Prohibition of pot worth re-examining

‘ve been thinking a lot about the idea of legalizing pot. First of all, let me state for the record that I have never smoked pot. Never. Laugh if you like, but I really don’t have a horse in this race.

I really respect Dr. Jennifer Michaels, the brilliant medical director of the Brien Center in Pittsfield. She sees drug addicted patients all day long and she firmly believes marijuana is what she calls a “gateway” drug. In her opinion, people who smoke pot are more likely to get involved with other drugs than those who do not.

Of course, there are many people who have been smoking pot for years and haven’t gone down the road of ruin and perdition. They just want it legalized. They figure that if alcohol, a far more insidious and harmful drug associated with things like liver disease, automobile crashes and family disruptions, is legal, why shouldn’t pot be as well. I expect that people driving under the influence of marijuana could be held responsible in the same way that DUI drivers are sometimes held accountable. The chemical test for THC is well-enough developed so that people are being ticketed and the results are holding up in our courts.

We ended Prohibition for a reason. People were going to get alcohol one way or another and the same is true with pot. The legal prohibition of the sale and use of pot has created a black market for the importation and distribution of the stuff. People know where to get it and, in some cases, its sale has led to feuds between different providers who have big money to gain or lose. In fact, it’s not uncommon for one gang to tip off the police about another gang’s drug activities because they’re unhappy about the competition. Because pot is illegal and therefore not controlled by any governmental agency, there’s no consistency. The product can be adulterated or laced with really bad stuff.

As long as the underworld continues to control the sale and distribution of pot, the bad guys will reap the financial rewards. If government controls the enterprise, they can not only inspect it, they can tax the hell out of it. We tax cigarettes and alcohol, why not pot? And since we are always talking about economic development, legalizing pot will bring about a new industry and new jobs. Those employed in the pot business will have to pay taxes as opposed to those on the current payroll who do not. In fact, how long will it be before the pharmaceutical and tobacco companies get their paws into the mix and try to reap the financial rewards?

We have all heard about the benefits of medical marijuana. People suffering from any number of debilitating diseases have found that marijuana can relieve their suffering. Conditions ranging from anxiety to the side effects of chemotherapy have been made less painful by marijuana. Who would want to deny these folks relief? Not me.

Marijuana arrests have wasted the time and manpower of our courts. In some states, “three times and your-out” laws have meant that people accused of selling pot, and, in some cases, just possessing it, have had to spend the majority of their lives in prison. That’s just ridiculous.

I am told that marijuana is one of the top agricultural cash crops in America. It seems to me that for all of the reasons above, it really is a big mistake not to allow the reform of our outdated and unwise laws. We could earmark some of the money that would be gained in taxes to provide therapy for those who find themselves addicted to smoking pot. People are waking up. We’re going in the right direction as far as gay marriage and immigration reform go. Now the time has come to rethink our stance on marijuana.

Originally published in the Berkshire Eagle, 10/26/13

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One Comment on “Prohibition of pot worth re-examining”

  1. Harvey Brody Says:

    Any discussion of pot is fascinating because of the parallel relationship of Pot to alcohol, and the players involved., plus the incredible historical role that Pot or its derivatives have played in human history. First one of the reasons that our country was “founded” was due to the British literally evicting religious fanatics from the homeland. These religious fanatics called Puritans could find no refuge in any other European country that they fled. This was not dissimilar to the plight of John Smith who founded the religion of former presidential candidate Romney in upper New York State, and fled to the desert now called Utah. Eventually the Puritans raised money and were able to purchase a ship and crew and move not very far from where Alan moved to and arrive on Plymouth Rock. These religious fanatics were the first militant prohibitionists. Ironically alcohol was not only legal but issues to sailors in the British Navy and even made in quantities by sects of the Roman Catholic Church to raise money. Pot was known in the 17th Century by many names and often used by individuals. Now comes the fork in the road for pot and alcohol. Alcohol production became part of capitalism and even helped fund the political campaigns of JFK, but was considered to me medicinal, whereas pot being very easy to produce and readily available because of the use of hemp as both a superior fiber for clothing and rope presented a problem. Nothing comes without a price; of the two alcohol is certainly a greater health hazard than pot. However pot too presents health hazards similar to tobacco. My view is that we license the use of pot as we do with alcohol. But it seems that the medical advantages of pot as an adjunct to the treatment of many life-saving diseases greatly outweigh the negatives. The problem is that most successful nations have universal healthcare and also accept the use of pot. The US has the dubious distinction treating pot use horrible and alcohol use as acceptable. Both are also used as recreational with the irony that statistically speaking recreational pot use does not cause the societal damage that recreational alcohol does. When Abe Lincoln found a successful military leader used recreational alcohol he responded by saying “whatever he is drinking…distribute to his troops.” Likewise the use of pot is hardly a secret in most modern European armies, and secreted by our military. Did 300 Trojans use “religious” pot and wine to hold off a Persian army of a million? The answer is to license pot like alcohol, and to treat adverse consequences of both in similar ways. Former NY Governor Rockefeller responsible for so much good, and the creator of ridiculous drug laws, should have his ridiculous drug laws revoked. It is pathetic that our Legislature that could have ended the ridiculous pot laws for over 50 years has chosen to blame the originator and deny any responsibility for the responsibility of ending the incarceration of individuals involved with pot. We should extend that argument to the US Congress who some claim is owned by Big Pharmacy and the “new” Big Tobacco. It would be nice to see pardons by Mr. Cuomo for the X-Mas/Chanukah of individuals incarcerated for many years for pot-related offenses as a start. It would even be nicer if we elected a legislature that acted in our best interest and not make a corporation into a person, enabling this problem in the first place. I do not advocate legalization of pot, but the licensing of pot like alcohol. It’s time for a restoration of personal responsibility in NYS not continuation of “corporate” control of the legislature.

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