Legalizing Marijuana in the USA

Beryl Gorbman

An Editorial

When I was in high school, in Yonkers New York, there were the kids who did naughty things and the kids who didn’t. The naughty things broke down into two categories – drinking alcohol and having sex. It was very simple. The kids who did were “bad” and the kids who didn’t were “good.” The good kids were in the majority. It was clearly illegal to drink, and most of us weren’t willing to risk a jump into criminal behavior. Smoking marijuana was way off the grid of normal behavior and I doubt anyone in our class did it. Who wanted to risk becoming a serious criminal who might get arrested and go to jail?

Nowadays things aren’t so simple. Marijuana teeters on the edge of generalized legality. Many teenagers know their parents did it and some of their parents still do. No one worries about being arrested for posessing small amounts. In many places in the USA, notably Santa Monica Beach in LA, hawkers are outside of marijuana sales parlors, directing buyers to come in to buy “medical marijuana.”

Medical marijuana, Venice Beach 2010

Venice Beach

“There’s a doctor inside, and he’ll give you a license to use marijuana legally.” This from a young woman in a teeny mini-skirt standing outside with a sign.

Alcohol was, of course, sold openly when I was a teenager and was available from parental stashes. Ah, the suburban “wet bars,” a feature in any modern home. The bad kids drank in high school and really went wild in college. And now that marijuana is universally available, lots of kids are using that. And they’re starting very young.

I talked to a a few young people about this in Seattle.

“I smoked dope the first time when I was eight,” says Priscilla R. of Seattle. “My sister gave it to me, and let me get high with her and her friends. It was fun and I still do it.”

Priscilla is 23. She smokes dope every day and has had a series of low-end jobs, none lasting more than a year. She isn’t interested in going to college, even though both of her parents are college graduates and would support her through school.

“Why should I do all that work?” she asks. “There aren’t any jobs anyway. I don’t see what everyone is so freaked out about.”

Bart G., 17, lives in the suburb of a big city. Both of his parents work. A lot of his friends have dropped out of school because they don’t see a point to continuing. James, however, has remained on track and is due to graduate next year.

“I probably won’t go to college,” he says. “It’s a lot of work, it’s expensive, and it’s a waste of time. I might look for an apprenticeship or practice more with my band and see if we can get some gigs. We’re making a CD and we’ll sell it outside concerts. I really like the music scene.”

I asked Bart how his parents felt about his decision and he said they thought he was applying to colleges. “I haven’t told them yet, how I really feel.”

Does anyone you know go to college?, I asked Bart.

“Oh yeah, some of the kids from my class are probably going. Not kids I hang with, though.”

I asked Bart what he thought about drugs.

“Drugs? You mean like heroin or crystal meth? No, I don’t do that – that stuff really fucks you up. Excuse my language.”

No, I mean dope, marijuana, or whatever you call it these days.”

“Marijuana isn’t really a drug,” Bart says. “It’s just something we all do to keep sane. It’s not against the law and everybody I know does it. Anyone who doesn’t smoke dope is outside the, you know, normal range.”

I asked Bart what percent of his class he thought used marijuana. He laughed. “Oh, maybe about ninety-five percent,” he said. “Pretty much everybody.”

I talked to one girl, who gets excellent grades and is college-bound. Celine says, “Almost everybody smokes dope and has sex. I’m unpopular, I just have a few friends. I don’t get invited to many parties.”

When I asked Celine what she thought made her different, she said, “It doesn’t really tempt me. I want to go to college. I think I want to be a neurosurgeon and I can’t do that if I get distracted.”

It’s interesting to wonder what makes that five percent of straight kids stay on target, but the more important issue is what makes ninety-five percent of them wander off into the ennui produced by chronic marijuana use. Ten years ago, when marijuana legality was cloudier, the statistics were nowhere near this dramatic.

Legalizing marijuana removes barriers from drug use. Marijuana is an insidious drug, not because it causes illness, death, or even criminal behavior, but because it takes the drive and ideals out of people, especially young ones. People don’t smoke a lot of pot and say, “I want to be the president of the United States.” They don’t even say, “It’s important to go to school.” This is the danger of marijuana, and the danger in giving the wrong message to young people – the message that marijuana is harmless.

The argument that legalizing marijuana will cut criminal behavior and eliminate profits for drug dealers is not valid. First of all, legalizing it creates new jobs, like salespeople and more and more dealers. And second of all, legalizing marijuana would simply mean that other drugs will be trafficked more.

About BG

Beryl Gorbman is a writer and private investigator who divides her time between Seattle WA and Merida Yucatan Mexico. She has published two works of fiction, 2012: Deadly Awakening, and Madrugada. They are both available on Amazon and other outlets. Also at Amate Books, and Casa Catherwood in Merida. You can read about them in various articles on this site.
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22 Responses to Legalizing Marijuana in the USA

  1. Kinbote says:

    These bland, disaffected Washingtonian youth, who featured heavily in Nick Broomfield’s 1998 documentary Kurt and Courtney, which documents, among other things, the bland, disaffected youth that Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love surrounded themselves with prior to Kurt’s suicide, are supremely stupid in that they can’t seem to see past the end of their nose with this “I don’t know what I want to do when I grow up” garbage.

    Any clever person in their situation would kill two birds with one stone and start selling pot.

    Because right now, Priscilla, age 23, is just a bored, washed-out pothead. But if she starts selling now, she could be the queen of the bored, washed-out potheads before she’s 24.

    Priscilla, you’re welcome.

    -Uncle Kinbote

  2. kwallek says:

    Pot is no different from booze as far as robbing people of their drive to get out and make something of their lives. The difference is that pot does not seem to be as addictive as booze. I grew up about ten years after you did and pot was as common as beer at our parties. The majority of those people did well for themselves over time, raised families, bought houses, it was the booze hounds who crashed and burned. Now coke, meth, smack, even acid caused a few to go down the tubes but pot, not that I ever noticed. The pot laws are a big money spinner, catching, holding, processing the people who run into law enforcement. Repealing the pot laws would put a great number of people out of work-now that might be a real problem. Perfectly good cages with no one in them-oh my!

  3. Grant says:

    I had a pot clinic near my favorite Thai restaurant for a while. There was always a crowd of healthy-looking but dissolute kids out front. Clearly nothing medically wrong with them. The last thing they needed was society telling them that pot was medicine and that they had a condition that needed medicating.

    The red cross symbol that used to mean medical care has now come to mean marijuana for sale. It makes me sick that the medical profession has been twisted into a cover for drug pushing with the connivance of the government.

    Where are those state attorneys general who so doggedly went after the tobacco industry for all of its public dangers and deceptions when there were big pockets to tax? Should we wonder if tobacco is also medicine? Perhaps anything is medicine if we want it to be.

    I wish the government had something to inspire these kids, though that isn’t really the government’s job. But failing that, the last thing the state should do is put grease on a slippery slope by allowing pot to be treated as medicine.

    If I were a class action attorney, I’d be preparing a massive lawsuit against the states that deceived young people into thinking that smoking dope had some therapeutic benefit. This is exactly the kind of nonsense that the big tobacco companies got tagged for until the Surgeon General stopped them.

    • lynne says:

      there is absolutely no proof that smoking marijuana causes the same harm that cigarettes or alcohol do. NONE. Just to prove my point I will share with you something you may not know. I am an agent, I sell every type of insurance including life insurance and when we run across marijuana in the blood test it does not change the rate. Cigarettes yes, too much alcohol yes and a prescription drug of any type yes. Again….Marijuana NO. Hmmmmmmmm why is that?

  4. smoking tyger says:

    I’m sorry, but all of you sound like the Prohibitionists who argued that booze “destroyed the morality and will to work of the lower classes”. Do you really think these “healthy-looking but dissolute kids” will “shape up and fly right” if you take their pot away? Also, do you really see college as the solution to these kids problems? If you do, then you are the one who is out of touch and delusional.

    The Huffington Post had an article just yesterday reporting on the growing popularity of “Sugar Daddy” websites for young girls. The reason hundreds of thousands of young girls are putting themselves on these sites and selling their bodies is not to pay for their pot habit but instead to pay their student loans and tuition bills. Why don’t they get decent jobs you ask? That same day the NY Times reported that economists are estimating that this is the worst job market for college graduates since the Great Depression and that 80% of this years graduates are unlikely to find jobs in the next 18 months and will probably have to move back home with their parents for 2 to 3 years. THERE ARE NO JOBS, PEOPLE!

    These kids know what a crappy future we are handing them and many of them choose to opt out of it and self medicate with pot and booze. Before you condemn that choice remember that they live in the world we made for them. If opting out seems like a great choice to them it sure says a lot about the great choices we made.

    • BG says:

      Hey Tyger – I agree with you. I think the future is bleak for a young person in the US (although perhaps not as bleak as a young person in Mexico or in thailand), and if I were 16 now, I might lean back into oblivion myself. What I’m saying is that between the awful prospect of attaining adulthood in the USA and the availability and legality of pot, it makes it an easier alternative and probably impedes some kids from even trying.

      • Jane's Brother says:

        Quite frankly, I honestly don’t see how keeping marijuana in the criminal justice system and fighting some hysterical, hypocritical “war on drugs” that cannot–and will never–be “won” can be rationally defended. Last I checked, alcohol and tobacco are perfectly legal and allegedly controlled to people over 21 (yeah, right) and all the floodgate arguments and dire warnings of the end of the world as we know it are totally applicable and appropriate to those two legalized DRUGS. The only thing this futile effort at prohibition, combined with making criminals out of teenagers, results in is a fuller appreciation of the rank hypocrisy and dishonesty of American society and a fostering of complete disrespect for all laws and standards, since they are seen as arbitrary and irrational, motivated by political agendas, not public health and safety. I am a complete child of the 1960s and the vast majority of potheads from my generation went on to become doctors, lawyers, accountants, successful business people, teachers, professors, serious musicians, artists, writers, and skilled workers in the crafts and trades. It’s a question of balance. You cannot stop kids from partying. The issue is that they go overboard and lose control of their own substance abuse. Restoring ambition and hope to our youth is everyone’s responsibility. Our economy, political sysyem and basic values need to change. Every single one of our institutions needs to be looked at with a critical eye and honesty must be restored not just to our dealings with the younger generation, but our daily lives and commerce. Our young people are reacting to the rampant dishonesty they see everywhere around them and the hopelessness it breeds.

  5. María Cristina Llera says:

    I´m a nerdy gal who touches neither pot, nor alcohol, nor tobacco and hardly any meds, prescription or over-the-counter. Therefore, I decline to comment on the ethical/philosophical/sociological/health aspects of pot consumption. On the other hand, I have something to say about the current fad, expounded by some mentally impaired Americans and other citizens of the world, that legalization of marihuana will eliminate the narco problem across the border in Mexico and consequently in the US. Think again. If pot is legalized the narcos, sophisticated business enterprises that they are, will quickly reposition to recover the lost revenue stream…by expanding, what else?… well, no less than their other profitable criminal activities such as kidnapping for ransom, extorsion, human trafficking for prostitution and slavery, the sky is the limit.

  6. Grant says:

    Tyger tyger burning bright:

    I’m with Beryl. Yes, there’s a really bad job market now, but making pot legal and worse, letting it masquerade as medicine, is not helping anyone.

    I think I’d rather see it legalized outright than allow it to be sold as medicine. There something very cynical about that. It’s like the old cigarette ads that claimed to be good for you.

    My wife and I rode our bikes up to the donut shop the other day and the laotian lady was bragging to us about her son who just gut the highest gpa at Boalt Hall, the UC Berkeley law school. Apparently there are still opportunities if you want to put some work in. I don’t know for sure if her son has a medical condition that ‘requires’ him to smoke marijuana, but I somehow doubt it.

  7. smoking tyger says:

    Dear Nerdy Gal,
    Normally I would not bother to reply to your post. It is clear from what you have said that you have already made up your mind on the subject; and one thing I have learned over the years, is that while you can lead a closed minded person to the facts you cannot make them think. However, your ad hominem attack (ie. describing those of us who disagree with you as “mentally impaired”) cries out for a reply. So, lets deconstruct your post to see if anything you had to say was meaningful or valid.

    You start by saying, “I´m a nerdy gal who touches neither pot, nor alcohol, nor tobacco and hardly any meds, prescription or over-the-counter”. Normally, a profession of complete ignorance on a topic disqualifies one from discussing it rationally, but drug use is one of those rare topics where ignorance is presumed to be the result of moral righteousness. You cleverly play off of this by describing yourself as “nerdy” a word that has come to be equated with “smart” and thereby subtly imply that smart people (like you) don’t do drugs. This is clever of you, but meaningless in terms of the validity of your future arguments.

    You go on to say, “Therefore, I decline to comment on the ethical/philosophical/sociological/health aspects of pot consumption”. This is logical, your first sentence is a statement of ignorance and your second enumerates the subjects you are ignorant on and declares that you will not comment on these subjects. If you had stopped there, like you said you were going to, I wouldn’t have had any problem with your post; but you went on.

    The problem in your opinion is, “the current fad, expounded by some mentally impaired Americans and other citizens of the world, that legalization of marihuana will eliminate the narco problem across the border in Mexico and consequently in the US”. This is a complex sentence linking four separate points that should be dealt with individually.

    Firstly, legalization of marijuana is hardly a “fad”. Organizations like NORML have been lobbying and fighting this issue since 1970. Forty years of social debate and reform efforts qualifies as more than a “fad”. Indeed, if one takes the long view the debate over cannabis legalization has been going on since the 1920′s when it was first demonized by American drug prohibitionists. Interestingly, they deliberately spelled marijuana the same way you did. They deliberately used a Mexican name for cannabis in order to turn the US populace against the idea that it should be legal by playing to negative attitudes towards Mexicans. (See 1937 Marihuana Tax Act). Those who demonized the drug by calling it marihuana omitted the fact that the “deadly marihuana” was identical to Cannabis sativa, which had at the time a reputation for pharmaceutical safety.

    Secondly, you imply that those who disagree with you are “mentally impaired”. This is a logical fallacy known as over generalization. It may be true that some people who disagree with you are, indeed, mentally impaired, but this does not mean that everyone who disagrees with you is. Personally, I think that you were saying that BG and myself are mentally impaired, which is another type of fallacy known as an ad hominem attack. Either way, resorting to insult is hardly the way to engage in reasoned debate. It’s like a child saying “I’m not going to listen to you because you’re a doody-head”.

    Thirdly, you state that the “mentally impaired Americans” mentioned above seem to think that, “legalization of marihuana will eliminate the narco problem across the border in Mexico”. Can you supply the name of one national commentator or organization that believes this? Obviously legalizing marijuana in the US will not solve the narco problem in Mexico. Mostly, because the majority of their income does not come from marijuana.

    Don’t take my word for it, this is the position of the RAND corporation. Last October, in a report examining possible effects of legalization in California, they stated that legalizing marijuana in California will not dramatically reduce profits collected by Mexican drug trafficking groups, in part because pot shipments to the United States only account for 15 to 26 percent of their export revenues. Marijuana makes money for the cartels but it is hardly their chief source of income and they could easily survive its loss.

    Which, makes the last point in this sentence pretty silly. If we “mentally impaired Americans” DO NOT think that legalizing marijuana will eliminate the narco problem across the border in Mexico, then it follows that we DO NOT think that it will eliminate the narco problem “consequently in the US”. Whether or not pot is legalized in the US the problem of violent criminal gangs supplying the hugely profitable US demand for illicit drugs is going to still be with us.

    The last part of your post is nothing more than rank fear mongering. Do you have any evidence, any at all, to support your assertions? Legalization is not an attempt to “starve out the cartels” it is a attempt to hopefully start finding a way to end the 40 year old “War on Drugs”. A war that has cost the US incalculable amounts in wasted money, ruined lives, and eroded civil liberties. I have much more respect for Beryl who has real concerns about the effect legalization might have on kids. We might disagree but at least she is not insulting me or distorting the facts.

    • Kinbote says:

      Apparently you and I hang out in very different circles, Tyger, because I constantly hear people say that legalizing marijuana in the United States will 100% END the violence taking place south of the border. So I know, from first-hand experience, the exact kind of arguments that Maria is referring to.

      I believe that marijuana should be legalized in the United States. However, unlike the people to whom Maria is referring (who could realistically be called mentally impaired as it is no secret whatsoever that Latin America’s narcotraficantes are trafficking a lot more than marijuana, a lot more than drugs in fact) I have no deluded fantasies that legalization in the United States means an end to the drug war.

      What kills me is people who only drink fair-trade coffee and stick to a strictly vegan diet because of their avowed desire to be kind to the Earth and its creatures, yet have no problem buying marijuana that, for all they know, human beings had to die to get across the border and into their precious hands. I met a number of these people, scores in fact, when I lived in the Pacific Northwest.

      In fact, I can name three Americans off the top of my head who would likely tell you that drinking milk is bad because it’s cruel to cows, and two seconds later take a hit of good old Mexican weed.

      Those are the worst people on Earth.

      • lynne says:

        I don’t know where you live but the weed in Washington state is home grown. In fact the people I buy it from legally are patients and growers. There is little need or desire for low quality Mexican weed in this state. Just because some people over
        state the benefits of legalizing doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done. Just my thought on that.

    • lynne says:

      Totally Agree with everything you said.

  8. Jane's Brother says:

    “…What kills me is people who only drink fair-trade coffee and stick to a strictly vegan diet because of their avowed desire to be kind to the Earth and its creatures, yet have no problem buying marijuana that, for all they know, human beings had to die to get across the border and into their precious hands. ”

    Well, if they were permitted to grow their own and the multibillion dollar DEA/Police apparatus were diverted to more constructive pursuits, like solving murders, rapes, kidnappings, and preventing real terrorists from flying planes into buildings and blowing up parts of this country, we wouldn’t have that problem, would we?

    • Kinbote says:

      Of course! And as I stated, I am in favor of legalizing marijuana in the United States. I just find it ironic that these people can exhibit such self-control when it comes to what they eat, but when it comes to the ganj, 40,000 slain Mexicans are apparently not enough to persuade their conscience into putting down the pipe. Of course, there are plenty of people who grow their own or make sure they know where their weed comes from. I have no problem with those people.

  9. Stephen Wozniak says:

    The comments of the pot smokers say it all.

    Both the USA and Mexico have Ni Ni’s.

    No jobs, not going to school, no ambition. Gorbman hits another home-run by promoting and heralding the opinions of schmucks, nebbishes, and putzes as her advice to live by.

    All of this is even more ironic because she describes herself as an intellectual in this blog, while her actions and thoughts blare baka.

    “Yucatan Yenta” has a hint of being clever, but “Seattle Shlmiel” better fits her reality.

    • BG says:

      You can’t possibly be THE Stephen Wozniak – are you? If so, I am honored to be insulted by you. I’ll hang on to that “hint of being clever.”

  10. I hope I am right in affirming that many polls indicate that the majority of Americans are in favor of legalizing marijuana and if this great country labels itself the greatest democracy ever, it would seem logical to me that marijuana be legalized without further delay. IMHO the ‘drug war’ is a giant job creation program; in an age where budget-cutting is all the rage, I am sure a good number of dollars could be saved by disbanding the many useless nanny-government institutions that dedicate millions of dollars each year to the “War on Drugs”.

  11. lynne says:

    I’m weighing in late on this one BG but I completely disagree with you. I have my MMJ authorization (maybe you forgot) and I regulary head right down the street from my office to my local dispensary and buy it whenever I choose too. I have been using cannibus since I was in 8th grade…maybe not regularly back then but today I use it every single day. Wake and Bake as they say. I went to college and I have been at my job or in this same industry since 1987. The myth that weed causes everybody to just lay around and do nothing is just that a myth. It could be easily argued that today lots of young people have little direction or drive but you cannot blame that on weed. Maybe they lack direction regardless, in fact my opinion about most of the youth today is just that. School is ridiculously expensive and with no guarantee of work to pay off that huge debt I don’t blame them. As far as my use, well I will use it legal or not but I am legal today. I went to a doctor gave her 3 years of my chart notes about loosing some of my colon to acute ibs and boom I was approved. I love having the ability to buy what ever kind I want. I don’t like or need Sativa because I don’t suffer from any type of emotional issues but I do use Indica because nothing keeps my bowels and gut settled down like weed. Again I will still use regardless but the authorization gives ability to buy legally, use legally and purchase what kind I want. It also puts well needed tax money in the hands of the city of Seattle. Blaming weed for lack of direction, laziness and or no drive in life is like blaming video games and food for the reason you can’t you 18 year off the couch. It not what they use as an excuse it’s who they are.

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