Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Legalizing Marijuana A Bad Idea

Drug Policy

There is a growing movement politically that marijuana ought to be decriminalized if not made legal. Such are the discussions taking place in Canada, the United States and in some Latin American nations, which have seen the socio-economic effects on the failed U.S.-led “War on Drugs.” At least the measure ought to be discussed rationally and scientifically; such explains the welcome news that the U.S. National Institutes of Health has funded the first major study on medical marijuana use as an issue of public health.      
       Even so, there are serious societal concerns that also need addressing, George Jochnowitz says: “A 12-year-old can buy marijuana from a drug dealer, although it doesn’t happen often. If pot is legalized, parents would be unlikely to offer their children marijuana, but they would be likely to smoke in public, thus setting an example for their children. There would be marijuana in the home, and children could find it, as they now find cigarettes. Nowadays, it is reasonable to suppose that fewer children have smoked marijuana than tobacco. If marijuana were legalized, this would change at once.”


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by George Jochnowitz

On Election Day in 2012 a potentially threatening result occurred: the states of Colorado and  Washington voted to legalize marijuana. Massachusetts voted to allow doctors to recommend it as medicine. According to Ed Gogek, an addiction psychiatrist, “most medical marijuana recipients are drug abusers who are either faking or exaggerating their problems.” [see New York Times article.]

Not long ago, I saw a boy who looked about 12 years old walking down the street smoking a cigarette. I wanted to ask him how old he was and how he had gotten the cigarette, but I didn’t. I felt the questions  would irritate him. It’s not too hard for a minor to obtain cigarettes. If parents smoke, their children can simply take a cigarette out of a pack when nobody is looking. A parent might even offer a cigarette to a child. So might an older sibling or a friend.

What about marijuana? A 12-year-old can buy marijuana from a drug dealer, although it doesn’t happen often. If pot is legalized, parents would be unlikely to offer their children marijuana, but they would be likely to smoke in public, thus setting an example for their children. There would be marijuana in the home, and children could find it, as they now find cigarettes. Nowadays, it is reasonable to suppose that fewer children have smoked marijuana than tobacco. If marijuana were legalized, this would change at once.

The dangers of second-hand smoke are well known. Restaurants, offices, places of business, etc. do not allow smoking. Consequently, people stand in front of buildings, no matter what the weather, and smoke outdoors. Their smoke may be annoying, but the wind blows it away.

The dangers of second-hand marijuana smoke are not known. There is not too much of it. But just imagine people standing in front of buildings smoking pot instead of tobacco. The smell is much more powerful. Does second-hand marijuana smoke have a psychological effect? Nobody knows. Does it cause cancer? Probably.

Alcohol is generally considered more dangerous than marijuana. It probably is. We all know about the dangers of drunken driving. On November 10, 2011, the Associated Press reported that a bus driver on a school bus in New Jersey was swerving and falling asleep at the wheel. Children called their parents on their cell phones, and the parents called the Westhampton Middle School, which alerted the police.

The driver, named Carole Crockett, failed a breath test and was indicted for driving under the influence. If marijuana were legal, drivers might easily drive under the influence of pot. Is it as dangerous as the influence alcohol? We don’t have enough information, but it doesn’t matter. Even if it is much less dangerous, we just don’t need dangerous drivers.

The Prohibition Amendment to the Constitution failed and was repealed. Alcoholism is an ancient, well-established vice. Prohibition had to fail. Marijuana addiction is less ancient and less established. It isn’t  legal. If we make it legal, it will spread to a degree never before seen. Prohibition would then become  impossible. We don’t need it.

What about freedom? Freedom is inherently good. Unfortunately, some freedoms inhibit other freedoms. We are now free to walk down the street without being overwhelmed by the penetrating, powerful smell of marijuana. We are relatively free from people driving under the influence of pot. We are free from cancer caused by second-hand marijuana smoke. Our children are relatively free from the temptation of becoming potheads, even though that freedom is merely relative. The legalization of marijuana would end these freedoms.

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George Jochnowitz was born in New York City, in 1937.  He became aware of different regional pronunciations when he was six, and he could consciously switch accents as a child. He got his Ph.D. in linguistics from Columbia University and taught linguistics at the College of Staten Island, CUNY.  His area of specialization was Jewish languages, in particular, Judeo-Italian dialects.  As part of a faculty-exchange agreement with Hebei University in Baoding, China, he was in China during the Tiananmen Massacre. He can be reached at george@jochnowitz.net.

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Copyright ©2013. George Jochnowitz. All Rights Reserved.  It is republished here with the author's permission.

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