Charlie's Blog: Keep Off the Grass


Keep Off the Grass

The motion picture you are about to witness may startle you. It would not have been possible, otherwise, to sufficiently emphasize the frightful toll of the new drug menace which is destroying the youth of America in alarmingly increasing numbers. Marihuana is that drug - a violent narcotic - an unspeakable scourge - The Real Public Enemy Number One! Its first effect is sudden violent, uncontrollable laughter, then come dangerous hallucinations - space expands - time slows down, almost stands still... fixed ideas come next, conjuring up monstrous extravagances - followed by emotional disturbances, the total inability to direct thoughts, the loss of all power to resist physical emotions... leading finally to acts of shocking violence... ending often in incurable insanity. In picturing its soul- destroying effects no attempt was made to equivocate. The scenes and incidents, while fictionized for the purposes of this story, are based upon actual research into the results of Marihuana addiction. If their stark reality will make you think, will make you aware that something must be done to wipe out this ghastly menace, then the picture will not have failed in its purpose... Because the dread Marihuana may be reaching forth next for your son or daughter... or yours... or YOURS!

The biggest propaganda film for legalizing marijuana is actually a film produced as propaganda for outlawing marijuana. Reefer Madness is a film that grossly exaggerates the effects and consequences of marijuana use. Consequently, people watch it today for a laugh. The sad thing is that marijuana really is a bad thing. It just isn't as bad as an earlier generation made it out to be. So, today's generation sees marijuana as a good thing. And this is a bad thing.

Canada and many states in the USA have now legalized marijuana to a greater or lesser extent. I find it amusing that people in Colorado claim that if they could vote on the measure again that it would not pass today. Apparently, people in Colorado have become angry that their state has become a magnet for transient potheads who spend all day high on reefer and mooching the rest of the time.

The legalization of marijuana began with the ridiculous "medical marijuana" movement that extolled the health benefits of weed. Marijuana proved effective in the treatment of a variety of maladies like glaucoma, nausea from chemotherapy, and chronic pain. But the number one medical condition marijuana seemed to cure was the condition known as not being high.

One of the arguments potheads make is that weed is not as bad as hard drugs like cocaine, heroin, LSD, and crystal meth. No one ever died from smoking too much reefer. This is true. The argument goes that whatever doesn't kill you must be a good thing. With that argument, weed is better than tobacco, fast food, and alcohol.

Another argument comes from the libertarians who argue that Prohibition did not eradicate drinking, but it did provide profits for organized crime which made the liquor hard and killed a lot of people who threatened their business. The problem with that argument is that organized crime did not go away after the end of Prohibition. You reach a point where some things can never be legalized for which there will be a market. These would be things like contract killing, insurance fraud, child pornography, and on and on. As a former libertarian, I knew my arguments for legalizing prostitution and drugs reached a dead end when the subject of age limits came up. The simple fact is that crime does not disappear when you get rid of the laws.

All drug legalization arguments come down to one issue--the victimless crime. Ultimately, you can't protect people against themselves. And no crime is ever victimless. Drunkenness is a victimless crime until you consider battered wives, abused children, and the scores of people injured and killed by drunk drivers. The truth is that these things would never have been criminalized in the first place if they didn't create problems for other people. This is why virtually every country in the world has made drugs illegal.

Now, it is draconian to destroy a young person's entire life for taking a hit off of a joint. The ultimate aim of the law should be the good of the person and not their destruction. Today's drug laws aim for the destruction of the user. And this is something that should be changed. Reducing drug offenses to the level of a misdemeanor is fine by me. I favor decriminalization instead of legalization.

What is the difference between decriminalization and legalization? Legalization means what it says. What is illegal is made legal. Decriminalization does not make the activity legal but reduces the penalties for the crime. Where you might go to jail for the offense, the penalty is reduced to a fine and court mandated drug treatment. 

The problem with outright legalization is that it serves to promote the behavior. This is what you see now in Colorado as potheads flood into the state, and families are sickened by reefer smoke on the ski slopes and city streets. Even in places like Amsterdam where hash and prostitution are legal, these things have become a national embarrassment and a magnet for the worst kinds of tourists.

Decriminalization reduces the consequences of an activity without eliminating the stigma of the activity. We already follow this path with things like speeding, drunk driving, and littering. These are things we would never legalize because our highways would become trash filled lanes of wrecked cars and dead bodies. But if these things become felonies with long jail terms, the roads would be desolate of drivers afraid that a speed trap would be the end of their freedom.

Portugal is the one country that has tried decriminalization for all drugs, and this experiment seems to have worked for them. Drug usage has declined along with deaths from drug overdoses and a reduction in the spread of HIV from contaminated needles. Where current drug policies in the USA and most other countries attack drug abuse from the supply side of things, Portugal has gone after the demand side of the problem. And this has been cheaper than filling prisons with non-violent offenders.
Colorado has gone with the legalization route. The stats are being collected now, and the experiment seems to be a failure as Colorado still has a huge black market in marijuana production as it has become a supply point for other places where it remains illegal. Instead of organized crime moving out of the state, it has moved in finding cover behind the legal marijuana industry. The simple fact is that every solution breeds new problems.

Libertarians support marijuana legalization because they support legalization of all drugs. They will tell you that the destruction of a free market results in a black market. This is true. But do we really want dispensaries handing out cocaine and heroin? In the USA, opioid drugs which are legal with a prescription has created an epidemic of overdose deaths that now surpasses traffic fatalities. This is what happens when you legalize and destigmatize a substance.

Marijuana gets the pass because you can't overdose on it. And because it has some salutary benefits for some people, some proponents think smoking weed is now part of a healthy lifestyle like eating vegetables or exercising. But this isn't true.

The fact is that marijuana makes you stupid. All those stereotypes about stoners being unmotivated and slow in the head are totally true. I remember reading an article about a daughter with a pothead father who forgot her birthday one year and remembered her birthday twice the next year giving her gifts on different days. He would do things like take her to school and forget to pick her back up in the afternoon. She would walk home in tears to find her dad stoned on the couch.

I have never smoked marijuana in my life, so I cannot report firsthand on the effects of cannabis on the cerebral cortex. But I have been surrounded by potheads for most of my life in the workplace and among family members. Every one of them was stupid. They could not make the connections that the rest of us take for granted as common sense.

My favorite pothead story involves a guy in my workplace in the nineties who was the identical twin brother of Jeff Spicoli from Fast Times at Ridgemont High. He had the long blonde hair and the same stoner tone of voice and manner of speaking. And he spent the bulk of his days high from smoking large amounts of marijuana. One day, he told me that he wanted to get a better job that paid more money except they had a drug test which he was not going to pass unless there was some way to clean up his urine. He asked me what to do. I told him to drink a gallon of white vinegar. And he did. And he failed that drug test spectacularly. This is because I made up that crap about the white vinegar to see if he was dumb enough to do it.

That was a mean thing to do to the guy, and I don't do things like that anymore. But the fact that this guy was dumb enough to try it and gag on a gallon of vinegar is all you need to know about the intellectual damage that marijuana does to you. But this sort of thing is universal among all the potheads that I know. They aren't smart people.

People will point out some articles and studies that show that marijuana does not make you stupid. But this would be the recreational user who takes a few hits off a joint at a Doobie Brothers show. Longer term studies of habitual users show that weed makes you stupid. Basically, the effects are determined by amount of use and the length of use. You will see the same sort of thing with tobacco use and alcohol.

Smoking dope is not a smart thing to do, and the government should not encourage it. In time, you will see the places that legalized weed regret the decision. Instead of looking at the substance, people should look at the users of that substance. Would you want to live in a society full of potheads and stoners? The fact that employers go out of their way to exclude these people from their payrolls is enough to tell you that weed is not good for you or for society. The focus should be on making these people better not worse. The best way to do this would be decriminalization not legalization or the war on drugs.