Pot should be legal because the cost of not doing so is too high


WASHINGTON, April 26, 2011 — College life in the 1960’s and 1970’s was saturated with marijuana. There was almost no place where one could go, outside of classrooms, where the stuff was not being smoked.  Most of us believed it was a good social alternative to alcohol and did it in moderation, or not at all. Yet, we all knew someone that couldn’t function socially without having a couple of joints. These folks were the exceptions, and in no way different from the alcoholics of then and today.

I confess that I inhaled. I also have to say that since the middle 1970s, I haven’t used marijuana in any form. I just don’t enjoy anything that takes away my self control, and to use a cliché, I am high enough on life.

While serving in the Army overseas, the civilian populations soon learned that there was a demand for weed and was happy to provide it. As we GI’s went to the PX (commissary for you civilians), the locals would be standing near the door and offering script or “funny money” for us to buy them cartons of cigarettes. Those cartons costs us $4 or $5.

Once they secured the cartons, they would drain the tobacco from each one, refilling the paper tubes with weed. Then they would roll and smoke the regular tobacco selling us back the weed cigarettes for $5 a pack. Free enterprise at work. We knew that there was very little officers and non-com’s could do to us about it. We were already in the worst place they could send us. So they wisely looked away and never showed up in a base camp tent at night.

Most weed was consumed in base camp, not in the field where there could be danger.

The history of marijuana in the US dates back to its use by “braceros” using it to get high after a long day of work in the early 1940’s. It was later outlawed. After that, it was demonized and there was a push to get the Federal Government involved. Ironically, while the braceros were being searched for marijuana, the Federal Government was encouraging it to be grown (as hemp for the war effort).

I have been told that large expanses north of Washington, in the Maryland countryside, were covered with hemp during war years.

Back to the future, today the use of marijuana is widespread. Much of our youth has had experience with it. Its use is not confined to any socioeconomic class; in fact, many professionals I know indulge in it openly. It is even recommended for symptom management of some chronic diseases as well as for diminishing the effects of chemotherapy.

For those that believe that legalizing marijuana is the first step in legalizing hard drugs, I think they are way behind what is happening right now. It is amazing to me that some of my more conservative friends and relatives allow their children to use alcohol as a way to prevent them from using marijuana. That slippery slope is out there and it is well lubricated.

Just by looking at today’s trends , marijuana will be legalized in the next 20 years. We can’t continue the insanity of criminalizing our youth for misdemeanors. There are many – including a relative – I have seen start down a disastrous path just for having been caught with weed.

Our law enforcement officers are wasting too much of their valuable time staking out, stopping and arresting kids for marijuana. Of course, admiration of gangster culture is also a factor. Much of the youth copying gangster style and mannerisms are doing so out of immaturity rather than living that lifestyle.

Let me set a scenario for you. A teen styles his clothes and car after “gangsta” culture. He has watched too many movies, played too many video games. He has experience with weed, but is by no means a frequent user. He is stopped by the police and admits having marijuana. The teenager is arrested, the car taken to an impound lot overnight.

The teenager is allowed to go next morning, with a court date and impound info in hand, along with required drug testing and drug classes – and the cost of it all. No problem, he’s working. Oops. He loses his job due to the arrest, and is only able to get occasional work in construction.

He gets desperate, and guess what? He smokes a joint and is caught again while still on probation and he may end up doing time in jail. Any chance of a decent job is out the window. The kid is now primed for a downward spiral.

My point is that at a time when budget cuts are overtaxing our police force, should we use this precious resource in criminalizing our youth?

I think not. Marijuana should be legalized, taxes should be collected, the same as for cigarettes, liquor and gambling, and part of this money should be spent in treating drug addicts. Regulation will create jobs and revenue. Both are needed today.

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Mario Salazar
Mario Salazar is a combat infantry Vietnam Vet, world traveler, renaissance reconnaissance man, pacifist, metal smith, glass artisan, computer programmer and he has a Master of Science in Civil/Environmental Engineering. Now retired from the Environmental Protection Agency and living in Montgomery County, Mario will share with you his life, his thoughts, his musing on living in yet another century of change. He will also try to convey his joy of being old.