You might be relieved to learn that this blog is not about Brexit.
This is about pot, weed, cannabis, marijuana, hashish, bhang, kif, Mary Jane, dope, skunk….My goodness, there are so many names for this stuff!
SOFTENING US UP FOR CHANGE IN THE LAW? My wife, Marti, and I are just back from a visit to Colorado, where cannabis has been approved for medical and recreational use for quite a few years, so we have some recent experience with the results of legalization. In the few days since we got back, I see that a number of national newspapers and several TV programs have focused on the pros and cons of legalizing cannabis. It is quite obvious that they usually lean towards the positives, especially since Canada just decided it was in the best interests of the nation to make it legal. When this kind of media onslaught appears, my experience tells me that it usually implies some measure of government and media coordination. Someone with quite a lot of clout has decided to change the law, so first they aim to change public opinion.
THE FIRST ARGUMENT The most common argument is summarized by this quote from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau saying that it had become, “too easy for our kids to get marijuana – and for criminals to reap the profits.” So we asked around our friends and family in Colorado to see if legalizing stopped illegal dealing in the state. The answer was;
“No, there are always people who will grow and sell illegally because they want to avoid the state tax and the regulations which were the inevitable result of legalization. They can undercut the legal pot shops and make bigger profit.” So that seems to be one argument shot down, or at least seriously holed.
Since my home state, Colorado, led the USA in legalizing pot, it would be good to know what the Governor thinks now. In a recent interview with CNN, he explained that the crime rate has been rising since pot was made legal six years ago and he has not ruled out making it illegal again. He said:
“Trust me, if the data was coming back and we saw spikes in violent crime, we saw spikes in overall crime, there would be a lot of people looking for that bottle and figuring out how we get the genie back in. It doesn’t seem likely to me, but I’m not ruling it out.”
MY CANNABIS STORYAt this point, I should make a confession. In the year before I committed my life to the lordship of Christ, I smoked hashish (cannabis resin) at least a couple of times a week. I was attending the University of Colorado at the time. I enjoyed it a lot and wanted to smoke whenever it was possible. Although I was in my third year of a four-year electrical engineering degree, it was my first year completely away from home, as I had done the first two years at a junior college in my home town. When I got to the home of CU in Boulder, I joined in the party atmosphere.
I then proceeded to demonstrate an obvious truism; partying, drunkenness and pot smoking don’t contribute to an engineering degree! It wasn’t long before I was experiencing anxieties and there was a reason for that. It’s not much fun to go to a math class, having missed the two previous ones, only to realize that you can’t begin to understand what the professor is talking about. In those circumstances I could see two choices: I could stop partying and study with the “nerds” who understood, or I could reduce my anxieties with hashish. I smoked more.
The problem was I was only anxiety free when I was high. Every high was followed by ever more excruciating anxieties. Back to the young man who was prescribed cannabis to reduce anxiety: I notice that he is not addressing the reasons for his anxiety. He is still avoiding the hard choices required to make his life better, but the smoking makes him feel less anxious–at least temporarily. It seems quite clear to me that his prescription cannabis is not helping him lead a better, more fulfilling and satisfying life. All he gets is a temporary delusion that things aren’t as bad as he feels they are.
A BETTER CURE There are much better cures for anxiety. Since my conversion, I have aimed to live clear-conscience Christianity and that has given me the key to anxiety management. Where there are reasons for me to feel anxious, I should never avoid the circumstances causing the anxiety or attempt to anesthetize my conscience; I must face the reasons and make the choices that reduce my anxieties. However, sometimes anxieties arise for no identifiable reason. In those cases, once again, a clear Christian faith provides a pathway to overcoming. I have access to God’s presence, His promises and His reassuring love for me as an individual. When I focus on those realities, anxiety begins to shrivel.
I conclude that substance use, whether alcohol or cannabis or another something else, is no way to manage anxiety or fear. It is so much better to change the way I think and live and thus increase relational harmony and whole-person peace—shalom.
REVENUE FOR GOVERNMENTS I think the only obvious case for legalizing pot is the case for revenue. When a government legalizes and taxes pot, they will certainly increase their tax income. How much of that will have to go on extra policing is hard to say because it is so difficult to say that certain crimes are the result of pot use and others are not. But it’s not just a matter of policing. Some people will be able to use pot recreationally without it apparently affecting their behavior, but others will lose more time from work, withdraw from relationships, become less industrious and make more mistakes at work. Some of those mistakes can result in injury or death. How do we calculate the cost of that?
Driving under the influence of cannabis can be as dangerous as driving drunk. Note the following quote from a Canadian news service earlier this year,
As Canada prepares for legal pot, the federal government plans to spend as much as $80-million to train 750 police officers to smoke out high drivers. But how sound is the test? A Fifth Estate investigation raises serious questions, showing it can lead to false arrests, is prone to police bias and, according to one scientific expert, is no better at detecting high drivers than “flipping a coin”
The same article states that the Canadian government has spent as much as $80 million to train 750 police officers to “smoke out high drivers”. So where does all this leave the equation that all governments have to work out? (Revenue minus costs equals the overall financial benefit.) The answer is not clear, but it is not likely to be an overall positive income.
We become used to governments presenting this sort of decision in purely financial terms, but they are always more than that. This one is certainly about more than mammon. What impact will legalization have on the character of our nation? Will it be a help or a hindrance to young people as they grow up? Will it help develop more reliable and responsible citizens? The answer to that one is self-evident.
So is there a case for legalizing pot? Should Britain go the same way some other liberal western democracies have gone? Now that it seems many other nations will follow suit, so should we be among them?
A few months ago I watched a BBC documentary in which about half a dozen British TV celebrities were taken to Colorado where they talked to lots of people about pot. They toured pot farms and went to the specialist shops where they tried many different kinds of smokes and eats. They were older celebrities—I would say the average age was middle fifties—so their giggling and fooling around was quite entertaining. After their fascinating and picturesque tour was over, they were asked the big question:
“Would you recommend that pot be legalised in Britain?”
I was sure their answer would be yes. But to my amazement, each one had exactly the same answer. “After all we have seen and experienced on this trip—the answer is no.”