Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Why Do You Think They Call It ‘Dope’?

Like many other states, Connecticut is now “all in” regarding recreational marijuana. Many cannabis dispensaries (a fancy word for retail outlets) are opening up all across the state.

Right now 21 states have legalized recreational marijuana. Here in Connecticut our politicians feared that boatloads of potential tax dollars were flowing into nearby Massachusetts and New Jersey, which legalized pot a number of years ago. So, guided only by what is best for the citizens of the Nutmeg State (and from Hartford’s point of view, what is best, of course, is anything that will increase tax revenues), legislators made recreational marijuana legal here.
As someone with a strong libertarian streak, I’ve always thought the “war on drugs” was a losing battle, similar to having a “war on stopping the tide from coming in.” If people want to get high, they are going to get high, regardless of legal restrictions. (I believe Al Capone proved that a century ago.) So, we might as well decriminalize pot.

However, if a certain behavior produces serious negative side effects, then people in authority should at least make everyone aware of that. So far, I’ve heard public officials solemnly declare that marijuana will not be sold to anyone under age 21, but they act as if our “new normal” is not a green light for anyone and everyone to light up, regardless of age. What are the odds that a whole bunch of legally-sold pot does not find its way into the hands of teenagers? Right, the same odds as successfully stopping the tide from coming in.

Back when I was in school, decades ago, there was a public service campaign with a simple theme: “Why do you think they call it dope?” I admit the campaign did not in any way stop me from doing dopey things, but it was honest and blunt. That’s because it’s an absolute fact that smoking pot regularly reduces people’s cognitive skills and saps their drive and motivation. In other words, it turns them into spaced-out dopes. Do we really need MORE listless and irresponsible citizens? Just askin’.
Another aspect of legalized marijuana I have not heard any government officials mention, is the fact that the pot for sale these days is many times more potent than the stuff young people smoked back in the ‘60s and ‘70s. 

I read an article recently about problems in California where senior citizens are being floored (literally) by new, super-potent pot. Many seniors, who smoked dope back in college, have begun to smoke pot again in retirement. But since today’s cannabis is so much stronger than they remember, many users are experiencing delirium, paranoia, and heart palpitations. Sometimes they just get dizzy and fall over and seriously injure themselves.

Additional factors, which weren’t present when these folks were in college, are 1) the reality that a person’s physical tolerance is much different at age 70 compared to age 20, and 2) the fact most seniors take multiple prescription medications, which sometimes interact poorly with cannabis.
The most memorable quotation in the article came from one of the California “silver smokers” who exclaimed, “This ain’t Woodstock weed!”
In 2019 alone, over 12,000 senior citizens in California were taken to Emergency Rooms because of adverse reactions to smoking marijuana. Twelve-thousand! I don’t remember any politicians in Hartford mentioning this statistic when they were joyfully announcing that we were legalizing recreational pot use.

As I mentioned earlier, the “war on drugs” is a losing battle, so I truly believe cannabis possession should not be a criminal offense. But it would be nice if someone in authority reminded citizens that the question asked 50 years ago is still pertinent: “Why do you think they call it dope?”

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