We've got to stop lying to our children about marijuana. It's making us look bad.
Conventional wisdom holds that marijuana is a dangerous drug that is used only by junkies and sold only by violent criminals. However, conventional wisdom in this case is wrong, and the sooner we admit this, as a society, the better it will be for all of us.
Let me tell you about myself. I grew up in the 70's, at a time when the propaganda machine was really put to work on the kids in public schools. And we were taught that marijuana is extremely dangerous, that one puff would turn you into a drug crazed psycho, that your life would instantly be ruined, and that you'd forever be controlled by the drug, trapped in a downward spiral of addiction.
What I've realized since then is that I was lied to. My generation received the full impact of a previous generation's retaliation against the rebellion of the 60's generation. We were taught that drugs of all kinds pose the same dangers as the truly dangerous drugs like cocaine and heroin. At the time, I believed this information.
In college, I knew people who smoked pot. But I always assumed that they had started down that path toward ruin, so I figured they'd drop out of college sooner or later and eventually end up in the gutter.
But as I got older, I began running into a puzzling contradiction. People who I knew had smoked pot in college were still doing OK. Their lives were not ruined. And indeed, they continued to smoke pot now and then on the weekends, and it didn't seem to impact upon their quality of life any more than the beer drinking habits of other of my friends (with the exception that they had to keep such behavior highly confidential).
How could this be? If pot is so dangerous, I asked myself, then why are so many successful people able to use it without turning into drug crazed psychos? Some of these people are even successful executives, prospering businessmen, and noteworthy artists of one form or another.
In searching for an explanation for this apparent impossibility, I had to conclude that I had been lied to about the dangers of marijuana. And that really pissed me off. It made me lose a lot of my respect for the law and the government, and that in turn makes me sad and cynical.
Now, lately I've been hearing and reading a lot about legalizing marijuana, at least for legitimate medical uses. And it astounds me to hear the knee-jerk reactions from our elected officials. Even in the face of popular votes to change our marijuana laws, as seen in the recent elections in Arizona and California, and even after We The People have twice elected a man who has admitted to trying the stuff, we see that man's administration refusing to even consider changing the time-honored policies. They cling to the claims that pot is dangerous, like a row of Dodo birds with their heads in the sand, despite the fact that no study of the dangers of marijuana has ever shown conclusively that there are any dangers. But it's as if the lack of real danger associated with this drug is already known and understood, though never admitted to, because they then fall back to excuses, like "There's no proof that pot has legitimate medical uses," and "what kind of message does legalization send to our children?"
I know several people who get terrible migraine headaches. These headaches sometimes last for days, and often render their victims unable to cope with life. There are drug treatments that help, but in some cases, they just make it easier to get through life until the headache passes. And marijuana is one of these drug treatments. I know two people for whom it works very well. And so, when I see TV ads for various new treatments for migraines, it enrages me to think that this wonderful, natural herb, which I know helps some people live easier with pain, is banned as a "dangerous illegal drug."
When people ask what kind of message legalization sends to our children, I say, "What kind of message does lying send to our children?" As long as our anti-drug campaigns contain blatant falsehoods mixed in with true and important messages, we are lying to our children. And sooner or later, they're gonna figure it out, just like I did. Marijuana is used regularly by millions of Americans. If you aren't using it yourself, someone you know and trust probably is. Maybe you know it, and maybe you don't since, contrary to the lessons handed out by the War on Drugs people, you can live a perfectly normal, ordinary life and yet smoke pot from time to time.
And this is when the problem of lying to our children really becomes an issue. Because when kids learn the truth about marijuana, why then should they believe what they've been taught about the other illegal drugs? Indeed, why should they believe anything they are told by authority figures such as their teachers, their parents, and the government?
Another excuse that is often given for keeping marijuana illegal is the so-called "gateway drug" theory. This notion holds that if kids start with soft drugs like pot, they will then move on to dangerous drugs like crack or herion.
If there is any truth to this theory, it can only be because kids realize they've been lied to about pot and therefore assume they're being lied to about heroin and crack as well. So, if anything, the gateway drug theory is an argument for legalization, not against it.
Lying is always a risky thing to do. As numerous After School Specials and Sesame Street parables have shown, once you start lying, you have to keep spinning more lies to support the original lie, until it gets to the point where everything you are doing is a sham, and it all comes crashing down when the original lie gets exposed. So it is with the War on Marijuana. Legalization seems unthinkable given the amount of money we've spent, and the number of people's lives we've destroyed, in our efforts to eradicate marijauna. But does it make sense to spend yet more billions, and jail even more non-violent pot smokers, in order to defend the lies?
I guess to our elected officials, it's easier to maintain the status quo than to do what's best for our country. It is, after all, very difficult to admit you've been wrong, and even more difficult to admit you've been lying. The longer you've been doing it, the harder it is to stop, particularly if you are in a position of authority. But as those After School Specials and Sesame Street parables always point out in the end, lies, like hard drugs, are a dead-end street. Once you enter that trap, the only way out is through the humliation of coming clean. But although that can be very painful, you always feel better when it's over.
Marijuana prohibition, like alcohol prohibition before it, is doing far more damage than the harm it seeks to reduce could ever possibly amount to. So we've just got to come clean on this. If anti-drug warriors are really concerned about the message we send to our children, they should realize that honesty is, as always, the best policy.