Let’s Hash Out The Pot Legalization Argument

by danieljlaxer

It’s been a long time since I’d smoked a joint.

Not that I was ever any kind of pot-head. I wasn’t. I was always more of a drinker. I never learned how to enjoy pot properly. But I learned how to drink. I was a quick study, too. Started with beer, moved on to screwdrivers, rum & coke, whisky sours at weddings and bar mitzvahs, cheap scotch. I tended to drink fast, so that the drunk hit me harder, faster. Sometimes a little too hard and too fast. That was when I was younger. Now, 2 or 3 glasses of wine and I’m ready for bed. These days I’d rather sip and good single malt on ice, enjoying its smoky or peaty character, along with a good book, or just staring up at the stars on a calm summer night.

Is that really any different from enjoying just a bit of weed with some good music, and the night sky a net of fireflies overhead?

The essential difference between booze and pot lies not in either substance, but rather in our attitudes toward both. Both are drugs, at times addictive and as harmful as any drug could easily become, yet alcohol is accepted and marijuana is not. That’s because alcohol is still not thought of as a drug in the conventional sense, but as a beverage. Pot, however, gets lumped into that basket of bad apples, cocaine, heroin, acid, and all of those big, bad, scary drugs that destroy lives. And I suppose it is indeed possible for pot to become a so-called gateway drug into harder stuff. But has that first sip of booze never lead any drinker along the road to ruin, losing home and family, finding himself on the street drinking Lysol or other poisons?

Rosie DiManno of the Toronto Star wrote a column earlier this week with the headline “Justin Trudeau’s plan to legalize pot is endorsing stupidity” (Wednesday, August 7). With all due respect to DiManno, nothing could have been a stronger endorsement of stupidity than her column. DiManno is a self-professed one-time heroin user. Heroin is one of the hard drugs that marijuana supposedly leads to. I say supposedly because I don’t believe that it does, necessarily. Unless you are the type of person that is prone to addiction, and would indeed recklessly chase down that dragon regardless of the consequences. I don’t consider DiManno such a type, since, by her own admission, she shot up only 3 times, and never again.

Still, her argument is as flimsy as the straw man at the forefront of the Conservatives anti-pot position.

“Of all the substances,” DiManno writes, “available from your corner dealer, or your office connection, the most dimwitting, the dummy-down rope-a-dope champion, is cannabis.” And then further on she adds, “Not a single habitual user I’ve ever known has been enhanced, augmented even slightly in personality or as good company, by weed. You may think you’re being clever and witty, but you’re merely imbecilic” (italics mine, and let’s overlook, for the purpose of this blog, the grammatical and syntactical awkwardness of the writing.).

Again, I was never much of a pot-head. And I can’t remember the last time I smoked a joint. So I don’t know that it’s necessarily my place to run to the defense of pot smokers, or to hold an opinion either way with regard to legalization. Except to say that if drinking oneself silly is perfectly legal, despite the dangerous path to which it sometimes leads self and others, then pot ought to be just as legal, and just as available to those who would, to coin a phrase, toke responsibly. That being said, I do take issue with DiManno’s blanket characterization of pot smokers as “merely imbecilic.” Especially when you consider the following list, by no means exhaustive, of those whom you might be surprised to learn either are or were pot smokers:

Carl Sagan, the late, great astronomer, astrophysicist, cosmologist, and author, was a regular pot user and advocate for its legalization. He felt that pot helped him to think more clearly, an effect he said stayed with him even after the drug wore off. In a 1969 essay that he’d originally penned anonymously he wrote “the illegality of cannabis is outrageous, an impediment to full utilization of a drug which helps produce the serenity and insight, sensitivity and fellowship so desperately needed in this increasingly mad and dangerous world.” He attributed his deeper appreciation for art and music, and some of his best ideas, to pot use. Would DiManno describe one of the most brilliant men who’d ever lived as dimwitted or dummied down?

Sir Richard Branson, one of the world’s richest tycoons with a following akin to a pop idol, has admitted to smoking weed with his son. “I don’t think smoking the occasional spliff is all that wrong,” he said in an interview in GQ Magazine. “I’d rather my son did it in front of me than behind closed doors.” He is even alleged to have asked US President Barak Obama for a joint at a recent White House dinner. You may recall that the president himself has admitted to smoking weed as a young man, famously saying in an interview “I inhaled frequently. That was the point.”

Bill Gates has admitted to smoking marijuana, as has New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The late Pierre Burton, one of this country’s foremost journalists and authors, had once admitted to smoking dope to relax. Former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, Justin’s father, toked in his youth, and had no compunction whatsoever about admitting it.

The Conservatives who took Justin Trudeau to task on legalization argued that drug use leads to adverse effects. Our first prime minister was a notorious, and at times an embarrassing drunk. Would the creation of our country be considered an adverse effect?

No, I wouldn’t agree that pot advocates are stupidity advocates. But I would suggest that DiManno, and apparently tea-totalling conservatives, sound more like the kettle calling the pot black.

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