February 25, 2017  Last Update: December 21, 2016, 11:10 pm

Marijuana Good, Marijuana Bad

Marijuana legalization efforts go far beyond new laws, as vested interests wage a war for attention, and perhaps "normalization" of pot in America.

Marijuana legalization efforts go far beyond new laws, as vested interests wage a war for attention, and perhaps “normalization” of pot in America.

As one group strives to publish articles about how great marijuana legalization is, another group discusses how bad marijuana legalization seems. And neither is part of the infamous “War on Drugs”. Those guys are relatively quiet in the media.

One the one hand, we have the pro-marijuana people. They talk up the benefits, and often stretch the truth with anecdotal evidence or exaggerations, as if to present a logically sound argument that marijuana legalization is a cure for many of societies real and perceived ills. There are those who argue that there is a tobacco-like big business effort to normalize marijuana, just like there was with cigarettes, and alcohol before they banned alcohol advertising.

By the way, have you noticed how much the movies and cable television shows have been showcasing hard liquor consumption lately? It’s everywhere.

Clearly some of the pro marijuana people are out to make big money on pot, as marijuana becomes Big Business. They see the weed industry as the next big agriculture or alcohol industry, and they are getting in on the ground floor.  It’s seriously big money, with seriously big agendas, including the resources to influence you, the people.

Others are on the small money side, seeing pot as a way to make a living free of “the man”, in a world of community they enjoy, with people they like. A kind of freedom plant. As if smoking weed actually makes life’s stresses go away… how wonderful that would be.

Pot is good, pot is bad. We see the money, but where are the facts?
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Another group of advocates simply want access to a drug that isn’t expensive and as chemically problematic as many pharmaceutical alternatives. And they are all presenting their perspectives online in the news, in articles and blog posts, and with opinions. Let Grandpa have his pot;  he shouldn’t have to dope himself up on pain meds.

On the other side of this “group” are the substance abuse and behavioral health treatment people. The doctors, psychologists, counselors, and practitioners who help those who fall victim to substance abuse and the  socioeconomic disasters associated with treated and untreated mental health issues, including addiction. Perhaps more than any other group, they have been thrown into a storm by the legalization.

The world of substance abuse treatment is diverse, and both polarized and unified at the same time. Things like the War on Drugs have both polarizing and unifying. It’s great to see clear rules and discipline in enforcement – keep kids away from drugs, drugs are not the answer, etc. The desire to live safe and legally can keep people away from harmful substances, and perhaps more importantly, the harmful people who distribute them.

But when 40% of the prisoners in for-profit prison systems are non-violent, low-level drug offenders… and society spends more tax payer dollars imprisoning them than treating them for the underlying problems that led many of them into substance abuse — something’s just not right (?).

Maybe marijuana is not really a gateway drug, but if a large proportion of people seeking treatment for heroin addiction self report that they started by smoking pot, doesn’t it make sense that marijuana is part of the problem? Or no? Correlation, but not causation?

Or maybe when it was illegal, “starting with pot” meant buying an illegal drug from a drug dealer. The same business man who would influence you to level up to heroin one day.

There is so little recognized valid research on marijuana… and partly because the laws have prevented it. Possibly because policy makers have blocked acknowledgement of medicinal benefits. Why?

And speaking of  medicinal use… even the most hardcore anti-drug treatment professional is likely to admit that marijuana should be okay for people who need it medicinally and have no other options. When the data show that marijuana legalization in Colorado was followed by a decrease in addictive opiate pain killer use, is that good? Doesn’t it seem logical that people seeking medicinal help are finding it in marijuana, and may be safely avoiding powerful and addictive opiates and opioids? Isn’t that good?

But what about the other data.. the data that shows the opiate addiction – marijuana correlations…. huh. I guess we don’t know enough yet?

Isn’t it likely that some people will benefit, and some will abuse it?

And then we hear that in Colorado and Washington State, there is a new problem brewing:

  • the number of drivers stopped for DUI (driving under the influence) is up
  • the number of traffic fatalities has doubled since 2007 (cell phones? marijuana? other?)
  • Crime in Denver is up 7% (most of the pot has been in/around Denver)
  • School expulsions are up, and percentage of students reporting pot use way above average
  • Schools report “normalization” or marijuana is causing family and student-teacher problems like drug abuse does, at a less intense but broader scale. Attendance is down, class skipping and inattention are up, homework isn’t getting done….

Is any of this valid data? Are any of these correlations meaningful? Is it all just propaganda? I hope not, because if the outcome will be determined by a propaganda war, we’re likely to have big problems like we did when even your doctor smoked two packs a day, even smoking on the job while taking your blood pressure.

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