and alcohol, but we do not allow the legal sale of pot. This decision seems to stem from cultural norms that are too deep to explain in this particular document. The answer to this week’s question: I have no idea. I say let the people of the United States decide, and public health professionals will be there to support initiatives to maintain health, regardless of the political status of marijuana.