Monday, August 12, 2013

Just Legalize it Already

I spent a lovely extended weekend in Awenda and fell in love with Penetanguishene through a scenic bike ride.  The sun filtered through the trees on either side of the road, with the blue, blue lake peeking through - gorgeous!  But it was marred by my chosen beach read:  Chris Hedges' grim Empire of Illusion, which actually gave me nightmares - featuring Hugh Laurie for some reason.  Spooky, me possums!  I'll get to the book another day, but for now, let's focus on the distraction du jour:  marijuana legalization.  That's much easier to think about.  Tra-la-la.

Medicinal ganja is already legal, and new regulations are apparently streamlining the process to access it, but that's a boring issue anyway, so we'll move on.  The meaty question is: Should another mind-altering substance be legally available to the healthy masses?

Some argue that legalizing pot will make the government a fortune through taxation, just like legalizing liquor did and does.   (On a side note, think of how much more cash provincial parks would have if they could sell beer at the park stores!)   But I don't think sales of weed at the L&MCBO will garner much profit.  Pot is different than alcohol in that it's a weed that grows easily everywhere, and the process from growing to smoking is as easy as drying cut flowers.  Children can do it!

Back in the day, when the Seagrams distillery was up and running, we'd buy the cast-off barrels to make "swish" - a hard-core drink sucked up from the resins of other alcohols still in the barrel.  It was a long, slow process of turning barrels of water an inch each day, then filtering the drink into bottles we saved from the last party, and finally challenging one another to actually drink the stuff.  Making quality liquor is a job of a master, not a bunch of teenagers.  But anyone can grow good weed.

I suppose the police might spend their time roaming through backyard gardens, garages, and basements searching for pot plants in order for the government to soak up full revenues.  Then they might make loads of money off taxes - but the profit will be eaten by the number of people needed to continuously monitor personal plantations.   But the government can make more money - or save it, I should say -  by just no longer taking up the time and energy of the police and the court system with marijuana charges.  That's over $60 million a year by some counts, and over $80 million by others, and $20 billion in the states!   We'll say "lots."

The effects of pot are still being debated, but from what I've seen as a high-school teacher and former partier - purely anecdotal evidence here - chronic toking causes some significant brain impairment.  Users talk and think and understand things much more slowly than they once did, even when they're straight.  But occasional use seems to have no significant long-term impairment.  Like all good things, moderation is key.

Like drinking, it should be for adults only, and not on the streets or at work.  As police fine teens toking in the streets, maybe they could fine them for smoking cigarettes too.  Just sayin'.  But if neighbours gather in the street for a beer, can a few of them light up instead?  There has to be some deterrent to keep people from indulging willy-nilly.  Which leads to another problem:  It's far easier to mask being stoned than being drunk.  If a student is drunk in class, they slur and stumble and make a spectacle of themselves.  But half my class stares glassy-eyed at me regularly.  I can't send them all down to the office for a sniff test.

But I'm not too worried about legalization for that reason.  Teens won't get it more easily if it's legalized; they've got plenty.

Taxing and regulating pot will not keep it away from kids like Trudeau thinks it will.  I can't imagine how he came to that conclusion:  Right now, it's illegal for anyone to have it, yet lots of kids have easy access to it.  So, if it's legal, then kids won't be able to get it because they're underage.  Huh??

The argument of former attorneys-general of BC that prohibition isn't the answer since so many still smoke it is also really weak.  Theft is illegal, but lots of people steal anyway - doesn't mean we should make theft legal.

A better argument for legalizing pot is that your decision to smoke pot doesn't harm me in any way - especially if the cops are no longer wasting their time enforcing drug laws instead of preventing or stopping harmful crimes.  Pot's not like heroin or crack that gets you so addicted you'll steal from your friends and family or prostitute yourself to get another fix.  For most users it's a once in a while thing.  And stoners tend towards non-violence.  I've seen lots of drunken rumbles at bars, but stoners typically sit quietly giggling or feigning enlightenment or trying to focus on something, anything.

Legalizing pot won't stop kids from coming to class wasted, but that choice will only harm their own grades if it prevents them from focusing.  And the reality is, for some kids, they're self-medicating ADHD.  They hated Ritalin, but pot helps them focus in class.  I'm not advocating for doling it out at the door, but truth be told, based on one-on-one student reports at commencement, some kids discovered they could focus on the lesson much better if they were just a little bit high.  And they can sleep better at night too, which is a struggle for many teens.  We have to protect students from their own unwise decisions, so of course we have to maintain that it's not allowed at school or for teenager use - ever.  Too many have gone down a slippery slope after realizing they could fake their way through the school day, only to end up failing every course.  But for others.....   That's a tricky one!  

When sea ice is melting, and nuclear radiation can't be contained, and oil is spilling into our river systems, and water is running out, and oranges are diseased, and biological weapon manufacturers are in control of food production, and jobs are scarce, and the powerful just concern themselves with growth over sustainability, and toxins are everywhere, and the honey bees are dying from a pesticide 10,000 more deadly than DDT, and the world could be uninhabitable in this century - if all that ever happens, then maybe lighting a doobie might not be such a bad idea.  


The Mound of Sound said...

Nice try, Marie. Go back and read your last paragraph, the one about the sea ice, nuclear radiation, oil spills, yada, yada. How come there's not one mention of honey bees? You got something against bees?

On a somewhat more serious note, my long-time best buddy is a now safely retired Detroit cop. He said he'd gone into many houses where one spouse was lying in a pool of blood on the floor and there was an empty bottle of Jim on the table but he'd never seen any bloodshed caused by a stoner.

Marie Snyder said...

I added bees to my list of ways we're killing ourselves off!

Legalize said...

As long as it relieves pain with less of the side effects of other meds, who cares about the bureaucracy?