OPINION – As a child of the ‘60s, I never thought I’d see the day arrive when people would speak openly about their marijuana use without fear of reprisals that would ruin their lives.
In fact, when actor Robert Mitchum was busted for smoking a joint at a party in 1948, his first words were: “Well, this is the bitter end of everything — my career, my marriage, everything.”
The Denver Post, a well-respected newspaper in the heart of one of the first states in the Union to legalize recreational use of marijuana, has a section of the paper reserved for marijuana news it calls The Cannabist. Recently, comedienne and actress Whoopi Goldberg wrote a piece for the section that extols the virtues of marijuana, which she says helps her alleviate the severe headaches she suffers as a result of her glaucoma, and the ancillary benefits that help her with pressure, pain, stress and discomfort.
It’s not unusual to hear from somebody in the arts to endorse imbibing in a plant that has been viciously maligned for years, but not without recourse.
From Louis Armstrong to The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and, of course, Willie Nelson, musicians have been vilified for being forthright when asked about marijuana. In fact, Richard Nixon and his puppetmaster J.Edgar Hoover, who ran the FBI, tried unsuccessfully to have John Lennon deported from the United States at one point. Although politics were at the heart of it all, they hung their argument on Lennon’s bust for possession of a very small amount of cannabis.
But now, it’s not just musicians and artists who are stepping forward, endorsing the herb.
We have had presidents – Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton – admit to having smoked weed and there is mounting evidence that John F. Kennedy partook of it as well as a way to counter the massive amounts of pharmaceuticals he required to keep him going through his battle with Addison’s disease, colitis, osteoporosis, and chronic back pain.
We have heard from other elected officials, from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to former Speaker of The House Newt Gingrich – including Al Gore and Sarah Palin – that they indulged and enjoyed it.
We have seen other unlikely notables like Bill Gates, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, political commentators Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, David Letterman, and Bill Maher discuss the influence of being under the influence in a positive manner. And, of course, there was homemaker maven Martha Stewart, who when asked about weed said: “Of course I know how to roll a joint.” Well, somebody has to be able to whip up a batch of munchies, right?
Even so, there are still a lot of people afraid to step forward. A recent piece I read online attributed quotes on pot usage to a police officer, firefighter, doctor, lawyer, and several others who anonymously talked about the advantages of weed.
In fact, it is difficult to roam the Web these days and not see a new, positive story about marijuana.
Mixed in with all of the angles being written as Colorado moves forward and sets a model that the remainder of the nation will undoubtedly use as legalization – both for medicinal and recreational purposes – sprints forward are new discoveries about the plant’s medicinal properties.
It does appear that Colorado is getting it right, by the way, with regulation that is well thought out and not unreasonable, guiding it through the first above-board commercialization. For example, just before you fire one up or get ready to vape in Colorado, that little bit of leaf can be traced from your hands to the person and place where you purchased it, to where it was grown in a system that was built to ensure that the supply chain does not involve or include organized crime.
We are also seeing, besides the celebrity endorsements, some major movement from the medical field, which is making a large about-face when it comes to their assessment.
The respected Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN’s chief medical correspondent, has retracted a statement he made in 2009 opposing legalization of marijuana.
In a statement he recently wrote for the CNN Website, Gupta said: “…we have been terribly and systematically misled for nearly 70 years in the United States, and I apologize for my own role in that.”
He went on to say that perhaps he listened a bit too closely to medical marijuana opponents and skeptics, adding that he “didn’t look hard enough, until now. I didn’t look far enough. I didn’t review papers from smaller labs in other countries doing some remarkable research, and I was too dismissive of the loud chorus of legitimate patients whose symptoms improved on cannabis.”
There remains, of course, the duality of law that exists in this nation where we can have a split between the federal government and the individual states, which is why you can smoke marijuana for medicinal or recreational purposes in Colorado and Washington, and can use it for medicinal purposes in 21 states and Washington, D.C. Even Utah has a very watered-down medicinal marijuana law that allows for a form of the herb to be used for treatment of a childhood malady that sparks violent, life-threatening seizures.
On the federal level, however, it is still illegal to use marijuana for any reason, although the feds seem to be backing down on enforcement as the government studies closely what is occurring in Colorado, which could be a clue that sometime, in the near future, we could see, at the very least the de-scheduling of marijuana or, hopefully, full-fledged legalization.
I suspect nothing will happen until after the midterm elections, although there is growing evidence that a growing number of Republicans, who were steadfast in their opposition to reform of the marijuana laws for decades, are coming around in support, whether because of common sense or the prospect of additional tax revenues. Once that occurs, look for other nations to jump aboard for legalization.
There will be a continuing argument – inside and outside of the courts – regarding the right of an employer to hold a zero-tolerance policy toward marijuana, whether for recreational, where legal, or medicinal purposes. An employer cannot fire you for taking Vicodin, Lortab, Oxycontin, or any other drugs prescribed or recommended by your physician, so legally, that employer should not make a judgment about those who would use medicinal marijuana recommended by a physician. As far as recreational usage, well, if they don’t mind that you stop off at the corner bar after work, or imbibe in a few adult beverages during your off-work hours, they should not interfere if you want to light one up to relax after a hard day’s work.
But, this discussion only serves to illustrate how far we have come over the last little bit.
I mean, there was a time when we couldn’t have this kind of discussion in the media, or even, to be honest, among a large group of friends. The social pressures and ramifications were just too severe.
Make no mistake, there are still many places where the worn clichés of “Reefer Madness” will preclude an intelligent discussion.
But, legalization, as we are seeing today, is no longer a pipe dream.
No bad days!
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Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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