On the EDge: Legalization is no longer a pipe dream

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.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews, @EdKociela

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2014, all rights reserved.

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  • COMBAT VET AND CONSERVATIVE April 22, 2014 at 8:28 am

    Ed, your stated opinion has been published. Good. Now for the question I and many others want to ask YOU Ed……are you a stoner yourself? Do you partake of the “evil” weed? If so, it could go a long way to explain some of your “rants” on the STGNews. So…come on Ed, are you a faithful “4:20er”? If you support weeds use, you shouldn’t have a problem stating you are an admitted user. But your silence would be just as good as an affirmative answer.

    • Earth Day Poo April 22, 2014 at 11:35 am

      How far along could it go if he states he’s a stoner? Who cares, as a paid writer it doesn’t show much in the way of anything you’re trying to argue- obviously he has some insight a business is willing to pay for. Where does that put you exactly?

  • fred April 22, 2014 at 9:55 am

    “your silence would be just as good as an affirmative answer.”

    What an idiot.

  • The St. George Jigga April 22, 2014 at 11:08 am

    Why do you think they call it dope? As a conservative libertarian, I’m all for personal freedoms, so it should be a states rights issue. That said, I don’t want to live in a state where people smoke dope. I don’t want to see kids jumping off buildings after eating dope cookies. I don’t want to read about dope heads eating dope candy and killing their wife. Just like I don’t want to hear and read stories about people killing people on booze and scripts.

    Does dope have medical and therapeutic value? Yup. So does exercise and proper diet. Do dopers smoke and eat dope to get high? Yup.

    I’m against any new, unenforcable legislation that would allow or disallow people getting dope for whatever reason, but one thing is clear: dumb people will do dumb things high or sober.

    It’s too bad you can’t fix stupid. People can’t or won’t subscribe to moderation, and feel their personal freedoms are more important than the freedom of another.

    This story’s premise for dope is predicated on government. Libtards love the government. They want government to ‘legalize’ things because they believe it gives validation for their poor judgement and behavior on issues that government doesn’t have constitutional or federal authority to be involved it.

    Just remember Libtards, if you seek government to validate your personal choices, don’t cry when government limits them as well.

    • openmind April 22, 2014 at 3:05 pm

      I have known thousands of people who have smoked on a regular basis. Why the … do you think stoners are jumping off buildings after eating reefer cookies. Seriously? MURDER? … man! You’ve built some pretty big walls in the shallow mind of yours. We don’t call weed dope. Dope is for tweekers sir and stoners are not the same as a tweeker. The exact opposite actually. You describe somebody who jus ate a handful of those bathsalts they talked about in the media. Open your mind and educate before you hate.
      Ed. ellipses.

    • Kat April 23, 2014 at 6:12 pm

      A million likes.

  • JOSH DALTON April 22, 2014 at 11:35 am

    i’d rather it be cigarettes and E-cigs that are illegal. Make pot legal in Utah so I can start smoking it again! My moral standards are to high to violate the law. I had to quit smoking pot to excell in my career. My stress level and productivity level would be higher if I smoked pot, because I am diag with ADD/ADHD. Marijuana help me graduate college!

    • JOSH DALTON April 22, 2014 at 3:33 pm

      now I never said I was an english major.

  • Red Rocker April 22, 2014 at 12:14 pm

    I agree with the post. I smoked daily thru the Sixties and Seventies, stopping only when tests were developed to detect it. I am now a retired, and hope I will be able to obtain medical marijuana if I ever need it.
    I smoked with fellow health professionals, judges, police, clergy, etc. None of whom were adversely affected in their careers.
    Why not allow people to get some pleasure out of this brief journey through life by responsibly using a little Weed?


    • Brian April 22, 2014 at 2:57 pm

      You do know that weed now has almost nothing in common, other than leaf shape, with the weed of the 60’s? The TCH levels and negative affects are much, much higher. Time will show that any state that legalized weed is nuts.

  • Tinker Toys April 22, 2014 at 2:22 pm

    More unemployment and more addiction. Just what this country needs.

  • Brian April 22, 2014 at 2:53 pm

    If you want proof that smoking weed destroys brain cells look no further than this article.

  • JAR April 22, 2014 at 4:04 pm

    According to my pappy, back in the day, they outlawed weed because they couldn’t tax it. Period! Anybody and everybody was growing it in their side yard just like the Mexicans do down south. Of course if you wanted to grow some good quality stuff, you planted good seeds. (just like choosing the type of corn you like). Now however!
    The states/ feds can track it- TAX it. Problem solved. Even experts are saying now,
    hey! our findings now say, pot really isn’t addictive and it gives you a inside look at the problems in society, makes you think deeper, etc.( but watch out for the diet. The munchies will turn you into a fat dude with a smile on you mug). FAR OUT!

    • betcha April 22, 2014 at 6:30 pm

      To each his own, if he needs the “weed” for medicinal purposes and it works for him (or her) great. If the guy wants to get “high” to relax, what is it that makes him that way. What makes a person “high” or “buzzed”? Could it be the killing of white blood cells in the brain??? Just asking!!! Oh and nothing was mentioned of the accidents, or the troubles involved with this product??

    • MickeyD April 22, 2014 at 6:45 pm

      Not so fast Jar, your findings are not accurate. Marijuana may not be addictive to all, but it is too many. And one addiction does lead to others. Yes, the data does bear out that marijuana is most certainly a gateway drug to many other drugs, including a significant illegal use of prescription drugs. It was reiterated in the news this week that the use of marijuana does negatively impact the brain significantly. To advocate its legalization for recreational use is simply wrong. All those who keep arguing “look at me, I’m fine” really should look a little longer in the mirror.

  • Tripleshot April 22, 2014 at 5:21 pm

    I find it humorous that people who have never tried MJ are the loudest at demonizing it.

  • Pothead April 22, 2014 at 6:48 pm

    I’m for pot being legalised. I think it been stupid scese the begning of time to make it wrong. All the American Indiens and other people here first smoked so it realy legle if you ask me. All the high and mitty all ways are telling evryone what to do and think is redickuless. I all ways felt that people like myselph that has a meaningles job are don’t got one at all. People like city emploes, mcdonalles workers photo takers, dancers singers actors ticket (takers like at Zion’s )news reporters politicins handy capers( theone that take bets) news columnist security guards govnment people and others that arnt really important in socity. Let’s all hit it at 421 im prod to say I in the club in fact I fill like ed is the presadent.

    • JAR April 22, 2014 at 7:25 pm

      Wow, I’m assuming you were caressing your bong instead of paying attention when you attended grammar school. And I’m willing to bet, you were higher than a kite when you read this article and when you responded on your keyboard. (Am I right?)
      And Mr. Ed being the President of your club? I don’t think so partner. Then again, on occasions Ed’s articles do go off the deep end( if you know what I mean).

    • The Captain April 23, 2014 at 12:23 am

      obvious troll is obvious

  • stopped by force not by choice April 22, 2014 at 9:48 pm

    I think all people need to read the LaGuardia report on marijuana, and what j. Edgar Hooves did with it. Most of these laws were created to control the minority population. Back in the days no one wanted their daughters hanging with the jazz musicians and the Mexican field workers who new the medicinal value of the herb. It kept,them going all day pain free in the fields. Also get your bible and read genisis 1:12……

  • stopped by force not by choice April 22, 2014 at 11:01 pm

    Correction Harry Anslinger was the guy appointed to the FBI. Opposing mayor La Guardia and his committee, Under direction of hoover….read up on him too.

  • Mr. Freedom April 23, 2014 at 5:50 am

    lots of un-informed morons here on the comments, oh well the anti marijuana people are clearly the minority now. Marijuana has been illegal since the 30’s, and millions of people continue to smoke it. You are concerned people are going to get high everyday if its legalized? Guess what we already have been doing so, so lets just save us the jail time and give us something to be taxed on. ….People are idiots I swear, clearly if its legal some of you idiots wouldn’t start smoking it, and us who have been doing it, will continue to do so. SO WHAT THE HELL IS CHANGING EXACTLY?

  • you know the real name April 23, 2014 at 7:44 am

    Just to let you know, I do not care who reads my comments. As long as you get the point, I do not even like your paper. Maybe one day, it might really become something. I do not even read your paper and tell everyone how the editor censors comments for no reason. This paper is the definition of bias.The only reason I read it was because a friend told me about it. I guess it was reposted on Facebook. Maybe one day someone will learn about letting stuff go, and do not sweat the small stuff! Then realize everything we go through is all just small stuff! Live, laugh, and love!!!

  • Shumani April 23, 2014 at 8:20 am

    After reading all the posts thus far, I’d like to add a couple comments IMHO. First of all, in my experience, pot DOES NOT make people do crazy things. Crazy people do crazy things, especially when alcohol is involved. To me, pot is so much safer than alcohol when it comes to any activity. And yet alcohol is legal, pot is not; that’s crazy!

    Secondly, as for pot being something as a gateway drug is something I don’t agree with either. I drink and have smoked some in my time, but I’ve never tried heroine, or any hallucinogenic for that matter, and never intend to. Harder, stronger, faster drugs are for those that feel the need to escape their own reality much worse than the average person who just likes to unwind.

  • Obama's gonna take our guns!!! April 23, 2014 at 9:33 am

    The reason these liberals voted for obama is bc they’re all doped up on skunk weed–not in their right minds.

  • Maggie April 23, 2014 at 12:38 pm

    I guess I must be stupid. Have functioned for many years w/o taking anything but a few Advil and pain killers after surgery and topical rubs for sore muscles. Love a nice glass of wine on occasion with dinner . I love being clear headed . What is the purpose of dumbing down your mind and slowing down your body?
    Now I get using pot for medicinal purposes if it would be prescribed and dispensed by medical people and I do believe ,like many herbs, there could indeed be relief from some chronic conditions. I myself love a nice cup of mint or ginger tea for stomach comfort.
    I had to laugh Ed that you think that many of us would agree with the new and liberal stance on pot because the likes of present and past Presidents and politicians and all of the other “well known folks ” you tossed into the article. These are not hero’s for many of us, in fact most are basically tolerable at best.

    We have not “come far” unless your goal is to become a dumbed down nation.
    Having lived long enough to see a few generations ,I was there in the 60 and here to see it all again. Have lost a few people I care about along the way, and saw some fail badly at life due to drugs. Most started with pot use. We lost far to many talented people to soon from drug use. It is so easy to spot a drug user if you have spent any time around them. I thought the 420 festival summed it up very well. Watching those folks brought back memories ,and not good ones for me,a for those lost completely or those who lost the ability to reach their full potential.
    For those of you who insist it will not hurt you or future generations I hope no one listens, yet I know they will and that is painful to me. People like Ed who have a bully pulpit, albiet a small bully pulpit , might have been larger w/o the pot use. You may read where a person lost their life due to a drug related episode and blame it on something else or look at a stunted or failed life and feel good about mentioning a few successes and think they are all that matters, you must be a really strong person to be able to look in a mirror and know that you may have been the guy who wrote the words that gave one kid the feeling that it was ok to smoke pot and fail at life, rather than the guy that says walk away and do it without artificial modifications to your mind ,and help our young people deal with the real highs and lows of living. Hey it is your mirror Ed.

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