Legalizing Marijuana: Facing the Realities of Altering Reality

[Here is another blog post from the weblog I’m now writing for “Context with Lorna Dueck.” The full bank of them is here.]

As Parliament prepares to discuss legalization of marijuana, here are some realities with which we all must reckon.

#1: There is no exact parallel with the legalization of marijuana in our culture today. The usual candidates are alcohol and tobacco, but they are not the same as pot.

Alcohol? People legitimately drink beer, wine, and spirits because they like the taste of beer, wine, and spirits. Do many people drink alcohol merely to alter their consciousness, which is the only reason anyone smokes pot? Of course. But if there were equally enjoyable nonalcoholic beverages and we kept alcohol legal merely for people to intoxicate themselves, we might have an exact parallel with marijuana. We don’t, so we don’t.

Tobacco? Tobacco use took general root before its health hazards were known. And there is sensual pleasure to be had, I’m told, in smoking fine cigars and pipes. So we allow people to risk their health in order to enjoy those pleasures even as we continue to pay a frightful toll in health care for the many, many victims of tobacco’s many harms.

The purported parallel with tobacco doesn’t help the pro-pot side much anyhow. Would our society have been better off if we had never legalized tobacco? Does anyone even wonder about that?

#2: The actual parallel with marijuana is (other) narcotics. People smoke marijuana for the same reason many people ingest stronger narcotics: alteration of consciousness. Yet we rightly fear addiction. We rightly fear brain damage. We rightly fear other psychological and physiological outcomes from chronic narcotic use.

So we don’t sell codeine or morphine or oxycontin at the liquor store, just as we don’t sell cocaine and heroin. But we’re going to sell marijuana?

#3: Impaired driving is one of the great scandals of our era. Tens of thousands of North Americans die every year in alcohol-related accidents. Penalties for impaired driving, after decades of advocacy by MADD and other agencies, are still laughably low, even as a DUI conviction is now a badge of considerable shame.

Making marijuana both legal and more available to drivers cannot possibly help but result in a proportional rise in traffic deaths, as the statistics from Colorado (mentioned on the show) grimly indicate.

Are we really reckoning with this cost, or just focusing on finally being able to enjoy that joint in peace after a stressful day?

(Self-driving cars cannot come soon enough.)

#4: Some people do toke up just for a mild groove. But many, many do not. Will we keep trying to alleviate the social and personal ills that drive people to numb themselves against the pain of abuse, of unemployment, of poverty, and of loneliness? Or are we settling for the Brave New World approach by making sure everyone has enough soma, the government-issued intoxicant featured in that novel, to keep everyone docile?

One of the guests on the show told us that she gave up marijuana because “We’re not meant to escape reality.” Another guest said he went straight once he realized that drugs weren’t actually helping, and that a Higher Power actually would.

Real life is tough, but it’s real. Is opening the floodgates to pot really loving my neighbour, really caring for her at some cost to myself? Or is it just letting her tranquilize herself, which makes her less of a bother, even as the hidden costs grow?

Smoking marijuana might make you lazy. Legalizing it might be lazy, too.

5 Responses to “Legalizing Marijuana: Facing the Realities of Altering Reality”

  1. WoundedEgo

    Since you cite no scripture that I can see this is apparently your own opinion on whether or not marijuana ought to be legal. Your jurisprudence seems to go like this:

    * narcotic drugs are harmful and addictive so pot must be harmful and addictive too – but that is patently false. People don’t die from pot or even get sick; instead, the get well. Marijuana has been shown to effective or promising against many human afflictions. It can even be argued that it is way more effective than prayer. And it is not addictive. Many people are *dependent* on marijuana but no one is addicted. There are no withdrawals.

    * alcohol is legal because it has a legitimate use as a beverage – this is patently false. Alcohol is legal because prohibition failed to stop people from imbibing, fostered violence, filled prisons, undermined health regulation of alcoholic beverages and funded gangs rather than returning taxes to the community. The “war on pot” is a violation of civil liberties designed by Richard Nixon to allow him to persecute hippies and minorities: http://www.vox.com/2016/3/22/11278760/war-on-drugs-racism-nixon

    * cigarettes are harmful so pot must be harmful to – that may be a concern for heavy smokers but pot does not contain either tar or nicotine so the main concern is irritation which can be addressed by infrequent usage, hookahs (water pipes), edibles and last but not least, vapes.

    * marijuana relieves the pain of the many insults of life, including physical pain – but you may well be completely alone in the notion that this is bad thing. It is very “grinch” to begrudge people relief from pain, anxiety, sleeplessness and loss of appetite or even the sweet feelings induced by pot.

    Obviously I strongly disagree with your stance. It is bad politics and false religion.

    This being Passover, I call attention to the more enlightened, liberal and *scriptural* declaration recently made, that medicinal pot is kosher for Passover as at any other time:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/rabbi-medical-marijuana-kosher-passover_us_57193718e4b0d4d3f722c4b3

    The scriptures never, ever declare pot to be unkosher but enjoin embracing all the gifts that God has made:

    Heb 6:7 For ground which drinks the rain which comes often upon it, and produces useful herbs for those for whose sakes also it is tilled, partakes of blessing from God;

    1Ti 4:1 Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons,
    1Ti 4:2 through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared,
    1Ti 4:3 who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.
    1Ti 4:4 For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving,
    1Ti 4:5 for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.
    1Ti 4:6 If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed.

  2. Dawit

    Our current drug situation leaves both Central America and the down town cores of many of our big cities a wasteland. I live 3 blocks from the largest homeless shelter in Ottawa and have been offered crack… while standing on our driveway. While I think that people should not use MJ and stronger drugs something different than what we are doing is a moral necessity. Something needs to be done to get rid of the pushers and the illegal smuggling. The only solution I see is selling drugs at the LCBO at such a price that the illegals can’t compete. Our current war of drugs is a total failure.

  3. Jim

    The medicinal properties associated mariuayana are separate and distinct from the mind altering components. Remove the mind altering elements and see how it sells, not so much I would bet. Mariuayana sales will be replaced by other more harmful drugs and nothing will change for those suffering from the list of social ills. The market for the criminal element will simply make the necessary correction in product and sales. Just as they did when the prohibition of alcohol came to an end. There is no progress or social gain only a reallocation of resources due to market demand and the states need for money. The vulnerable will continue to be exploited and others will continue to profit by harming thier nieghbour. Unless, someone thinks a drug induced society is progress?

    • Jim

      Hard to make an intelligent argument when I spell the word wrong: marijuana. LOL.

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