There’s a lot of hype right now about the effects of marijuana being decriminalized/legalized, by which I mean there’s a lot of concern over it somehow having a drastic effect on society at large, or worse, on the youth of today. Here’s the thing with marijuana; everybody that’s going to smoke if it’s legalized already smokes and ultimately, those that smoke are going to eventually self-regulate, naturally. There’s no forcing this process, it’s something that just has to happen.
Regulations clearly don’t keep people from getting black-out drunk, no more than prohibition did. The only thing that keeps people from blacking out is ironically the same thing that first leads them to getting blacked out in the first place; social pressure. And perhaps maturity (but maturity is just the manifestation of social norms established by one’s peers).
Nobody enjoys waking up and not remembering the end of the night, apart from a couple of flashes that suggest some shameful activity, comments, or actions that went down. It’s fine in college, when nobody remembers, but nobody wants to be the drunkest person in the room. The same is true of being high. Nobody wants to be that stoner in the corner of the room that’s too high to talk. It’s not to say we haven’t all been there, but the only time this isn’t terrible is if everyone in the room is as equally messed up, and even then it still sucks, it’s just less terrible than being the only sober one in a room full of stoners that can’t speak. The problem is right now we have a culture of ghettoized smoking habits. Like back in high school or college*, if you were heading to a place where alcohol wasn’t going to be available, you’d just drink your face off before arriving, and then be a mess. Nobody wants to be that dude that rolls into a restaurant with super red eyes and a case of the giggles, or you come off like a mess. Legalization will not suddenly lead to everyone being stoned all the time, it will lead to people getting better at smoking casually. The stoner at the party will turn from the drunk in the corner to the guy that’s sipping casually on his third scotch in two hours.
So what’s the issue? Why despite all the forward thinking legislation has every state not yet ratified a bill legalizing marijuana? Why are there still anti-marijuana public service announcements on television? And why do we still hear irrational concerns from people of older generations? My theory is that people get overcome with fear when it comes to things they can’t control and don’t understand. Governing bodies tend to turn a pretty serious blind eye to the detrimental impact that alcohol has on individual people and society at large. There’s a number of arguments I’ve heard behind what’s driving this, but without getting into the alcohol lobby and anti-industry rants, the plain fact of the matter is that the majority of constituents are over 50 and far larger consumers of alcohol than they are of marijuana. They can get comfortable with the idea of not being able to control their kids going through a period in college where they do keg stands and drink too much because they know their kids will come through it; they’ve all been through it themselves and all still have that occasional dinner party where they have a little too much wine. Marijuana on the other hand is not understood as much by parents and so people can’t get comfortable with not having control over it and just letting it run its course. Because there’s no statistical data to support long-term negative effects, they turn to just making stuff up (like the ad pictured above); hence us ending up with absurd advertisements about how the use of marijuana could lead to a kid accidentally shooting himself with his dad’s gun. This is a bullshit ad and we all know it because:
a. There is nowhere I would want to be less when I’m high, than in a Dad’s office that owned guns, so the premise is wrong.
b. Smoking weed does not increase your propensity to assume risks. You’re more attentive and fearful of danger (i.e. – guns), not less.
Not only are efforts like these ads ineffective, they hurt the credibility of public service announcements alerting society to real dangers. Whenever ads like this appear it’s worse than just crying wolf – at least wolves exist. Anyone that smokes weed sees this ad as the equivalent of making a public service announcement about the dangers of making silly faces and getting them stuck like that forever, or the probability of fatalities due to drinking soda and pop-rocks. We see it not only as a waste of money (albeit, most of those tax dollars are probably coming from people that are put at ease by the commercial), but more so as abandonment of critical thought, acceptance of hysteria, and celebration of fear-mongering. The irony is that the mere fact commercials like this can get made and then granted an ad-buying budget large enough that we all see it (including myself as a Canadian) reveals much larger problems within society than a couple teenagers sitting around after school and smoking some shit grass.
Legalization of marijuana is not going to lead to teenage kids accidentally shooting themselves or dying. It’s not going to lead to an increase in traffic accidents. At worst it’s going to lead to a slow-down of alcohol sales and a correlating negative effect on the quality of night-life establishments, but anyone who would smoke and go out is doing that already. The rally behind legalization isn’t because we’re all waiting in anticipation to finally smoke, we just want to stop feeling like a criminal when we do and ensure consistency of quality and pricing; just like the demands of consumers in any industry. The legalization of wine didn’t lead to people getting more drunk from it**, it just led to quality improvements, the birth of an industry, and the popularization of being awesome.
As a final point, can people stop referring to marijuana as a gateway drug? This is also another huge misconception. The exclusion of marijuana from the category of “illicit drugs” would cease it ever being considered as such. Kids don’t smoke a joint and immediately think, “Man, I wish I had some crystal meth.” The progression is caused by losing trust in what is supposed to be respected authority figures and rationally-based regulations when you learn that what they’ve been saying all these years about marijuana (i.e. drugs) is bullshit; it is awesome, it does make you cooler, and it does not lead to you ruining your life. The sad thing is people come to this realization through an experience with marijuana, lose faith in the system because they realize they’ve been lied to, and then will try out other drugs because they assume that like marijuana it’s not nearly as bad as authorities say they are. We need to be properly communicating these things so that there’s no confusion. It’s fine if your kid, or younger brother, or the general youth of today smokes marijuana; it’s not ok if they’re doing crystal or blowing lines of coke in the bathroom. Not acknowledging and accepting the former is going to continue leading to the latter going down. There is a difference between illicit drugs and dangerous drugs; right now this distinction is not being made clear enough and marijuana is taking unfair blame for a non-correlated drug problem that is actually hurting society.
All this to say, whether it’s in the House of Commons or the living room, let’s have this conversation rationally. Marijuana is not going to lead to the youth of society all turning into potheads. It’s not going to lead to everyone suddenly doing crystal meth. And it’s not going to damage society – all the damage that would otherwise be caused has already been done. Nobody that would be a concern of overdoing it, isn’t already overdoing it. The important thing is to highlight the realities:
1. Potheads come across like idiots. If you’re going to smoke, learn how many hits it takes to turn you into a hyper-aware, paranoid douchebag who is more concerned with getting burritos than having an interesting conversation.
2. Marijuana is not crystal meth, crack, heroin, ketamine, cocaine or MDMA. Don’t confuse fables with real dangers and we will be able to stop marijuana from being a gateway drug.
3. Marijuana is a much better alternative to drinking, as long as it’s done in moderation. It will make you paranoid, slow-thinking, and dull if you do too much of it. Same for alcohol. Find the balance between the two and you’ll be neither a pot-head, a drunk, nor boring (the worst of all).
….from the desk of Dickie
**it most definitely led to people getting more drunk from it