Most readers have seen the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Remember when George Bailey is shown how life would be if he hadn’t been born? He runs through Bedford Falls but it has been taken over by the evil Mr. Potter and renamed “Potterville.” And the main feature of Potterville is that the nice, clean family town has been replaced by a dirty, filthy town filled with honkeytonks, bars, strip joints, etc.
Thanks to medical marijuana legalization, people in Colorado have been given their own view of what it’s like to live in Potterville. And I do mean “pot.” There are “medical marijuana” dispensaries on every street corner in many towns now. They have sprung up in the last year as the medical marijuana legalization effort have come into full swing. So, one result when you legalize pot the way Colorado chose to do so is you get a literal Potterville, with dirty characters hanging out in front of pot dispensaries, which are literally on every block in downtown Loveland, CO, near where I live.
You can read more about how this came about here. To summarize, voters approved medical marijuana for those truly in need, and it got out of control. “Doctors” sign “prescriptions” at the drop of a hat, and, in effect, pot is completely legalized in Colorado.
Needless to say, many people don’t like their new Pottervilles, and the Colorado legislature has approved a new bill trying to bring the situation under control. One of the provisions of the bill allows local communities to opt out of allowing medical marijuana dispensaries, and the police chief of Loveland, CO (near where I live) has said he wants the community to get rid of all of the pot houses in town. He said the dispensaries are causing crime to increase in town, although, frustratingly, he gave no details (or the reporter who covered his comments forgot to provide them).
This whole medical marijuana movement has got to be one of the most cynical, dishonest things I have ever seen. Yes, there are some people whose suffering will be eased by marijuana. Yes, marijuana is less harmful than other drugs out there. But why couldn’t Colorado decide instead to allow pharmacies to provide real prescriptions, rather than allowing pot dispensaries literally on every corner of many small towns? What the movement really wanted was exactly what it got, ie, a completely uncontrolled environment with pot being legalized without admitting that it was being legalized.
Now would be a nice time to say that opining you are against the legalization of drugs on a blog is a certain way to get lots of nasty comments from a broad spectrum of people. Let me just say to the more restrained of you: I have heard and read every possible argument in favor of legalizing drugs. There is nothing you can tell me on this subject that I don’t already know. I have been following this issue closely since I was a teenager and first became politically aware.
I am by nature a libertarian, live-and-let live type of guy. My instinct is that the government should be as involved in your life as little as possible. But there are legitimate areas where the government should be involved. I’ll give you one example. Clearly, we favor freedom of speech, and that freedom has been interpreted, in modern times, to include allowing pornography. But most people agree that child pornography is wrong and should be illegal.
In my mind, the same logic applies to drug legalization. We generally favor the idea that people should have the right to do what they want with their own bodies. But we have rules that limit buying alcohol to those over 21. We as a society deem that certain drugs are so harmful that they should not be legal. One of the purposes of making something illegal is to point out that it is “wrong.” I can tell you from experience that pointing out that something is illegal makes it much easier to win the verbal debate with your argumentative teenager about whether or not he/she can do something. “You can’t drink alcohol because it’s illegal until you’re 21″ is a much easier argument to win than “you can’t drink alcohol because I think it’s wrong.”
So, lack of moral approbation is critically important to families. In Colorado these days, you cannot win that debate because if it is “wrong” why are there marijuana plants being advertised on every street corner? But I will provide some personal experience that many other readers may not have. I grew up in a hippie community in California in the 1970s, and I had many, many friends who started smoking pot when they were teenagers. The claim that pot is not addictive is nonsense. Most of my friends who started smoking in their teen years have either had serious, life-threatening health problems, have severe memory problems similar to dementia or have quit never to smoke again. I have several college-age friends who smoke pot every day and have heroin-like withdrawal symptoms if they go a few hours without a joint in the morning. If you don’t believe my personal experience, you might want to read this.
Is marijuana a “gateway drug?” Well, yes and no. Some people are satisfied just sticking with pot. Some people, like myself, try it a few times and then stop. Some people, like my wife, never try it. But any expert in addictive behavior will tell you that certain boundaries are broken down once you try one drug. Once you have a tobacco cigarette, it’s easier to tell yourself it’s OK to have a beer or a joint. Mentally, it is easier to justify trying harder drugs once you have tried one drug. And some people feel that if marijuana makes you high and makes you feel good, well, mushrooms, coke, ecstasy and heroin will make you feel even better.
Does legalization actually decrease drug use? I have seen studies on both sides of this issue. I don’t think the evidence is conclusive either way. The forces of supply and demand are very difficult to overcome — no matter how much we do to restrict supply, if there is a demand illegal drugs will always be there. So, I am not arguing that the reason to keep drugs illegal is that it will limit supply. Anybody with teenagers knows that getting a joint at high school is probably easier than getting a new notebook at high school.
My argument basically boils down to three elements: 1)I have seen Potterville and legalized marijuana, and it is very, very ugly 2)one of the purposes of making something illegal is to point out it is “wrong” and 3)I know from personal experience that marijuana is an addictive, dangerous drug.
If you disagree, please do so nicely or else your comment will be up in smoke. So to speak.