Excellent Editorial in the Monitor, 4/1

Hypocrisy is message we need to avoid

Marijuana laws beg for cynical response

by Ted Barnes

The "wrong message" to send to any teenager, to any child, is hypocrisy. It turns them cynical and makes them disrespect the law, when trusted adults evade reality for the sake of political concerns.

The reality is that the inclusion of marijuana on the federal government's Schedule I list of controlled substances along with heroin and cocaine has always been a mistake. But the politicians' bogus "war on drugs" gets a boost from the illegality of marijuana. It is bulky, smelly and easy to detect. The "war on drugs" gets big results, big statistics, and therefore big budget and big media, from pot busts.

Marijuana is infinitely less harmful than all the other drugs, including legal alcohol. It has positive uses. It has the lowest profit margin in the underground economy. It is used recreationally by just about everybody at one time or another, without damaging results.

As a criminal defense lawyer for 27 years, I have dealt with thousands of people affected by drugs and alcohol. I have yet to find anyone who became physically addicted to marijuana, or who became aggressive and got into a fight after smoking it; or who burglarized a home or raped someone because the weed so affected their judgment. Mostly, people get mellow and hang out. At worst, they become unproductive. Danger, Will Robinson!

Teenagers do not know much and certainly a lot less than they think they do. But one thing they learn before they graduate from high school is that marijuana, aside from its illegality, is dramatically less harmful than alcohol. Yet in a few years, they can drink legally. Do you not see that disconnect? They do.

The adults who are running things need to shake off their blinders and recognize that one of the two people next to them has used marijuana, maybe frequently, and nonetheless leads a productive life.

Those adults who use or have used marijuana need to muster the integrity to act on the reality they know, even if they cannot openly admit their use for fear of castigation by those who remain unyielding in their misperceptions.

I can imagine a state, a country, where a teenager admires the elected officials who discuss and debate issues intelligently, and without knee-jerk political posturing. That teenager respects the law, which leads to nothing but positive societal consequences because the law tracks with the reality he knows.

Billions of dollars could be taken out of the underground economy and made legitimate and subject to taxation. Thousands of drug police could focus on crimes where someone is actually victimized.

I have supported Gov. Lynch and probably will again. But his promise to veto this tiny bill (unless he does so in favor of more sweeping decriminalization) is a disservice to the people of this state. It is my hope that the members of the Senate approach the bill with confidence and grace.

(Ted Barnes lives in Concord.)

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