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The sky isn't falling

Countering the ProJo's anti-pot editorial
By VALERIE VANDE PANNE  |  March 12, 2014

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We take a break this month from answering your questions to address the Providence Journal’s anti-pot position.

In a March 2 editorial titled “Get off pot,” members of the Providence Journal’s editorial board called the idea of legalizing pot “explosively contentious.” But according to a recent Gallup poll, 58 percent of Americans want marijuana legalized. According to polls done in January, just 41 percent of Rhode Islanders were against the idea. That number shrank to 23 percent for people between the ages 18 and 34.

“We support decriminalizing marijuana and trying to help nonviolent criminals get treatment instead of jail terms,” writes the editorial board. But what about the fact that the very non-violent criminals mentioned here are only criminals because of the prohibition of an herb? Legalize the weed, and they won’t be “criminals” anymore. Plus, most people who use marijuana — a whopping 90-plus percent of them — aren’t addicted to pot. And those who might consider themselves addicted don’t go through the same physical withdrawal as those detoxing from heroin, alcohol, or coffee. So why do they need treatment? Because the great minds at ProJo think their recreational marijuana use is wrong? More wrong than having a beer in a bar after work?

“We have our doubts about the effectiveness of prohibition,” the editorial admits elsewhere. “But outright legalization is something Rhode Island should table for further study.” Pssssst. Here’s a secret: the vast majority of adults in Rhode Island have tried marijuana. And I’d be willing to bet even your editorial board members have tried it at least once. And if you haven’t, then I know someone you know and love has. Are you, or are they, criminals? Do you need to study the idea of what would happen if you pulled back the judgment you place on others? Maybe, when people aren’t stigmatized, they live happier, more productive lives. Perhaps, they’d even smoke less pot, as was the case in Holland when it liberalized its marijuana policies.

The editorial continues: “We fear that, despite politicians’ promises, it is not clear the drug could be effectively regulated to keep it from becoming even more of a scourge to children than it is today.” Because, you know, it’s always good to base public policy on fear. And leaving pot in the hands of unscrupulous drug dealers out to make money is way more effective and healthier for children than regulating it.

“Addiction specialists forcefully warn that young people seem to be seriously damaging themselves both neurologically and socially through marijuana use, turning to self-medication through pot rather than learning less debilitating means to avoid anxiety,” it goes on. The key words here are “seem to be.” Frankly, if you think pot is the biggest problem kids have to deal with — or their most popular means of dealing with other problems — you need to watch the 2009 documentary on the American school system, The War On Kids. Seriously. Go watch it. Now. Even CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta, in his recent special Weed 2: Cannabis Madness, points out that the long-term effects on the brain of many drugs prescribed to children are also unknown, and marijuana, comparatively speaking, might just cause less harm than the drugs those kids are already being prescribed.

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