Today's Marijuana Naysayers May Be Blowing Smoke

Discussion in 'Marijuana News' started by Superjoint, Apr 3, 2001.

  1. By Jeff Mahoney
    Source: Hamilton Spectator

    They used to tell us that marijuana would lay waste to a whole generation, making it feeble and soft, albeit with the lung capacity to inhale like pearl divers. We'd be ripe pickings for the Soviets. The Red Army would enslave the world while we all stood idly by saying, "Wow, bad scene."
    Well, that's not what happened. Ironically, the generation that smoked all that pot turned out to be the most fiercely energetic, acquisitive, unmellow son-of-a-bitch generation that the free enterprise system has ever produced. It got the munchies.

    The Soviets would be the ones who rolled over. Who would have guessed it? Marijuana has never been able to live up to the negative hysteria its critics have tried to whip up for it. Drugs and the drug trade have certainly taken their toll on individual lives and on society as a whole, a toll which cannot be minimized. But no one has ever been able to convincingly establish that marijuana itself is any worse than, say, alcohol. It certainly does not appear to be as addictive as alcohol, or anywhere near as costly and injurious in terms of lives and families shipwrecked over it.

    Yet marijuana remains on the books, and alcohol is freely sold and advertised. The hysteria persists -- though now it seems to be more of a rearguard, almost fatalistic hysteria, in contrast to the kind of pre-emptive hysteria of pot's critics in the '60s. Those now opposed to the legalization of marijuana seem to sense that some kind of large, seismic shift is at hand in the public's institutional response to the drug, a shift in the openness and outward expression of the public's tolerance and in its thinning patience with laws that no longer seem terribly practical, fair or relevant.

    In the last few months especially, events have really begun to shape themselves into some kind of showdown. First, in the last federal election, we had something called The Marijuana Party. And south of the border, several states voted in propositions calling for the legalized selling of marijuana for medicinal purposes -- the California proposition is now being challenged before the Supreme Court.

    In Canada, the laws against the selling of marijuana are also being challenged before our Supreme Court, by an Ontario man who uses the drug for medicinal purposes.

    There are many fronts on which the marijuana lobby is pressing its advantage, but nowhere do they see a more promising wedge than on the medicinal-use front. I think they are calculating that once they get past that hurdle, they're home free. And they're probably right.

    Perhaps that's why the U.S. Justice Department is fighting so fiercely against the California proposition. Its lawyer recently argued that marijuana's medicinal benefits are anecdotal only and that there is no basis for its use as a treatment or a relief, that allowing what amounts to marijuana pharmacies opens the doors to " charlatans." Yes, charlatans, as opposed, to the legitimate, accredited professionals who are selling the stuff on the street where sick people will presumably have to get it if the state proposition is struck down.

    The federal government decided to pursue the case on a civil basis rather than criminally because it knew it could probably never get a jury that would oppose the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes.

    That reckoning reflects just how profound the shift in public opinion has been. Of course it is a shift that has been building for decades.

    There has long been a vigorous marijuana counter-culture. Right here in Hamilton we have had Brother Walter and his Church of the Universe, which accords hemp a sacramental status. When that counter-culture surfaced from the underground, it did so largely on the strength of its potential as comedy material. Cheech and Chong, that kind of thing.

    But then, more and more, so-called head shops began to flourish openly in the economy. And, increasingly, Hollywood has produced mainstream movies and even TV shows in which the casual enjoyment of marijuana is portrayed in an almost positive, or at least non-judgmental, light.

    And the outright stoner, or pothead, has become a kind of stock figure of gentle, comic amusement rather than contempt.

    When public figures of the stature of a Stockwell Day and a Bill Clinton admit to trying marijuana, when even George W. Bush admits to using cocaine, you know that something is starting to give way in the brave front of society's "official" anti-marijuana posturing.

    Why are we loath to admit it? Almost everyone of a certain age tried marijuana, at least once, and generally, they didn't go screaming mad. And many, many people among us still use it frequently, even grow it in their homes. All kinds of people -- business executives, arch conservatives, stock exchange types, the ones who turned the economy hydroponic. It cuts across all kinds of lines.

    Just look on the Internet. There are thousands of marijuana sites. They gleefully tell you how to build your own water pipe out of plastic pop bottles and bits of tubing. They share dictionaries of pot slang -- flower tops, shake, blunts, shotgun. They recommend good games to play when stoned, like Ganga Farmer, a video game featuring a gun-toting Rastafarian on top of a microbus, "protecting his crop" from federal agents swarming in by helicopter and parachute.

    Don't misunderstand me. Marijuana is bad for you. Inhaling it scorches your lungs and throat. You're far better off not smoking it, than smoking it. But the same can be said of alcohol, cigarettes, even potato chips.

    They're not illegal. We don't waste billions of dollars trying to run down the people who use and sell them.

    What we should do is legalize pot, and tax it to the skies. At least then we could regulate its traffic, control quality and cost, get it out of the hands of organized crime and into the hands of huge, respectable corporations which we can then sue into the ground when we determine that marijuana use is making us sick.

    They'll have to put horrible pictures and warnings on the marijuana cigarette packages. The whole thing will be totally deromanticized and consumption will go way, way down.

    Everything's backwards. The people who hate marijuana should push for its legalization if they really want to squash it, not tell alarmist lies about it, which make people resent them and distrust everything they say.

    Those who love it should oppose legalization because a big part of its appeal is its forbiddenness, the sub-culture humour that the taboo engenders, and the feeling it gives them that they're "rebels," like Woody Harrelson or Bob Marley.

    Complete Title: Pot's Coming To a Boil Today's Marijuana Naysayers May Just Be Blowing Smoke

    Source: Hamilton Spectator (CN ON)
    Author: Jeff Mahoney
    Published: March 31, 2001
    Copyright: The Hamilton Spectator 2001

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