REALITY CHECK: Reefer madness


Some ancient readers may recognize this title as being the name of a moldy-oldie Hollywood movie from the 1940s that warned the populace of the evils of using marijuana.

The movie lingered for a while mostly because, for its time, it was considered quite risqué and dealt with a taboo subject. Not to mention that the ads for it promised graphic depictions of lurid goings on by the sex-crazed youth who succumbed to the evil weed. (I've never seen this film, so I can not vouch for the lurid depictions of depravity.)

During the hazy days of the flower children at Haight-Ashbury and Woodstock the movie had a comeback of sorts because it was rediscovered as a mock of anyone who didn't buy the idea of "tune in, turn on and drop out" or the joys of "drugs, sex and rock and roll" as being the panaceas that would bring peace and harmony to the world. Some people now regard it as a "cult classic."

Come to think of it, most of the flower children of the 1960s are now in the age bracket that is hoping to retire soon and is worried that the Social Security funds don't evaporate. If they were 18 in 1968, they are 64 now! So, twerkers and stoners be nice to the geezers in your neighborhood, they are the ghosts of your Christmas future.

Fast forward to now. The flower children mostly have settled down and detoxified themselves. They turned off and tuned back in to the real world, but not completely. Once the drug genie got out of the bottle it couldn't be effectively put back. Cocaine and heroin use is widespread and the supply seems endless. Prices are cheap.

Neither the federal or state governments have the will or the resources to fight the "war on drugs" any longer. We have switched from interdiction to accommodation. Too many arrests and convictions lead to too many prisoners.

We can't afford more prisons, so let's try rehabilitation. Rehab is a lengthy and costly process. Let's re-define rehab so it becomes a suspended sentence with mandatory counseling services. We can't afford most of those counseling services either, so take a number and please behave until a spot opens up for you.

Oops! What are we going to do with marijuana? The same as with the "harder" illegal drugs, the supply is endless and the price is low. Punishments are not applied in such a way that they are deterrents.

Besides, pot is so gentle it is almost genteel. There are no needles, no rotted noses, no explosions when the lab blows up, and it sort of smells like oregano. What's not to like?

Research does indicate that using the drug might lessen your intelligence, especially among young users, but this is not proven conclusively as yet. The same research does indicate more firmly that regular use does create a kind of psychological addiction that creates a mellow, content with all, lethargic state that retards ambition and initiative. But, what's wrong with mellow and content?

Enter now the pot salesman preying on the gullible and stupid among us. Since you can't beat us, you can join us they say. The current mantra is that if we legalize marijuana we will get streams of TAX revenue. If we have a few more low I.Q. citizens, no problem, even the smart ones can't find jobs now. If we have a cloud of lethargic, low-ambition, but mellow, stoners floating around the safety nets are in place to support them.

Best of all, we can TAX them. As you read this, Senator Zuckerman (a Progressive from Chittenden) has introduced a bill in the Vermont Senate proposing to legalize pot for recreational use and to tax sales in the amount of fifty dollars per transaction. This new retail industry will be regulated by the state liquor commission. His bill does not specify where the tax money generated will be used, but some supporters of the bill suggest that part of the revenue could be used to pay for treatment of other drug users. The editor of one of our local papers suggests that part of the tax might be used to pay for education programs to explain the hazards of marijuana use to young people. This kind of logic from our leaders is not merely silly, it is madness!

Weiland Ross is a Banner columnist.


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