This topic may be controversial, but I just have to speak out. First, let me offer congratulations to the voters of Ohio who last week rejected a proposal to legalize recreational use of marijuana. I couldn’t be prouder of our neighboring state.
The subject of drugs seems to have recently become front and center as a topic of news and discussions. Not too long ago I met a retired judge, and in the course of our conversation he asked what I thought about legalizing marijuana for recreational use. I vigorously shook my head. “An absolutely bad idea,” I said. “Why?” he asked.
I told him about the 20 years I spent as a staff member at Teen Challenge, a residential-care program for people with life-controlling problems–mostly alcoholics and drug addicts. Our staff heard countless stories from students who admitted that their journey to hard drugs all too often began with the seemingly “innocent” marijuana.They told us that very few people only smoke marijuana. A majority of marijuana users also pop pills, drink booze, shoot heroin or snort cocaine.
One woman, who had been addicted to heroin for 15 years, described her first encounter with marijuana: “When I smoked my first marijuana cigarette, I felt like someone had undressed me inside. I didn’t care what I did or who I did it with. It wasn’t long before I was using harder drugs.”
Someone else said, “When I was smoking marijuana, I became so mellow–almost care-free. Now that I’m completely off drugs, I’m at the top of my game. I have a lot of energy and drive, and I have the work responsibilities to go with it. If I were still smoking pot, I’d be so laid back that I wouldn’t care about anything. I wouldn’t even be able to keep my job.”
Another long-time drug addict was asked what he considered the most dangerous drug. “Marijuana,” he responded without hesitation. “The problem is that people just don’t want to admit that it is definitely a gateway drug.”
If the very individuals who enter a rehabilitation program in order to free themselves of their addiction declare that marijuana is a gateway drug, who am I to argue?
Even the National Institute of Drug Abuse cautions that marijuana use causes . . .
- altered senses (for example, seeing brighter colors)
- altered sense of time
- changes in mood
- impaired body movement
- difficulty with thinking and problem-solving
- impaired memory
When I shared this information with my judge friend, he called it all a “theory.” “Look at it from a business point of view,” he argued. “One man in Denver said the first day marijuana was legalized, he profited over $35,000. That’s pretty impressive. I think legalizing marijuana is a good business proposition, even if it is for recreational use.”
I bit my tongue because of the irony in his comment. This same judge had told me earlier that he had sentenced drug addicts to the Teen Challenge program in lieu of jail time. A high percentage of those individuals began their tumultuous lifestyles using the very drug he wants to see legalized because of the savvy business benefit.
His Honor isn’t the only person who wants to make a little profit. Actor / musician Nick Lachey, Ohio native, saw a great business opportunity for himself and a handful of other marijuana moguls if Ohio voted yes to pot. For weeks prior to the election, Nick appeared on television ads encouraging Ohioans to approve recreational use of marijuana because it would benefit the state. In reality, it would have actually benefited Nick and his cronies. If Ohio had said “yes,” Nick & Co. would have a monopoly on the profits realized from the sale of marijuana.
With every financial profit, there is a cost. Someone pays so someone else can profit. What is happening in our nation that so many people view opportunities through the lens of money without considering the cost to those who are making them rich? It’s a heavy price to pay, don’t you think?
Thanks, Ohio. Your message came through loud and clear. Hopefully other states will follow your lead before our entire country goes to pot.