Coffee Talk With Jane: Proposition 19. Should Every State Consider Legalizing Marijuana?

Never one to shy away from controversial topics I’m suggesting we talk about Proposition 19. Next week, the voters in California will be sharing their view on whether or not marijuana should be legalized. I’m curious how you feel about the topic.

Me? I’m conflicted. For one thing, I’ve never tried pot. Ever. It’s not a moral thing for me. Just the thought of smoking anything makes my chest feel heavy and sends a cough to my throat.

I’m also afraid of anything that might alter my conscious state.  That’s not to say I don’t enjoy a glass of wine with dinner or a pina colada on the beach once in a while. But I can count on one hand how many times I’ve had too much to drink (of alcohol, that is). It frightened me all three times. I’ve witnessed too much addiction in my life to take a chance with my own inadequacies in that department.

That said, I have no issues with anyone who wants to imbibe. Alcohol or marijuana. As long as it doesn’t affect me – drunk driving, puking on my rug, eating the last bag of Lay’s Potato Chips – go ahead, enjoy! Just don’t get behind the wheel of a car. Wait to get sick in your own home. Pay for your own groceries.

But my brother-in-law (a member of Federal Law Enforcement who has worked with Customs and DEA) is vehemently against legalizing marijuana in any form. He views marijuana as a gateway drug.

The former police chief in San Jose, Joseph McNamara, disagrees.

After 35 years in law enforcement, he feels our focus on criminalizing the use of pot is misguided. He likens it to the days of prohibition, when Al Capone ruled the black market. Once alcohol was legalized, Al Capone was put out of business.

The Mexican President, Felipe Calderon, has been outspoken in his stance against legalizing pot in the United States. He feels Proposition 19 “shows hypocrisy in U.S. drug policy.” The U.S. is asking him to crack down on drug cartels, meanwhile we’re legalizing the very drug he is trying to stop production and distribution.

I’m confused. Conflicted.

I’m getting all verklempt.

I’ve already given you the topic.

Talk amongst yourselves.

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21 Comments

Filed under Coffee Talk, Ponderings, Soapbox

21 responses to “Coffee Talk With Jane: Proposition 19. Should Every State Consider Legalizing Marijuana?

  1. Steven Harris

    As someone who smoked an awful lot of pot in his formative years I have to disagree that it is a gateway drug. Nobody I’ve ever known has thought to themselves “Wow I love dope, bet I’d love crack/smack/meth even more.”
    In fact the only real connection between dope and harder drugs is the fact that dealers will get hold of soft and hard drugs to sell on. Legalisation and distrubution of marijuana through approved outlets would therefore decrease the opportunity for dope-smokers to come into contact with other drugs. The Amsterdam model works well and I’m sure it also raises a heck of a lot of extra tax revenue into the bargain.

  2. I also don’t agree that it’s a gateway drug–well, maybe in the teen years it may lead to some experimentation, but it still wouldn’t be legal for teens.

    I know a lot of pot smokers (I live in the Rockies, remember?) and all of them just like to smoke weed. I have tried it and boy, it does not agree with me, but for some people, it relaxes them, much like a couple of glasses of wine.

    I don’t see a problem with legalizing it–we sure could use the cash it would generate. I dunno, I guess I don’t really see the menace in a “drug” that makes people mellow, hungry and sleepy.

  3. Like you, Jane, I’ve never tried pot (and have only been drunk once in my life) – it’s a control thing for me too…

    I do, however, have a friend who grows his own pot for medical use…he’s bi-polar, and it’s the only thing that keeps him out of the hospital.

    I heard on CBC the other day the British Columbia is quite concerned about the economic effect it will have on them if pot is legal in California – it’s a big export for B.C.

    I say, if you to want to use it, go ahead and do it (in moderation), as long as you’re of legal age.

    Wendy

  4. Mel

    What Steven said. No offense to your BIL, but I believe he is wrong. My gateway drugs were my own prescription meds, alcohol and cigarettes. I know lots of pot smokers, and most of them don’t take other illegal drugs. Most are fine citizens with a secret. Those that are a mess are more messed up by alcohol and prescription meds than pot. I’ve looked at all sides of the drug debate, and the current laws against marijuana make no sense.
    My son was assigned the topic of Prop 19 in English last month, and had to argue for or against it based on personal freedom vs. social responsibility. After all his research, he decided Yes was the only logical vote, and that society would actually benefit significantly. He told me:
    More people die each year from aspirin overdose than from smoking too much pot, so much for the danger argument. He could buy it any time he wants to in school, (!!!) and this is a suburban school in a high tax district where most the kids go to college. It was pretty easy to come by in the 70’s and apparently it still is 40 years later. So much for the war on drugs keeping it out of the hands of kids. His biggest argument in favor of prop 19, besides the obvious liberty and pursuit of happiness clause in the Constitution was the sheer number of dollars spent chasing, arresting and incarcerating pot smokers vs. the tax revenue that would help states’ budgets and cut out the black market and decrease crime at the same time. It is shocking how many drug arrests are for users, not sellers, which makes no sense.
    It was interesting watching son’s research and listening to his arguments. He is an athlete, non-drinking, non-smoking all around great kid, so I was a little surprised he was so pro Prop 19.
    I think the current paradigm has to change, not just so slackers can get high and slack some more, but so people in severe pain can get some relief without making pharmaceutical companies any richer. OK, off my soap box now. Thanks for another interesting topic!

    • Steven Harris

      So agree with Mel’s comments. Didn’t Reagan, then Bush declare ‘war on drugs’? You don’t have to be Bill Hicks to know that’s a war with only one winner and that winner is not the American tax payer.
      Cigarettes were definitely my gateway drug too and I curse the day I started smoking far more than I ever feel bad about the first time I smoked dope.
      On a lighter note, the Pope smokes it every day, apparently.

  5. I’ve never tried it. I do agree it can be a gateway drug…but I don’t know. Sorry I’m no help on this issue!

  6. I am not a pot smoker either. Hell, two Excedrin Migraine and I think I’m a drug user.

    Nonetheless, I’m for legalization. Period. So many things in excess are bad for us. Terrible for us. Terrible for our teens. Alcohol and tobacco among them.

    Marijuana? I don’t consider it a gateway drug whatsoever. It’s ridiculous that it wasn’t legalized long ago.

    We have far more serious things to be focusing on, and spending our tax dollars tending to.

  7. Wow. I thought this topic would garner a lot more comments. Not that that’s what I was going for…but it IS the reason why I titled this post “Coffee Talk.” I want to thank everyone above (and any subsequent below commenters) for being brave enough to share your opinion. I so appreciate frank, open discussion about tricky topics.

    The small number of comments could mean two things. 1. Legalizing marijuana is a non-issue. People just don’t care. If that’s the case, goodness Californians. Vote Yes and get this over with already. Or 2. It truly is a tricky topic and some of you out there are hesitant to share your opinion. Please know, I delete any flaming/rude/obnoxious comments. If someone is rude to one of my commenters, they get the axe.

    As for my weak attempt at getting the discussion going – and my hopes for more “Coffee Talk” posts in the future? Guess I’m going to have to scrap the “Gay Marriage” post I had planned for next week. ;)

  8. unabridgedgirl

    I’ve never smoked, tried drugs, or drank – none of it has ever appealed to me for obvious family examples. And I’ve never really thought about the whole issue you’ve brought up. I’m not sure I’d see it as a gateway drug, either, though.

  9. I agree with the comparison to prohibition. People didn’t stop drinking, but it made gangsters wealthy and encouraged the gang wars. Good chance marijuana might be less attractive to many if it’s legal because it eliminates the challenge. And helps those who use it for medical issues.

  10. Honestly it’s irrelevant of how I feel about marijuana. Alcohol abuse and misuse and it’s tragic effects are an epidemic here. Why does marijuana pose more of a threat to the world than alcohol does? One should be legal and one shouldn’t?

    Maybe if it was legal, we would have an american industry that is as profitable as the liquor industry? Maybe unemployment would go down? Maybe drug related crimes would diminish?

    Maybe? Maybe not. To me, honestly make them both either illegal or illegal. They BOTH are potentially dangerous when misused. They BOTH are mutually enjoyable when used properly.

    Just sayin….

  11. Well back in March I stuck my head above the parapet on the whole issue of drugs – hard and soft – prompted by the mephedrone scare here in the UK.

    I’ve thought about this a lot over the years and have now come to the conclusion that it would ultimately be best to legalise *all* drugs. It may sound ridiculous to say this but I think that such a radical step could have *massive* and far reaching, positive consequences. To see my reasoning, it’s probably best to visit my blog post here:

    http://angelcel.wordpress.com/2010/03/29/contemplating-legal-highs/

  12. As I was reading the post, “gateway drug” came to mind, and then I got to the paragraph about your BIL. I agree with him. Marijuana can lead to harder drugs. And, if marijuana is legalized, law enforcement will lost a valuable avenue to bigger cases. And I also think that like alcohol, if it is legal, the rate of DUI of drugs will increase.

  13. I’m not a fan of pot, it happens to do the opposite for me that it does for many people in that I get super paranoid and tense. My brother loves it and I said I’m fine with it being legal, I think it would help things, but I DON’T think it’s ok to use while driving. He thinks it’s ok to drive high but since it alters everything I think that is just really dangerous. I think making things seem SO wrong in society is what makes people want to do things more, I know that’s how i felt in college.

  14. Here’s a thought: The more I watch “Intervention” the more it is clear that alcohol is really the gateway drug, if there is one.
    Don’t know if that means that legalizing mj would give people prone to addiction another, easier avenue; or if alcohol abuse and the problems associated would be even worse without the legal controls. My sense is that addiction is powerful and can find its way to addiction-prone people (huffing, for example) but getting a grip on the social ills that surround mj just might be a good idea.

  15. The reason it’s called a “gateway drug” is because almost all hard-drug users started with pot. But not all pot users go on to harder drugs. I’m not sure where I stand on the issue. The pot-smokers I know are complete losers; they don’t have any ambition and wallow in their misery and smoke dope. I wouldn’t want my boys to try it. And I’m curious how they are going to control pot because it’s so damn easy to grow. Yet shouldn’t adults be able to make their own decisions of what they put in their body. I’m just torn.

  16. If pot is a gateway drug, then so is alcohol, and anything else that alters your mental state.

    Frankly I’m for legalizing most thing – and I’ll throw prostitution in there, even though I have never used one. Let them pay taxes the same as the rest of us and, oh, while we are about it we can actually impose health and safety standards such as measured amounts of drugs and cleanliness.

    Standards would cut down on accidental drug overdoses, regular checkups would keep prostitutes healthier. And people that have problems won’t be afraid of trying to get help because they will end up in jail!

  17. I’m conflicted about this as well. Yes, alcohol is mind altering but society accepts it. Why shouldn’t marijuana be the same? Heck, why not just legalize all drugs so the government can regulate them? Seriously, I don’t think too many would want to legalize heroin, cocaine, crack, meth or LSD, but really, where would you draw the line?

  18. I’ve never tried pot and I also can count the number of times on one hand that I’ve had too much to drink. I don’t know what the right answer is to this debate, but legalizing marijuana almost operates as permission to take a drug, even though we don’t know its long term effects.

  19. makes me want to drink alchoholic beverages

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