Why marijuana prohibition is pointless

I’ve wanted to write a post about demonizing marijuana use for a while, but my views are controversial, so I’ve kept them to myself. I’ve written quite a bit about our state’s addiction epidemic, though, and I’m beginning to feel disingenuous about ignoring the marijuana debate as a piece of that story. As I read about Bangor Public Health’s forum on the “pitfalls of legalization of recreational marijuana,” my conscience tugged at my fingers.

You see, I am a lot more concerned about the pitfalls of not legalizing and have been for years.

First, let’s just accept marijuana is as synonymous with the Maine brand as lobsters, blueberries and snow. I could write at least 10 blog posts about the many times the subject of marijuana and Mainers has come up with people from away. Like a friend of mine from who has lived around the country and traveled a bit around the world. He said the most surprising thing about moving to Maine was how it seemed like just about everyone here smoked pot.

Or there are the numerous times I’ve been out of state and been asked, upon sight of my Maine plates, if it was true about Mainers and the weed up there.

Like the smell of salt in the air as you get close to the coast, fall road trips in Maine have those moments when you wonder if you just drove by an actual skunk or someone’s ripe garden. It’s an unavoidable part of our state’s culture whether prohibitionists like it or not. And it seems to have been that way a long time.

A home pot grower shows some of his marijuana from a previous harvest inside his apartment in Washington. (Astrid Riecken | The Washington Post)

A home pot grower shows some of his marijuana from a previous harvest inside his apartment in Washington. (Astrid Riecken | The Washington Post)

Besides being an exercise in futility, prohibition of marijuana has harmful ramifications. The most important one is that it takes valuable resources away from addressing the opioid/heroin epidemic crippling our state. Say what you want about the random problems with marijuana in Colorado, but we’ve got people dropping like flies because of heroin and opioids. Any penny spent policing marijuana is a penny diverted from this far more critical health issue.

They may have cases of parents irresponsibly leaving marijuana products where children can get them, but up here in Maine we’ve got addicts robbing pharmacies and overdosing at ever-increasing rates.

People love to call marijuana a gateway drug. In theory, someone who struggles with harder drug addictions started with marijuana. But that’s conjecture. Just like it’s conjecture (based on conversations with former students) that I think marijuana prohibitionist propaganda is the gateway lie that makes marijuana look like a gateway drug.

What I am trying to say is that if a young person is inclined to experiment with substances and finds his experience with marijuana to be considerably tamer than prohibitionist propaganda teaches, he’s going to wonder what else grown-ups are misrepresenting. The young mind thinks: Maybe other drugs aren’t so bad, either.

The problem is, the other drugs are that bad.

Which isn’t to say I am for minors having access to recreational marijuana or that I think everyone should be walking around smoking bucket tons of 100 percent indica (the more sedating strain of marijuana) all day any more than everyone should be walking around drinking alcohol all day.

I am for the legalization of recreational marijuana for adults. I am for not only legal medical marijuana but for an emphasis on the potential uses of marijuana as an alternative to the prescription drugs that actually have been gateway drugs in our current addiction epidemic.

Had more pain been treated with marijuana, there would have been fewer prescription opiates out there to set the epidemic in motion. Further, I know that some opiate addicts became addicts while under legitimate medical care. Opinions may differ as to the addictiveness of marijuana, but even the heaviest marijuana users are not robbing dispensaries or dying of THC overdoses.

It’s time to acknowledge marijuana prohibition is a pointless exercise that undermines our ability to address a far more critical health issue and far more dangerous drugs.

Patricia Callahan

About Patricia Callahan

Trish is a writer who lives in Augusta. She has worked professionally in education and social services.