Looking Through the Rose-Colored Glasses
By Florence Turner, guest columnist
It is interesting that marijuana is still viewed by many as an innocuous recreational drug, in spite of years of scientific research and public awareness. Nostalgic images from the sixties still prevail, the images of blissful pot-smoking hippies, conveying the message of free love and of a means to spread the ideas of a laid-back, peace-loving world.
The recent legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington States would make it appear that public opinion in the US is shifting toward one of more tolerance towards the usage of this so-called recreational drug. More states will follow suit, because the marijuana industry promises that revenues can be reaped at a time of economic hardship.
In the case of Washington, some of the revenues are to go to drug education and treatment, but it makes up for not having a state income tax. In Colorado, those who pushed the referendum promised money to the schools. These states would find it easier if they tried to regulate and tax dandelions, also a “weed,” but a weed that is yellow and conspicuous, and might be detected.
With the rise of mental illness in the twenty first century and our growing dependency on pharmaceutical drugs to sleep better, be less sad and perform better in the bedroom, what sense that it make to encourage another drug on the scene simply because it comes from nature (what doesn’t) and promises us a false sense of well-being and euphoria?
The push to legalize drugs is one more case of government taking advantage of people for the benefit of revenue, as in the case of gambling in Maryland. In 2008 Maryland voters approved slot machines in three locations to finance the schools. Just four years later, the money was not enough, so the politicians asked again in 2012. They asked voters to approve casinos and they did, because Maryland’s governor needs to appear generous, fearing that cutting expenditures will cost him in politics. One wonders what will be next when the money from the casinos doesn’t pan out and it becomes too costly to regulate.
Politicians should be focusing more on education and protecting people instead of greedily reaping the benefits of peoples’ dependency on drugs or gambling or any number of bad habits. To spread an idea that a “weed” that grows like a weed can be regulated is a creative approach to political lobbying.
While it may be true that other, harder drugs pose an even bigger threat to people’s health and society, the truth remains that research has shed more light on the harmful effects of marijuana, including the higher concentrations of THC levels that have forced even the Dutch government to implement less tolerant and stricter laws due to increased drug trafficking and criminality in The Netherlands.
Many countries, especially within the European Union consider the experiences of the Netherlands with respect to marijuana and the impact it has had on its society as a model, which serves to influence their own policies toward legislation and drug law enforcement. The Netherlands continues to be a major producer and distributor of cannabis in Europe, even though production, importation and exportation are outlawed. Cannabis coffeehouses still manage to be supplied, although many were forced to close due to their proximity to schools and for not adhering to newer laws that prohibit sells to foreigners. The US and the Netherlands have differences in culture and demographics, but the nature of the drug and its effect on people still remain the same. More importantly, we cannot deny the scientific evidence that has surfaced from many years of ongoing research which clearly indicates that this is by no means a harmless, non-addictive drug.
Marijuana, hashish and hash oil, is derived from the Cannabis sativa plant and today, on average, has higher concentrations of the chemical THC which is a psychoactive substance. This means it travels in the bloodstream to the brain, disrupting brain functioning which can result in paranoia, confusion and anxiety. A condition known as drug induced psychosis, affecting orientation, memory and bringing on visual hallucination. If a person has a predisposition to a psychotic illness like schizophrenia, or a person who already suffers from psychosis, using marijuana can trigger the first episode. For a person who already has suffered from psychosis, the drug makes it much worse. It is believed that heavy users of this drug with psychotic illness tend to experience more delusions and hallucinations, resulting in higher hospitalization with overall treatment being less effective and therefore hampering recovery. Given these facts, we don’t have to search too hard to realize that many of the perpetrators of the countless acts of violence that we have unfortunately grown accustomed to hearing about have many times involved the use of this so called innocuous drug, In some perpetrators of crime even if it has acted as a gateway to some of the harder drugs.
Even if there were monetary benefits to be gained as was the case in legalization of alcohol after prohibition, but surely the long term costs to our society isn’t worth that risk. For one the cost in health care due to emergency hospitalization, drug reinforcement costs due to increased traffic accidents and other transportation accidents, not to mention drug seizures from illegal cultivation, the cost to employers as a result of drug testing and absenteeism, rise in violence in schools, and in general impaired work performance. Let’s dream on.
Florence Turner grew up in London in the 60s and 70s. She has lived in The Netherlands, Canada and Italy, but has been in the US for almost 30 years.