LEGALIZE POT? THINK ON IT LONG AND HARD
By Marshall Frank
(This editorial appears in the April 28 issue of Florida Today)
Legalize marijuana? Well, there are plenty of pros and cons to go around.
As for me, my 30-year police career in Miami-Dade and my personal trials and tribulations have taught me that marijuana may have some positive points, but that doesn’t mitigate the harmful aspects. One of them is the gateway dilemma for graduating into drug abuse, especially among the youth.
Let’s start with the story of Bowen. This boy had the misfortune of being born into a family where his young parents would divorce and the mother retained custody of the child. I say “misfortune” because the mother was a flower child who thought the dangers of pot were overblown. She smoked pot regularly among friends and little Bowen. She even offered a joint to the 12-year-old child, telling him, “Here, you don’t have to do this behind my back.”
With tacit approval, Bowen not only became a regular user, he used to steal some of his mom’s weed and sell it at school. By the time he reached ages 16 to 17, he had graduated to every form of illegal drug use; heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and pain pills. It set the course for the rest of his very unhappy life. So, do not let anyone ever tell you that marijuana is not a gateway drug. Perhaps not for adults, but it’s a serious gamble for adolescent kids who are easily swayed by peers, by the ignorance of adult approval and by watching role models in music, movies and television where pot is glorified and often depicted as routine as eating ice cream.
As a career police officer, I would opine that 95-plus percent of cocaine and heroin addicts were first introduced to drug life by using marijuana.
Robert L. Dupont, former director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, published an article in the New York Times in 2016 in which he concluded that most all heroin users began their drug abuse lifestyle with marijuana and/or alcohol. He also stated that regular marijuana users in the early years are three times more likely to become addicted to heroin.
Some people will tell us marijuana use is not dangerous. That’s arguable according to the American Automobile Association (AAA), whose studies determined that in the state of Washington, since recreational marijuana was legalized in 2012, deadly car crashes involving drivers impaired by smoking pot have virtually doubled. FactCheck.org . also released a report regarding spiraling pot use in Colorado, where marijuana-related traffic deaths increased by 154 percent between 2006 and 2014.
Marijuana produces impairment, much like alcohol. But marijuana is much harder to detect and/or to measure, and it is easier to conceal. Thus, the dangers are enhanced. Other studies have concluded regular, long-term use of marijuana can result in lethargy and lack of ambition.
But it’s true too many otherwise non-criminals are wrongfully filling our jails and prisons at a cost of human productivity and wasted taxpayer dollars. We need to direct our attention to education, prevention and treatment as opposed to the waste of unnecessarily warehousing humans in prisons.
Marijuana certainly has medicinal benefits for people who suffer from epilepsy, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and more. In one form or another, medical marijuana laws have now been passed in 28 states, including Florida. That sounds nice, but one cannot wonder what percentage of legal pot will wrongfully be attributed to “medical” purposes as a ruse for buying, selling and using it as a recreational drug.
If it is truly useful as a medical benefit, it should require a doctor’s prescription, rather than being an over-the-counter purchase like alcohol.
Above all else, I reflect on the horrible danger for young people using pot, which serves as a lure into the bane of drug abuse and the miserable life that goes with it.
I should know. That little boy I called Bowen is my son.