Making the Wrong History

It’s amazing how desperate some people are to be a part of history. It doesn’t matter which part.

Years from now, what will the customers who waited in line outside Main Street Marijuana in Vancouver, Wash., tell their grandkids?

“I waited in line outside, in darkness, before the sun was up. Finally … I got to buy two grams of Sour Kush!”

Not exactly a Tranquility-Base-the-Eagle-has-landed moment. 

If buying legal weed is such an extraordinary occasion, imagine how momentous it will be when cocaine and heroin become legal. And why shouldn’t that logically follow? To their users, heroin and cocaine also have medicinal and recreational value.

The real history we are witnessing here, and it began before Colorado and Washington legalized marijuana, is America’s decline into the soft life. The whatever life. The non-judgmental life.

The same week Vancouver’s mayor cut the ribbon on Main Street Marijuana, it was announced that the city of Portland had “banned the box.”

This refers to the box on employment applications that asks applicants to check “yes” or “no” if they have ever been convicted of a felony.

Dante James, director of Portland’s City Office of Equity and Human Rights, sounded as jubilant as the customers outside Main Street Marijuana when he announced what he called “a major equity victory.”

This dovetails nicely with Oregon’s move to legalize pot because as marijuana advocates tell it, thousands of people are in prison for using marijuana. These folks should not be denied “stable housing” or “good jobs” because they smoked a little weed. (The words in quotes are used freely by equity officers but are never defined. How much status and pay constitute a “good job?”)

There are burglars, robbers, assorted thugs – even murderers – who claim they are guilty of “drug-related crimes.” It sounds less criminal, and it gives them an easy alibi for bad behavior.

The truth is there aren’t that many prison inmates in Oregon who are serving time solely for marijuana. Anyone in state prison on a marijuana charge either illegally possessed a large amount for sale or had an extensive criminal history and ran out of multiple second chances.

Walk through downtown Portland and notice the messed-up men and women sleeping in doorways. They aren’t all mentally ill. How many have rendered themselves useless with drugs? Why aren’t they locked up if our drug laws are so draconian?

Nevertheless, New Approach Oregon – the organization pushing marijuana legalization – has seized on this bogus argument. It’s not a bad political maneuver. Polls have shown that people don’t support punishment for minor drug offenses.

Considering that Oregon is one of the states that long ago decriminalized possession of small amounts of pot, the state has already arrived at that point. Yet New Approach Oregon acts like it’s 1920, and every cop is a variation on Elliot Ness.

I don’t use marijuana and never had the desire to. My parents were addicted to nicotine, and I saw what they went through (and the second-hand smoke my younger brother and I had to put up with). When I went to the University of Oregon, my dorm often smelled of marijuana. None of my fellow students appeared worried about getting arrested and going to prison.

Yet the myth persists. Law enforcement is cast as the greedy enemy that wants to keep marijuana illegal so it can make money off of federal drug grants. But cops are also the ones who see first-hand what drugs have done to people – in some cases, their own families.

Look around – it’s hard to find a family that hasn’t been impacted by substance abuse whether the substance is alcohol, drugs or pharmaceuticals.

Nobody knows what to do about substance abuse. The legalizers want to give up and make more drugs readily available for everyone.

If we are going to legalize all drugs, and it appears that’s where we are headed, then we have to draw a line between drug use and drug abuse.

It’s one thing to privately use drugs, but if your drug use hurts others, then it’s abuse. Those who are most in favor of legalizing drugs must speak out loud and clear against drug abuse. No excuses. No exceptions. No pleading illness. Choose your poison but learn to hold it.

A friend of mine who has used marijuana, and still occasionally uses it, makes an important distinction between getting drunk and getting high: It takes a while to get drunk; getting high can be almost immediate with the THC levels in some marijuana now. Plan your highs accordingly.

I don’t want someone who is high driving the bus I’m riding, giving me medical or dental services, working on my car, preparing my food, ringing up my groceries,  – and I don’t want an employer forced to hire or retain someone who has a substance abuse problem.

If you say that to the pot legalizers, they will laugh at you and gloat: “We’re already driving buses, working as mechanics, preparing your food… .”

That’s not something to brag about considering how much of America no longer seems to work efficiently. How will legalizing marijuana – and eventually other drugs – make life better?

California Gov. Jerry Brown, whose state is also being primed to legalize marijuana, has said that “fiscal discipline is the fundamental predicate of a free society,” but it may help if everyone isn’t getting stoned.

His state – like Oregon – already has medical marijuana. Brown would like to see how legalized marijuana turns out in Colorado and Washington before California embraces it.

“The problem with anything, a certain amount is OK. But there is a tendency to go to extremes. And all of a sudden, if there’s advertising and legitimacy, how many people can get stoned and still have a great state or a great nation? The world’s pretty dangerous, very competitive. I think we need to stay alert, if not 24 hours a day, more than some of the potheads might be able to put together.”

(Naturally, Brown was criticized for using the word “pothead.” How do you know the difference between a marijuana user and a pothead? Potheads take offense at the term; marijuana users don’t because they aren’t potheads.

Sunday was the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, and it wasn’t potheads who took us there.

However, one of the Apollo 11 heroes is a reminder of the power of substance abuse. Astronaut Buzz Aldrin had trouble adjusting to life as an ordinary Earthling and turned to alcohol.

“He’s now been sober for 35 years and has dedicated much of his life to exploration,” NPR’s Scott Simon said in a story recalling the moon landing. “And while he’s disappointed that man no longer voyages to the moon, he’s glad Apollo 11 confirmed the boldness of human endeavor.”

Compare that human endeavor with this:

“I think 100 years from now, folks will see my name — I’ll be part of that history, part of that story,” said Mark Edwards of Salem, Ore. 

His accomplishment?

He was the first customer in line to buy legal pot in Vancouver, Wash.


– Pamela Fitzsimmons


Breaking Weak on Drugs

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