For my brother, I’m sure it started out as a social activity, something fun and exciting to do with his buddies. He was a teenager when he began smoking pot, and I remember the pungent odor, seeing marijuana cigarettes rolled tightly in white paper and the paraphernalia in his room.
I was a child then, so I didn’t think much of what was happening. But I recall that my parents were frustrated and angry about his newfound habit.
They had good reason to be.
Pot was his first drug of choice, but my brother eventually graduated to harder stuff, finally settling on crack cocaine, a drug that would take him and our family through years of pain, disappointment and despair.
I tell this story because it looks like California — where marijuana use has become increasingly mainstream — may become the first state in the nation to legalize marijuana for recreational use.
I question whether this is the right move.
I am familiar with what the proponents of legalizing marijuana for recreational use have to say. They believe that legalization would reduce marijuana-related crimes and could generate additional tax revenues, and stress that pot is no more harmful than smoking a cigarette or drinking alcohol.
A poll published in last Sunday’s paper showed that 42 percent of adults who describe themselves as current users smoke it to relieve pain, while 39 percent use it recreationally.
Last year, the American Medical Association reversed its stance and asked the federal government to reconsider pot as a Schedule 1 substance, meaning that it is a dangerous drug (like heroin or LSD) with no accepted medical use. The group called for more research.
These are all arguments worth debating.
I understand that not everyone who smokes pot will experiment with harder drugs. I’m also not against its use for medicinal purposes. If you have a disease that causes chronic and unbearable pain, and smoking cannabis eases that pain, then do what you need to do.
The problem noted in a Sacramento Bee story, though, is that the legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes is “changing the social dynamic,” essentially making it more acceptable to the broader population.
Even with tighter controls on its use — as in the case of alcohol and cigarettes — I fear that legalization for recreational purposes will give more young people a reason to give it a try, sending an already vulnerable population the wrong message.
From personal experience in dealing with my brother, marijuana is far from harmless.
Whether it was weed or crack, drugs transformed him into a different person, one who cared only about himself and his next hit. Little did we know that that first toke as a young man would embolden him to try other avenues to achieve a bigger high.
As a society, we have decided that there are certain drugs that we’re willing to accept. Whether we choose to indulge or not, many of us love our cigarettes and alcoholic beverages, which, by the way, have disastrous effects if not used in moderation.
Let’s not add marijuana to the list.
By Julie Lynem
Aug. 15, 2010