Many people consider marijuana to be on par with alcohol on the spectrum of abusable substances. The two are being compared a lot lately as far as ethics, health, and addictive-qualities go. Some say that marijuana is just a plant that has gotten tangled up a lot of complicated social issues. Others say it’s a gateway drug into the most addictive and perilous substances around. Both sides have valid arguments, but it’s the everyday treatment of the issues that are the most important for addicts, their families, and those in recovery.
The intensity of the marijuana conversation is at an all-time high with legalization bills being proposed throughout the country.
As of May 2016, 25 States and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for recreational and/or medical use. For the most part, legalization has led to better product regulation and state taxation, much like the post-prohibition treatment of alcohol. But unlike prohibition, the marijuana legalization movement is not yet nationwide, which can muddy the social and psychological waters of how a person, especially a young person, perceives it.
Here’s a story that Ron, a close family friend, likes to tell. He’s a Southern boy, so imagine it with a heavy Southern drawl. He was in his early twenties. His father kicked him out of the house. He ended up spending 6 months homeless, squatting in an abandoned house with a bunch of other street kids.
One day, the local sheriff approached him and convinced him he owed him a favor. I have no doubt Ron did owe him a favor, but he never goes into that part. Next thing Ron knows, he’s packed several pounds of marijuana into the trunk of his girlfriend’s car and he’s headed to an address the sheriff scribbled on a piece of notebook paper.
Now, the first time I heard this story I thought the cop must have been using him to deliver drugs to a location that they were trying to bust for dealing. Or something like that. But no, Ron transported marijuana for the guy for months, and it turns out the sheriff was just selling the drugs for profit.
Little did Ron know, simply being in possession of that much marijuana could have landed him 10 years in jail for drug trafficking. He never did get caught though, perhaps the conspiracy reached further than he ever imagined, and he enlisted in the military soon after as a way to get out.
He realized fairly quickly that he wasn’t interested in the seedy underbelly of the drug world. He really just wanted to smoke pot. But because it was illegal, he got pulled into a world in which he had no desire to be.
The biggest danger posed by marijuana for young people is that its “bad” reputation can easily push them toward more addictive and deadly drugs. Drugs that can kill a person from just one hit. The issue is not the substance itself, but the wider social behavior surrounding it. Ron chose to get out, eventually, when confronted with these unsettling dilemmas, but not every kid chooses that path.
We know that all too well.
The entirety of the blame cannot be laid at an addict’s feet. The issue of society’s response to drug regulation is a serious one. Just because someone likes playing World of Warcraft does not mean they’d like being a soldier in the Middle East. It’s up to us to articulate that difference.
In doing so, I hope we can take some of the weight off the shoulders of those people struggling to make positive life choices. We can help them before things spiral out of control.
What are your feelings about marijuana? Please share them in the comments.