I live in Colorado. That statement wouldn’t normally mean much by itself, but Colorado has become the first state in the US to legalize recreational marijuana, leading many to jump to conclusions (and for some Colorado residents, to jump to imaginary brownies and dragons). Just about everyone is familiar with the arguments against marijuana, from “we’re endangering our youth” to the classic “no one who’s smoked pot has ever lived up to their potential!” That last one is my favorite because it often comes from those who have admitted to smoking it when they were younger. Anyway, the burning question is whether or not any of those arguments are actually true; in my experience, I’ve found that those assertions don’t hold up when weighed against reality.
Contrary to some people’s opinions, not everyone automatically becomes a user of something the second that it’s legalized. In fact, I’ve never smoked marijuana (which may be surprising, given some of the things I’ve posted), nor do I have any particular desire to ever start. To be perfectly honest, the closest I’ve ever come to being high was at a Clapton concert where everyone lit up the second the lights went down, effectively hotboxing the entire arena. I went through half the show thinking there was a smoke machine, but no. Just a bunch of Clapton fans.
This whole pot issue reminds me a bit of the kerfuffle over gay marriage and all of the slippery slope arguments that tend to come out of that. “If two dudes can get married, then what’s to stop people from marrying cows?” It amazes me that some people think the only thing preventing people from wedding miscellaneous farm animals is the law, just like it amazes me when people come to the conclusion that weed being legal means everyone will automatically do it. A few of the “anti” people have even written that they’re tempted to come to Colorado to smoke, and given the parallel between the marijuana argument and the “slippery slope” gay marriage argument, this makes me fear for the sexual safety of their pets.
The stupidity of the slippery slope argument isn’t the point of all of this, though, so much as a random tangent that allows me to paint you a picture of a groom putting a wedding ring on a cow’s udder. You should also try to visualize the subsequent wedding night, complete with scented candles that smell like grass.
Now that I’ve had my fun, what I really want to talk about is my experience with a group of marijuana users during high school. Weirdly enough, I was in an advanced program with many pot smokers throughout most of high school, so the argument that marijuana keeps people from living up to their potential is already on some pretty shaky ground in my book. Now, most people have a picture in their mind of what a pothead looks like, complete with a bag of greasy potato chips and a dilapidated couch that would beg to be euthanized if it could speak. That wasn’t my experience at all, though I can’t vouch for the condition of their furniture. Before I get into that, however, I want to lay down a little back story.
The single biggest issue I faced in high school was sleep deprivation; at one point, I was so exhausted from all of the extra homework that the advanced program required that I actually managed to forget how to spell the word “owl.” This was a fifteen-minute mental block that I’m not making up, and even worse, it occurred in the middle of my English class. Fortunately, my English teacher was more likely to begin crying than randomly demand that I burst into a soliloquy about nocturnal birds of prey, but it was nonetheless disturbing to see just how much of an effect exhaustion can have. Realizing that I needed a break in the day to help counter my sleep deprivation, I made sure to schedule a study hall so that I had time to decompress and get a head start on homework. Instead, it provided an opportunity to listen to music and willfully ignore my academic responsibilities. I wasn’t exactly a model student, but bad judgment is a side-effect of sleep deprivation. Probably.
It’s amazing the things you notice around you when you’re avoiding homework, and it was in one of those moments of awareness that I first noticed a group of upperclassmen in my study hall who always hung out together. More and more I begun to eavesdrop on their conversations (because I’m a monster who doesn’t care about other people’s privacy), and I eventually realized that they were all potheads. Of course, this wasn’t exactly a wild guess on my part; they would often talk about smoking weed together, and would do so surprisingly loudly. What intrigued me about these upperclassmen wasn’t the fact that they smoked marijuana, however—it was the fact that they were brilliant. Any homework that they worked on was blown through, and one of them actually ended up valedictorian. At the time, I was jealous of his laid-back approach to things and considered killing and eating him to absorb his smartness. I can’t help but think that if I had, I would have become incredibly high. After all, cannibalism wouldn’t detract from the fact that he would effectively be a human pot brownie at that point.
Of course, that hasn’t been my only experience with marijuana users (and I’m sure plenty of you have had similar experiences of your own). Since that first sprinkle of doubt that steamrolled my concerns about the dangers of weed and lit them up, I’ve known many people who have used marijuana, both for medical and recreational use. Contrary to the black-and-white portrayal most would offer up as evidence of weed’s innate evil—as though marijuana is a code word for a soul-eating demon who just happens to be totally relaxed and love Bob Marley—they’re some of the most creative, productive people I’ve ever known.
Incidentally, of those I’ve known who were smoking marijuana recreationally before it was legalized and use/used harder drugs, none of them were introduced to it through marijuana. Instead, it’s almost always alcohol, and marijuana (allegedly) has similar effects to alcohol without its huge death toll. I fail to see any angle for moral outrage here.
Sleep deprivation, on the other hand, is a huge problem among young people; your jaw would hit the floor if I tried to make a guess about how many times I’ve fallen asleep behind the wheel, but suffice it to say that I used to drift into oncoming traffic more than Billy Joel (that might be a bit much, but you get the point). However, if someone were to raise the issue of sleep deprivation and the huge negative effects that it has on school performance and driving performance (both of which I can personally attest to), they would be told that kids need to toughen up and just get it done. It’s not like people don’t know about this problem, either. What makes it doubly depressing is the fact that changing the hours around so that kids are more rested wouldn’t be such a daunting task, yet nothing ever seems to get done on that front. Meanwhile, marijuana smokers manage to excel in many areas, only to be demonized for moral reasons that are unexplained beyond that bit about kids not realizing their potential.
Alcohol is another huge problem, with DUIs being so common now that the people who make the anti-drunk-driving commercials should be drawn and quartered for failing so hard at being a legitimate deterrent. If you were to aim for stronger legislation pertaining to alcohol and where it can be served, however, all you’d hear would be “blah blah America blah freedom blah blah.” It’s an inevitability, and what all of this comes down to is fear. Fear is fundamentally rooted in the unknown (and barring that, clowns), so leveraging something unknown to ramp up people’s fears allows you to control people. That’s why everything in the entire world is made to be so scary now. Wars! Famine! J-pop music! There’s no escaping.
To sum up, everything you know about marijuana is wrong and the people who are yelling “danger” in your ear are either stupid or using you. Marijuana isn’t the big bad boogeyman: marijuana is your friend.
Especially at Clapton concerts, apparently.