Can We Talk?

The most popular cause in last week’s election was marijuana and it looks like the general public is ready for a toke. While the initiative to install medical marijuana into the state constitution failed, the proposed amendment got 58 percent of the vote which was more than most candidates got. Fortunately, it needed 60 percent to pass. I write, “fortunately” because the issue doesn’t belong in the constitution and if marijuana, or its base, is to be considered a medicine then it should go through the same strict vetting that any other medicine gets.

Now, having put aside that specific issue, it seems clear that the majority favors, or at least has fewer reservations, than before for approving marijuana for recreational use similar to the way alcohol is treated. At the very least, this is the opportunity to debate the issue.

Strongest arguments center around the failed war on drugs and the widespread use that makes banning it is no longer possible. Hence, it is argued that too much police and court time is spent enforcing the laws and too many are unfairly jailed for simple possession. So, let’s start there by setting some parameters:

One should be that the age of use should be uniform at 18 years old. Same for alcohol. If you’re an adult, you’re an adult. Eighteen-year-olds aren’t sent to juvenile court; 18-year-olds can serve in the armed forces, and male 18-year-olds are required to register for the draft. Eighteen-year-olds can sign contracts, and, in some colleges, only they (not their parents) can see their grades because they are adults. Most can drive vehicles even if they can’t always rent them (a private decision).

Adult treatment includes being responsible for your behavior. That means no more juvenile excuses such as ” Oh, he/she’s just a kid” or, “he/she was just drunk or stoned.” Hey, it’s all about behavior not what you put into your system. Be accountable.

I’d also like to see some studies (real scientific), not anecdotal, about mixed use of marijuana and alcohol and other opiates and the effect on the body and mind. Many medicines, including over-the-counter pain relievers such as Tylenol, warn against using with alcohol. This is a safety issue and shouldn’t be ignored.

Then there’s the matter of other drugs. If we are decriminalizing one drug then we should consider other drug use: Ambien, Valium, Vicodin, Fenatyl, Oxycodone and so forth. The recent crack down on misuse of prescription drugs has driven addicts to heroin. Overdose has become epidemic (in western Pennsylvania overdoses exceed auto fatalities). This is partly because of additives like Fenatyl to the heroin. So, shouldn’t we consider regulations and controls that protect all drug users?

That leads to the regulation of marijuana itself. What strengths are permitted, how are they measured, how should they be labeled? This is particularly important when it comes to food products mixed with marijuana. Shouldn’t the processes come under the same rules and regulations as apply to the sale of other foods? That includes sanitation issues as well as ingredient and additive listings.

Of course there are health issues such as smoking. Do we promote smoking marijuana while we demonize tobacco smoking? Isn’t drawing smoke, which comes from burned products, deeply into the lungs an issue?

These are starter issues. Marijuana legalization and the legalization and control of all drugs will morph into a huge industry. We’re not talking backyard stuff. We’re talking growing, processing, converting, distributing. This is big, big, big. It won’t stay a mom and pop business for long. As the late comedian Joan Rivers said, “Can we talk?”


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