Toke Up, and Dumb Down

Discussion in 'Marijuana News' started by Superjoint, Aug 23, 2001.

  1. By Filip Palda, National Post
    Source: National Post

    In a recent series of articles in the National Post, Diane Francis explained that marijuana is a benign drug that should be legalized for the pleasure of its users and the multi-billion-dollar tax revenue it could bring government.
    She may have to wait a while before government gives dope smokers its blessing to surround themselves with what Arthur Conan Doyle described as the "sweet balsamic odour of oriental tobacco." Politicians will board almost any profitable enterprise, cutlass in hand, to hack their way to private treasure chests. What stops the Captain Hooks of government from plundering the marijuana trade?

    Marijuana is not legal because for most users it is a drug with one function: Marijuana stupefies its user so that the man who once shone in conversation becomes under its influence a dullard who unsettles family and friends with inanities and disconnected thoughts. Put differently, marijuana is a uniphasic drug whose effect is to scramble the mind.

    Alcohol and tobacco are deadlier drugs than marijuana, but they belong to the biphasic class of drugs. Tobacco can stupefy, and also uplift. Alcohol in moderate doses gives its user energy and allows him to talk and act with verve. Montaigne believed that drunkenness was gross and brutish, but that "wine has the capacity of tempering the soul and giving health to the body." Plato forbade that men should get drunk before the age of 40, but considered convivial drinking at a symposium to be useful provided the group of drinkers had a leader who maintained order.

    The young who smoke marijuana have always been impatient with elders who preach sermons with highball in hand and a cigarette hanging from their lip. What adults may have trouble getting across is their unease about a drug whose central function is to increase chaos in the mind. This distaste for stupefying drugs goes back to Homer who wrote the cautionary tale of Odysseus rescuing his men from the eternal rave party of the lotus eaters.

    University of Chicago psychologist Mihali Csikszentmihalyi has devoted his career to studying mental chaos and the activities that enhance or diminish it. In one study he attached a beeper to several hundred volunteers and eight times a day signalled them to write down what they were doing and how they were feeling. Through such "experience sampling" he found that people felt a special lift when they were tackling a challenging problem which could be broken down into manageable steps, each of which, once climbed, gave the individual a sense of pride and pleasure.

    Whether studying top executives and artists, or factory workers and goatherds, Csikszentmihalyi found that all felt time was standing still and that depression and listlessness, which are signs of mental chaos, were absent.

    The enthusiasm and productivity of his subjects were infectious and tended to raise the levels of those around them, much like Mary Poppins convincing her charges that "in every job to be done there is an element of fun." Csikszentmihalyi called the feeling such people experience "flow" and theorized that flow banishes the state of entropy into which unoccupied spirits tend to fall.

    Marijuana inhibits flow by robbing its users of the ability and desire to concentrate. Nothing productive or uplifting comes from its recreational use. Marijuana is neither a demon drug nor a major threat to society, but it remains shady among those who value productive individuals with whom it is a joy to work and live.

    Some societies, such as those of the Dutch and the Swiss, seem remarkably tolerant of marijuana use. Their example is not pertinent to North America. Both Dutch and Swiss control drug use not by government law but by popular custom. They are ancient societies in which the community and not the state limits how far individuals may dissipate themselves.

    North America is a busy, rootless place in which the only sign of a neighbour may be a garbage can put out on collection day. Our mobility allows us to go where are the best opportunities for making money, but darting about comes at a cost. We must now ask government to censor conduct that stable communities once contained with the wag of a few fingers.

    Perhaps this is why the United States, which has a dynamic free market economy, also has a government increasingly opposed to marijuana. Canada wheezes behind the United States, but is similar enough that we are unlikely to soon see marijuana sold at newsstands or supermarkets.

    Filip Palda is a professor of economics at the École nationale d'administration publique in Montreal.

    Note: While marijuana is not a demon drug, it still scrambles the mind.

    Source: National Post (Canada)
    Author: Filip Palda, National Post
    Published: August 23, 2001
    Copyright: 2001 Southam Inc.

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