Categorized | Vol 33 No 14 | 3/29-4/4

EDITORIAL: Legal marijuana: Should you be very afraid?

There’s no denying it, legal marijuana is happening. But is it a good or a bad thing? Possibly a little of both.

The medicinal value of cannabis has long been touted, from treating glaucoma to easing the pain and symptoms associated with cancer and AIDS. But recreational use — that’s a tricky one.

The biggest scare is probably the fear of marijuana being addictive or becoming a gateway drug to harder and more damaging drugs, such as cocaine, meth, or heroin.

Science journals across the board have pegged the addiction rate at about 9 percent among those who’ve tried it, and 20 to 30 percent among those who smoke it daily, which is weird, because if you smoke pot every day, then that seems more like 100 percent. Still, the overall addiction potential for cannabis is said to be less than that of caffeine, tobacco, alcohol, cocaine, or heroin.

Ultimately, pot will most likely carry the highest risk of addiction for people who become addicted to things anyway because they are simply addictive people.

As for its “gateway” status, if you remove the criminal element involved with buying pot, people will be less likely to associate with drug dealers who sell not just pot, but also harder drugs. The local, legal pot store clerk’s product will not only be regulated, without mystery ingredients, he won’t be trying to upgrade you to his cocaine special the next shelf over. This may reduce some of the gateway factor people fear. While most hard drug users probably began by smoking pot, most pot smokers do not move on to harder drugs.

Health-wise, it’s only logical to assume that inhaling smoke is detrimental, especially if followed by the ingestion of an entire bag of Cheetos. But, unlike alcohol, marijuana doesn’t fuel aggressive or violent behavior — in fact, it has the opposite effect. And while no one should ever drive a vehicle under the influence of a mind-altering substance, a stoned driver is more likely to crash at 20 mph, while a drunk one will crash at 70 mph.

Still, getting high all day long could really hamper your motivation to do anything constructive, unless maybe you’re an artist. In the end, it’s up to individuals to use it responsibly, just like we ask them to do everything else in life. Just because something is bad for you doesn’t mean it should be illegal. Tobacco, alcohol, unprotected sex, potato chips, soda, touching dead birds, mining for coal, driving cars, and licking frozen flagpoles are all bad for you, but perfectly legal.

The federal government’s confusion over marijuana’s legality also poses risks, and those people just need to figure things out.

Marijuana legalization poses a unique problem for communities of color, who already face barriers when it comes to educational and community resources, according to Washington State Liquor Control Board members Ruthann Kurose and Chris Marr (see related story on page 1), and to anyone else with the powers of observation. Exposing their kids to easier access to pot is one headache that minority parents do not need or want.

It is probably safe to say that most people in the Asian American community are against legalization. So many young Asian Americans are either immigrants or the children of immigrants who work very hard to succeed and provide opportunities for their children, from whom they demand much. And the kids know it. They study hard, get good grades, and respect the work ethic of their elders. The last thing their parents want to see is their teenager coming home stoned. It is, after all, still against federal law, and completely illegal for kids. But like alcohol, it’s very easy for them to acquire. They already have access from random dealers in the neighborhood (see other related story on page 1). Keep your grades up, kids.

Either way, it’s coming. The baby boomers make up a giant swath of the American electorate, and there’s a good chance that many of them are ready to retire and get high.

It’s hard to deny that a taxed and regulated marijuana industry could be a benefit for our suffering economy. We’ll just have to see how that plays out.

Ultimately, marijuana is mostly harmless, but not completely harmless. Its legalization is sweeping the country. Individuals need to adjust with knowledge and discussion, not fear. (end)

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