Is It High Time to Legalize Marijuana — What We’re Missing

Wow, I must have had my head under the proverbial rock, because I was shocked today to learn that a recent Pew poll, the majority of Americans now favor legalizing marijuana. And this is a good idea because?

Leave aside the criminal aspects of the drug. I’m not going to argue about the decades battling the cartels. Let’s just talk about the health care aspects.

If cigarettes cause lung cancer, what is the effect of marijuana on the lungs? Some research shows marijuana actually has up to 70% more carcinogens than tobacco.  If cigarettes do so much damage to blood pressure, what does marijuana do?

I’m never impressed by what the majority of people think. I’m impressed by what the majority of well-informed people think. You can poll people about what they think of just about anything:

“Do you think clowns with blue hair are funnier than clowns with orange hair?”

“Are drivers in red cars faster than truck drivers who eat too many donuts at the truck stop?”

“Should you be able to clone yourself at the office without losing vacation days or should you collect double your salary because there are two of you?”

Before we go rushing into legalizing marijuana, let’s ask ourselves how we are going to pay for the long-term health care costs. I don’t know about you, but I’m not really willing to foot the bill for Ted and Bill’s Excellent High or Harry and Kumar’s White Castle Munchies Fest.

While marijuana may not entice people to try stronger drugs, it still impairs the brain. I don’t really like driving on the same road with someone under the influence of anything, be it alcohol or marijuana. If we legalize it, won’t that create more problems?

Studies show that long-term, heavy use of marijuana can lead to impaired thinking skills and memory problems. How are we going to deal with this and who is paying for it? I’d rather contribute to a worthy college student’s education than pay for some idiot’s wackadoodle daze. I don’t want the guy behind the counter at Subway to be high when he’s putting together my sub, and I don’t want his co-worker fixating on the ingredients. “Hey, Dave, that’s a gnarly sandwich you just made, man. How’d you do that, dude?”

Studies determined that the effects of the marijuana remain in the body for up to three hours. In other words, when Harry and Kumar show up at the drive-up window an hour after smoking some weed, they are far more likely to rear end your car with your grandkids in the back seat, because driving is impaired by marijuana use. Think about that. Our greatest risk isn’t some pothead speeding on the highway. It’s the joker behind us who doesn’t have the capacity to judge time, distance, and speed. It’s the epitome of creating a new generation of space cadets.

And what about the effects of marijuana on people who have a predisposition to mental health issues like schizophrenia and paranoia? Do you imagine that being high is helpful to someone with a tenuous grasp on reality? Think again, my friend. If a person can’t tell the difference between an hallucination and a real-time event, maybe our society is at greater risk for these mass murders. Did any of the recent serial killings involve marijuana use prior to the killers lugging their automatic weapons to the scene of their diabolical slaughters? Before we legalize marijuana, let’s consider what happens to people with mental health issues when they have access to the drug. Who’s going to keep it out of the hands of those most vulnerable?

Maybe before we rush to legalize it because of popular opinion, we ought to ask ourselves what the long-term effects will be on the brain. Will we lose our creativity, our productivity, our social interactions? Will we find that we dumb down America even more by taking the path of least resistance and just going with the flow? Are we too close to the smoke wafting over our fences from our neighbors who like to light up? All I know is that I work hard because I enjoy challenging my mind. I get a thrill every time I accomplish something new, whether it’s a skill or a talent. I love to be creative, active, and intelligent. Will legalizing marijuana make people like me a dying breed? It’s not bad enough that our younger generations now mistake Facebook and Twitter for real social interaction so much that they don’t know how to have a conversation face-to-face?

These days, life as we know is changing fast, and at some point we have to stop accepting what is becoming the “new norm” as inevitable. As our parents used to say, “Just because your friends jump off the bridge, does that mean you have to do it, too?” Now we have bungee jumpers who toss themselves over the railing in search of a thrill. That’s fine, as long as that cord is tethered tightly to a support that can and will hold the jumper safely, and provided there are no obstacles in the flight path that can and will maim or kill the jumper. (We’ve heard too much lately about thrill-seekers who go to extremes and lose their lives in pursuit of that one long shot.) But should we all jump off the bridge of Common Sense and toss ourselves into the River of the Unknown Depths below without first taking a long, hard look at the consequences?

When I read the results of the Pew poll on legalizing marijuana, the inevitable images sprang to mind. This is a poll that stinks to high heaven. One whiff and we’re all up in smoke. That’s the problem with polls. It’s all about what’s popular, not what’s healthy or smart. We’ve got a lot of obese people in this country as it now stands, folks who eat and don’t exercise. Can you imagine what will happen when it’s legal to light up a joint? Fast food restaurants will have to stay open all night to accommodate the masses with the munchies. Think you have a problem now with relatives raiding the fridge? That piece of chocolate cake you’re hiding behind the brussel sprouts ain’t gonna be there for you when you finish your workout on the treadmill, my friend.

And what happens in the workplace? Will workers under the influence slow down our already stagnant work place? We’re trying to get people back to work, but do we want them high while operating heavy equipment? Do we want our financial advisers, our cops, our air traffic controllers under the influence? What about our school bus drivers? Can they be high and share their stash with students, maybe make a little cash on the side?

For those of you who advocate legalizing marijuana because you’ve always been one toke over the line, you can tell yourself I’m exaggerating the dangers. You can tell yourself I’m an old fuddy-duddy. Knock yourself out. You’re too mellow to get off your duff and get involved in real life. Isn’t that really the bottom line? Being high was always about numbing yourself, not about living life out loud. All I can say is I’m going to miss you and your buddies when you (cough, cough) slowly fade into the distant haze, you old geezer.