I just had a debate with my mother-in-law about drugs. Not your typical dinner discussion but it happened.
I caught the end of a news story on the television about two young men who died in a car accident from driving while under the influence of cannabis. I will be referring to it by its medical name because marijuana is a slang term and it only shows our media and government’s lack of aptitude on the matter when they call it such.
The woman in the story said something to the effect about the belief of cannabis not altering your ability to drive is a misconception. I made the comment that cannabis advocates typically believe it should be regulated similar to alcohol, which would include a strict no using and driving law. Advocates for the drug want it to be taken seriously and for people to know that it should be treated responsibly just like alcohol. Although, alcohol is widely abused and according to CBS News 28 people a day died in drunk driving related accidents last year.
Lets be honest this isn’t news. Alcoholism is somewhat of a pastime in our country. Look at holidays we’ve altered to incorporate heavy “celebrating.” New Year’s Eve, St. Patrick’s Day, Mardi Gras, Cinco de Mayo, even Halloween has become more adult-ish just for an excuse to dress up and drink. Let’s not talk about office Christmas parties and other parties we throw just for an excuse to drink like the Super Bowl Party, 80’s Party, 90’s Party, Season Premiere Party, Season Finale Party, and Ugly Sweater Party (really?) You could say it’s celebrating our culture in a country that has many cultures due to the United States being a “melting-pot”.
I argue that our country has a drinking problem. Now before you chastise me let me be clear; I drink. I do it responsibly, which is more than I can say for the younger me. The younger me drank too much, blacked out occasionally, slept with people I shouldn’t have, got into fights, vomited countless times, and was arrested twice, once for DUI and once for battery (I stupidly pushed a security guard at a casino in Vegas and they don’t mess around there so I was sent to the drunk tank.)
I know what you’re thinking now too. Pete, I thought this was a blog about cannabis and a debate with your mother-in-law. Well, smoke a J an relax because here it comes.
Basically, she has a simplistic view of the world and doesn’t understand the need for people to alter their minds whether it is alcohol or any drug. Of course like most of the country she sees the harm in alcohol and prescription drug abuse and accepts it as it is. She believes cannabis could help some people medically but it shouldn’t be recreational. Ultimately she doesn’t alter her mind so nobody should.
I, on the other hand, believe any and all of it comes down to personal responsibility. Just like all of our favorite brewers tell us, “Drink Responsibly.” You should treat all drugs responsibly. Seems simple, but see our country and culture have a problem with this because of the stigma we associate with drugs and alcohol.
My mother-in-law thinks if people just focused on making their lives better instead of altering their minds what a wonderful world it would be. A little naive in my opinion but okay, fine. Being a “straight edge” herself she can’t compute why other people would ever want to alter their minds. She’s religious so I used this argument, that many cultures and religions use mind-altering drugs to alter their perception to become closer with themselves, each other, nature, or their god.
She accepted that but being an American dismissed it as not part of our culture (forgetting about ALL cultures of the United States apparently) and wondered why people party just to be happy when they should be happy, sober. I reminded her again of responsible people who like to unwind, relax, or whatever you want to call it. Still, she couldn’t fundamentally understand this though, being someone who hasn’t ever imbibed.
She believes drugs are bad, of course, and people who do them and sell them (even if legally) are bad also because that is what she grew up hearing and let me be clear again; used irresponsibly, alcohol and drugs ARE bad. I kept trying to hammer this point home and will now. It’s all about personal responsibility.
She was further dismayed when I told her I believe ALL drugs should be legalized. Bare with me here okay. I consider a country where all drugs are legal, regulated, and treated responsibly rather than treated as monsters in the shadows is a more preferable system to our current one. Her continued argument was that it would be easier for people to get the drugs and more “good” people would do drugs.
My example of the difficulty of obtaining prescription pills (which are legal and regulated) as opposed to heroin (Diacetylmorphine) was my next example including a person I know who at 23 years old has been in and out of jail and addicted to the drug for the last five years. A once good kid who got addicted to painkillers, found it hard to score them after a while, and turned to heroin. His addiction lead to theft, mostly from his family, weapons charges, and drug charges.
Would it be better for him to be addicted to painkillers? Maybe. Would he have been able to so effortlessly get a hold of heroin if it was legal and regulated? Probably not. Would there be better programs for addicts when drugs are legal and regulated instead of throwing people into jail where their addiction most likely continues? Absolutely. My mother-in-law, as caring as she is, didn’t seem to care.
She didn’t seem to understand that buying illegal drugs is much easier than legal ones in most circumstances. She didn’t seem to understand that a person who wants drugs will get them no matter what and easier and at a worse cost when illegally. She didn’t seem to realize that “taking the drugs and money from the bad guys” and relying on the failed War on Drugs to “clean up the streets” would never accomplish the goal. She seemed to think people who sell legal cannabis are bad people. She seemed to believe that legalizing drugs would make it easier some how for people to become drug users. A person who wants to use drugs will, whether they’re legal or not, take a look at Prohibition. Again, personal responsibility.
Continually she returned to why can’t people just be happy sober and I replied anyone who is drinking or doing drugs to escape aren’t happy and usually feel worse about themselves and life from drinking and doing drugs. She wondered, then why do it, why not focus your attention on “fixing” your life. I told her any addict out there would rather not be an addict if they really could, including the 23 year old I mentioned before. That leads me to a point, we need to remove the shame we always associate with addiction. I’m not sure what “fixing” your life means exactly but I think it means live your life exactly the way she lives hers. Which leads me to another point we also need to stop forcing our way of life on others. It’s okay to share your opinion but it’s just that, an opinion.
What she and many people in this country don’t understand is there are millions of responsible alcohol drinking and/or drug using adults. They go about their everyday lives, are contributing members of society, and also partake in mind-altering experiences. Because of the shame we place upon these things we see a result of a culture of abusers.
What does a kid do when you tell him not to do something? Most children do it! Because you told him not too! In our society we look at alcohol as a rite of passage and firmly warn our children, “Don’t you dare drink until you’re old enough” while we guzzles our Buds at Thanksgiving dinner. The worse goes for drugs because they are so illegal and so bad because they are so illegal. Of course not prescription drugs though. They’re pharmaceutical so prescribe away.
I’m not saying embrace a drug culture I’m saying let’s be more responsible and teach our children to treat it responsibly instead of trying to strike fear into them. “You drink underage you’ll be in trouble!” “You do drug you’ll be in big trouble!” Lets ditch the Puritanical view of these things and treat our kids like they aren’t idiots. The same could be said for sex. “Don’t do it til you’re married!” What happens? Teen pregnancy and STDs happen because we don’t allow children to lead well-informed responsible lives. That’s a whole other topic though, isn’t it?
My mother-in-law is one of the sweetest and kindest people you could ever meet and she means well. Absolutely. I find it hard to understand why people do what they do sometimes too. However, the system we have does not work. It leads to violence, criminalization of decent people (mostly minorities), higher rates of abuse, and worse it leads our children down these paths.
If this blog was too political for you, that’s fine. I’m responsible enough to realize that we might not share the same opinion and that’s okay. A debate is necessary to find a better solution. Please comment if you’d like but I’m not willing to debate with anyone. I’m merely sharing one blogger’s point-of-view.