Marijuana: A Crisis of Foolishness
A recent TV news story about a break-in at an area business had a familiar feel to it, until the owner talked about the impact of drugs, the root cause of so much crime.
He mentioned the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945 and compared the drug situation there to that devastated Japanese city. Once that bomb dropped, everything changed and there was no going back, he said.
“That’s what drugs are like here,” he said.
Legalizing Gateway Drug
That segment came to mind as I sat in a line of chairs recently, waiting for a screening test at a seniors health fair, hosted annually by a hospital near our home.
As a medical student chatted with several men about a men’s health group he and several other students had started, the conversation happened to touch on marijuana.
The med student shared his view that marijuana should be legalized. Not only would taxes on it provide revenue, weed would be better controlled by the government and have a lower THC content than black-market cannabis, he argued.
Finally, I had to speak up.
“Nationwide, we have staggering heroin addiction problems,” I said. “And our society’s solution, broadly-speaking, is to legalize a gateway drug to heroin? I mean, you’ve got to be kidding.”
He agreed that there are problems associated with marijuana, but said the same is true of alcohol and cigarettes. And cigarettes contain numerous carcinogens and other chemicals that are worse, he said.
When he got to his argument that marijuana is not nearly as harmful as cigarettes when it comes to cancer, I disagreed again. The only reason it appears so is we don’t any scientific studies of the cancer caused by prolonged pot use over several decades.
“Just wait, those studies will be coming,” I commented.
I went on to say that it also bothered me that society typically looks the other way when it comes to legal marijuana filtering down to children. This invariably happens because of law breakers or irresponsible adults.
“The same thing happens with cigarettes, and yet they’re still legal,” he replied.
I had to admit that I didn’t have a good comeback for that one. I would say it would be nice to see cigarettes outlawed too, but—as with liquor in the Prohibition era—that would create more problems.
Social Service Problems
Still, I believe the downside to marijuana gets less attention than it should. Take the story I saw a couple months ago about the costs of Colorado legalization.
Imagine the outcry if liquor stores exploded like a mushroom cloud. In Colorado, the number of marijuana retailers skyrocketed from two dozen at the outset of legalization to more than 330.
Among the problems the story mentioned are increased demand for social services in southern Colorado since legal weed took hold last year. Marijuana-related emergency response calls spiked 81 percent in 2014.
“People have moved to Colorado because of the legalization of marijuana,” said one pastor in Pueblo. “Then they have stressed the food pantries and homeless shelters and things like that.”
Nor has legalization been the financial bonanza forecast by advocates. Instead of the $118 million in estimated marijuana tax revenue the state expected, receipts were just over $36 million.
The story also noted that since taxes have increased the price, this has fueled an expansion of the black market. As a result, several drug cartels are operating in the state.
I see that as a modern version of Pot Whack-A-Mole. The more problems we purport to solve, the more we create. And yet we rush on, oblivious to the headaches fueled by our own foolishness.