My first encounter with pot was in college. This may be surprising, but I never saw drugs being used or sold in my working-class community; therefore, my parents never gave me the “Just say No!” speech. It was 1968, and I was on my way to becoming a black radical. I wanted no parts of mind-altering drugs. No smoking of anything, not even not inhaling. I needed to be woke.
Since then, it’s been challenging for me to develop a reasonable position on marijuana. I’m all for de-criminalizing it, but I always stop short on supporting legalization. Medical marijuana is on the November 6 ballot in Missouri, and I’ll read The St. Louis American’s guide on the issue once again. I suspect voters will inevitably be faced with a ballot initiative on recreational marijuana.
If my view on this issue is to evolve, it will require help from my readers. Here are the issues I am struggling with.
Despite the arguments I’ve heard over the years that marijuana is not as harmful as other drugs, that it’s a natural plant (so is deadly oleander!), it has definite effects on the brain and body. In exchange for that nice high, the short-term results are increased heart rates, lowered blood pressure, distorted perception and loss of coordination. Long-term use leads to loss of memory, risk of lung ailments and loss of bone density. There’s a reason – I often tell people – that marijuana is prescribed to people with terminal illness.
Americans are abusive, and they are deep into self-medication abusing prescription drugs, alcohol and everything in between. I foresee medical weed being over-prescribed by doctors as they have done with opioids.
With the widespread use of pot, are you comfortable that your surgeon didn’t enjoy a blunt before surgery on your heart? Or that a pilot didn’t hit a spliff before take-off? Or that your mechanic didn’t roll a joint before s/he worked on your brakes?
For decades, black and brown folks were hauled off to prison for long periods of time for possession of weed – regardless of the amount. Blacks were arrested and convicted more than twice the rate of whites in the Show-Me State despite comparable usage.
Last year, the cannabis industry brought in $10 billion and the profits are expected to escalate. Business is booming yet black entrepreneurs and black farmers can’t seem to catch a break. Racism and lack of capital are the main barriers. African Americans own a measly one percent of the 3,500 marijuana dispensaries in the U.S. growers and the related businesses are locked down by white folks.
Lastly, I can’t wrap my head around Girl Scouts selling cookies outside a marijuana shop. One scout in San Diego sold a record 300 boxes in less than 6 hours. For this child advocate, something is just wrong with that picture. Complaints are also being made by parents with children who must pass through or endure billows of marijuana smoke in public spaces.
Thirty states have legalized medical marijuana. Nine states and Washington, D.C. have legalized recreation marijuana that require no doctor’s permission. Now people can grow, distribute and possess in states where the drug is legal in the state. Pot is still illegal on the federal level. I can see some racial targeting with this scenario.
Am I wrong to envision a society where pot and opioid users and abusers will run amuck causing chaos and confusion, maybe even deaths? Please convince me otherwise. There are three marijuana measures on the November 6 ballot asking for my vote.