The Reality of Pipe Dreams
Third of three parts
I was so captivated by the talk by Sam Quinones, author of Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic, that when the moderator opened the floor for questions, I was the first to the microphone.
Like many others in the crowd at Marshall University’s student center, drugs have had a major (negative) impact on my life through the addictions of loved ones. Since a friend whose son has also been through rehab now favors legalization, I wanted to know what the author thought about this issue.
Quinones gave a nuanced answer, which made a lot of sense. A two-parter, actually:
- On the issue of heroin, he gave a flat-out “no.” Not with the serious problems that already accompany its abuse, let alone it being more widely available and condoned by government.
- Next he gave the most credible explanation for the legalization of marijuana I have heard to date. It didn’t necessarily change my mind, but it gave me a new awareness about the problems caused by its prohibition—particularly how pot’s THC content has increased dramatically in recent decades.
Instead of a minor amount as in the “old days,” some of the stuff circulating now has 30 percent THC. That means increased damage to the young minds exposed to it, let alone the adults who continue to smoke it.
“We need to make it like beer—6 percent (proof) and have it controlled,” he commented. He added that allowing someone to grow incredibly strong grass, as Colorado has done, is in reality quite dangerous.
Bad enough that people get high, but allowing them to blow their minds on weed that is five or six times more powerful than it used to be is a prescription for disaster.
No Bonanza Here
Quinones also touched on the argument that legalized pot will provide a financial bonanza and increased tax revenue for cash-strapped states. His summation could be phrased this way: “That’s nuts.”
Quinones pointed out that marijuana is much more likely to be a zero-sum game. In other words, no profit at all. Why? Because government oversight also means setting up the structure to control it. Thus, like liquor, it takes agents to oversee it, taxing authorities, and policing to make sure laws regarding it are upheld.
“I really don’t think people have thought this through,” he said.
Bingo! Economic development has been the age-old argument in favor of expanding access to liquor where citizens have sought to restrain its distribution, and it quite often carries the day.
So to see pot purveyors trotting out the same old theory when it comes to legalizing marijuana is like watching history repeat itself. Which also reminds me of a satirical comment I read recently—that the main thing we learn from history is that we don’t learn from history.
A Burning Question
One unasked question in all the debates and referendums spreading like mushrooms across the country is why the richest society in world history can’t find fulfillment in material prosperity. The kind that Americans a century ago could only dream about is today reality. Yet happiness remains elusive.
Why is modern life so miserable that so many feel the need to escape into a haze that numbs their minds, leaves them unproductive, and offers little hope for the future? That is a burning question that will remain even if all 50 states legalize Mary Jane.