Skip to comments.The Problem of Pot. A Reflection on the Increasing Legalization of Marijuana
Posted on 01/27/2014 3:23:41 AM PST by markomalley
It is perhaps emblematic of our decadent times that the two most noteworthy legal maneuvers of late, occupying significant time and resources of the the legislative and judicial branches are: providing legal recognition to homosexual unions, and the legalization of the smoking of marijuana. Welcome to the decadent West.
To these legal maneuvers it must be added to other ignominies of recent decades such as no-fault divorce and the horrifying legalization of the killing of the unborn; 53 million dead Americans and counting, plus the untold cost of the destruction of marriage and family as we once knew it.
Maybe there is a certain perverted Logic to wanting to legalize getting stoned. People after all need to medicate their anxious and bewildered souls! I say this, of course, tongue-in-cheek.
I think this is the first time I have commented on the increasing attempt to legalize the use and sale of marijuana in small amounts. Frankly, there are bigger issues. Most of us know that pot has been around for a while is probably here to stay. Nevertheless our insistence that we legalize its selling and use is not a healthy sign.
I suppose the libertarian in me says, Why should the government care if people smoke a little weed. But the pragmatist in me says, The last thing we need is a more widespread use of another mind altering drug that makes people, frankly, stupid.
A few disclaimers, before I make my main point.
1. Some claim, that alcohol has caused far more harm than pot. This is probably so. But of course alcohol is more widely used, and that surely explains its more devastating effects in our culture. And it hardly makes sense to argue that sanctioning another legal mind altering drug will have little or no effect through traffic accidents and other deleterious behaviors. Of course it will, being out of our right mind is seldom going to produce good effects.
The bottom line is alcohol has been with us almost from the beginning, and is here to stay. It is in a different category that other drugs in that the Scriptures permit, even commend its moderate use, and Jesus made wine and used it for the sacrament of his Blood.
No one would argue that alcohol abuse is a good thing. Why add to the problem with pot?
2. Some say that legal sanctions are not the proper way to deal with drug use. To some degree it is reasonable to argue that incarcerating people with drug problems is not a wise approach. Perhaps it is these more punitive measures that need adjustment, rather then sanctioning the use of marijuana by the removal of most legal obstacles to its sale and use.
3. Some say that laws will not stop the use of pot, it is a cultural trend and people who want to use it will find a way. I will say that law has influenced me. Knowing that something is illegal and carries possible severe legal issues influences my thinking an helps my choice to stay away from such proscribed behaviors, not just with drugs, but other illegal activities too. I doubt I am alone. Law does have a pedagogical (educational) function.
4. I ought to say, I have never even tried pot. Frankly I have never even taken a drag on an ordinary cigarette, not even once. The thought of dragging filthy smoke into my lungs has never had any appeal to me. I like the smell of a good cigar or pipe, or incense but I have no interest in dragging that stuff into my lungs in large and literally choking quantities. That the anti-smoking zealots are not on the warpath about smoking dope is a puzzling silence and probably another example of the self-censorship of political correctness.
But on to the main point, Namely, a discussion I would like to have about the observed effects of marijuana use. I want to say that the reflections I offer, are anecdotal; they are not rooted in advanced statistical studies. Frankly, I dont have a lot of interest in looking up the statistical surveys on pot use, most of which will be questioned by anyone who doesnt like the results anyway. I am more interested in having a discussion here about the effects of marijuana use as I have observed them, and to inquire of your own experience with having either used marijuana, or observed others who do.
Some say that pot causes no harm. I disagree from about fifty + years of observation of what I have seen it do to others.
Back in high school (mid 70s) about 30% of the students in my Public High School of 3,500 students smoked dope regularly. They called in partying getting stoned or getting high in those days.
It wasnt hard to know when someone started using marijuana. Almost instantly their over all attitude changed. Many who had been good students, engaged and talented, started to withdraw, and adopt a passive aggressive stance.
Regular pot use by them, from my observation, caused a kind of lethargy, a sort of laid-back, who-cares attitude often mixed in with a non-complaint resistance: Hey man, I aint got to go to the mans class
The look on the face of pot users came to seem vacant and dull, their eyes glazed and unfocused. Their posture became slouchy, clothing and hygiene suffered. Absenteeism and tardiness increased. And when they were in class at all, they werent really engaged or alive. Their faces tended to take on a kind of hang-dog look, jaw half open, hands in their pocket, shirt untucked; they seemed bored with life, and uninterested. Frankly, they seemed medicated.
Generally grades dropped and anti-social tendencies increased. Some who had once played sports withdrew when drugs entered. Membership in other clubs also ceased and was replaced with hangin out in the smoking court, a place (in those days) set aside for students who smoked cigarettes.
Now mind you these were the after-effects of pot use. I am not saying they were high all the time. But long after the high was gone, these lethargic symptoms lingered and became a rather stable part of their disposition.
Except for those who are in more advanced stages of alcohol abuse, the effects of the alcohol abate after intoxication passes (plus perhaps a brief hangover). But pot seems different, it seems to alter the personality more stably so that the user is dull even when not high.
Some may call this dullness by more positive labels such as being laid-back, carefree, or cool. But I am sorry, I have seen spiritually serene people, and they dont come across as medicated. What a spiritually serene person manifests is worlds apart from the dulled medicated look of pot smokers.
Now as I say, this is my anecdotal testimony. But I offer it with fifty-two years experience, 25 of them as a priest and counselor.
Pot is no good. It messes with your mind on a semi-permanent basis, causes lethargy, dullness and makes you unmotivated. Getting high introduces a kind of dull and low bottom dwelling when the high is gone.
Dont do drugs. Pot is not harmless, it will change your personality and make you dull of mind and heart. It introduces stinking thinking.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says,
The use of drugs inflicts very grave damage on human health and life. Their use, except on strictly therapeutic grounds, is a grave offense. Clandestine production of and trafficking in drugs are scandalous practices. They constitute direct co-operation in evil, since they encourage people to practices gravely contrary to the moral law. (# 2291)
This is pretty unambiguous and something a Catholic ought to take to heart before saying the legalization of drugs is no big deal. And while many say pot is harmless, my experience of observing others is that it is not harmless at all.
How say you? What have you observed?
2290 The virtue of temperance disposes us to avoid every kind of excess: the abuse of food, alcohol, tobacco, or medicine. Those incur grave guilt who, by drunkenness or a love of speed, endanger their own and others safety on the road, at sea, or in the air. (1809)
2291 The use of drugs inflicts very grave damage on human health and life. Their use, except on strictly therapeutic grounds, is a grave offense. Clandestine production of and trafficking in drugs are scandalous practices. They constitute direct co-operation in evil, since they encourage people to practices gravely contrary to the moral law.
Notice the different tenor of both paragraphs. If you take an ultra-strict view of 2291, would it not also include caffeine (which, if abused, can cause sleep problems and, in fact, heart problems...if taken to the extreme)?
On the other hand, we have some Scriptures that talk about this, most notably:
Gal 5:19-21 Now the works of the flesh are obvious: immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery (φαρμακεία - pharmakeia), hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, occasions of envy, 15 drinking bouts, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
According to Liddel Scott James, φαρμακεία includes both ordinary remedies and "enchanted potions"
Now, while I'm not advocating legalization of dope -- I see no societal benefit to it -- I'm not 100% that it's as clear, from a moral theological view, that the use of marijuana would still be considered "grave" in the event that it was legal. That is, unless we take a totally "mormon" view to the situation and ANYTHING would be considered morally illicit...including the cup of coffee you're drinking while reading this.
I think to know the answer to this for sure, we'd need to research if there were abject objections to the use (as opposed to abuse) of marijuana in the era prior to it being made illegal. Frankly, I don't have the time or resources available to do so, but would be interested if any of you do.
Msgr Pope ping
TS Eliot said that man cannot take too much reality, so there will probably always be intoxicants around. However, the reason alcohol has had such a long track record in the world’s best and most advanced societies is that it “gladdens the heart of man” in a way that does not have disastrous permanent effects, except in the case of overuse, especially overuse leading to addiction or dependence.
There has never been a culture that has thrived on marijuana as an intoxicant. It is heavily used in the ME and is evidently permitted by Islam, unlike alcohol, and we can all see how great those cultures are. When not full of rage, they are full of lethargy, and the use of pot, hash, and even the steady use of khat is a massive social problem and one that contributes to the economic inertia of ME societies, particularly at their lower levels.
The use of opium and heroin has a similar effect on societies where it is permitted: look at China in the 19th century.
There have been times when alcohol use has been too heavy in general in a society, normally because of the miserable, hopeless conditions of a particular societal moment (England in the Industrial Revolution, Russia under Communism, etc.) and then you will often see a spontaneous movement to restrict or abandon it. This can usually be accomplished by public pressure, sometimes supported by legal restrictions. But it seems to be something that societies have dealt with and corrected at various times, usually by changing the conditions that encouraged excessive use.
But pot and virtually all of the other drugs produce lethargy and dysfunction on such a level that it affects society as a whole. Perhaps the local dictator likes it because a drugged people is a docile people, and stoners don’t demand much out of life except munchies and more dope, but it certainly doesn’t have a good overall effect.
I too have seen teenagers going from being energetic future-oriented young people to being dull, unfocused and passive “negatives” of their former selves. And some of this is irreversible. I personally watched two young people throw away all their abilities and hopes - and then be physically unable to get them back again because their brains just simply weren’t the same anymore. I have also seen people suffering from acute paranoia as a result of marijuana use. This is without even considering the physical effects, since the tars in pot smoke are much heavier than those in tobacco smoke; one of my high school friends couldn’t even get up a flight of stairs without wheezing like an 80 year old.
So I think the negative effects actually are worse, and I don’t see why we should be encouraging lot use by legalizing it. There’s really no way of using it that is healthy either for the individual or for society as a whole.
The only people who benefit are the politicians (like Obama) who think they are going to get the libertarian vote and perhaps persuade the slackers to get off the basement couch and vote for them. And the political forces that want an easily controlled society.
If, while high, I or we did anything, it was generally slow, methodical, not necesarily the best and generally quite funny. We used to use Saturdays as "marijuana mechanical mania' day ... the day we decide to change the starter or something.
Grab a case of beer, 2, 3, 4 or more friends, spend the first hour or so just getting high ... VERY fun times ... then SOMEone would say somrtyhing like; "Well ... are we gonn'a DO this or what?"
We'd finish just in time to shower and get ready for the Saturday night party at SOMEone's house.
GREAT times .... but we got nothin' done.
If I was alone, I'd read, or sleep or do something absolutely fascinating to me ... painting, whittling, taking a walk, staring at the flutes of a mushroom for hours.
GREAT times ... but got absolutely NOTHING done.
So that's my qualified opinion of pot ... it's fun, relaxing, sexy, and any et cetera's you want to add in that vein ... but you get nothing done ....
unless having fun is an accomplishment.
Great observations. I agree wholeheartedly with everything you are saying.
But the question I have is not if it is imprudent (which, based on both of our recollections, it is), but if it is “grave matter” when consumed in a place where it is legal.
Substance abuse used to be largely self-limiting because in the absence of a cradle to grave welfare state, serious abusers ended up dead. Today we provide food stamps, housing, medical care, etc. to low performing adults. Not all of these are drug abusers, by any means, but it provides perfect cover and basic sustenance for the druggies. Who have proliferated. We have created a petri dish for dysfunction.
that is pretty close to my sort of 4-5 years of regular use. Not that much in the way of serious harm, except for the sin of all that wasted time when I should have been working harder. But I learned a lot about people and life and art and it was largely pleasant, unlike drunkenness, which seems to have much more serious negative results, and does not delight the mind, at least not my mind.
Cigarettes won't change your personality, but they will kill you dead with cancer.
And everyone in today's society is aware of the effects of alcohol and tobacco, it's not like it was years ago when “people didn't know better”.
Cannabis use will continue to happen regardless of the laws. The way that the laws are set up now, people are going to jail for behaviors that are really no worse than using the “legal” drugs on the market. We can either continue placing pot smokers in jail alongside violent offenders or we can change the laws so that we are not incarcerating the people who chose to smoke pot.
Is the argument really “pot use makes users unmotivated, so let's put them in jail?”
I used to say (THIS, btw is one of my pot induced knarfisms ... )
All the world's a stage, all the men and women in it, actors and actresses
And I am the choreographer.
THAT particular knarfism was developed during my seemingly many years of stoop hangin' ..... sittin' on a brownstone stoop on Beacon St or Comm Ave ... watchin' the world go by and analyzing it ... thinkin' I'd come up with the answer ... be VERY pleased with myself ... and smoke another joint.
The argument is that pot fundamentally affects the brains of the users in a permanent form, is harmful physically (much more so than tobacco smoke) and has long-lasting effects.
And as for dangerous behavior while under the influence, 50% of the teenagers involved in serious injury auto accidents in Florida have marijuana in their system when tested.
If you think alcohol, which has a long social history, most of it positive, is bad, then why promote yet another drug which seems to have even worse effects? Don’t forget that we live in a society where what is legal is somehow considered to be good and even recommended, and the legalization of anything massively encourages its use (look at abortion).
“The argument is that pot fundamentally affects the brains of the users in a permanent form, is harmful physically (much more so than tobacco smoke) and has long-lasting effects.”
I disagree with pot smoke being more harmful than tobacco smoke. Cigarettes have over 700 chemicals added to make them more addictive. Cigarettes will give you cancer and all sorts of respiratory illnesses. But cigarettes are “legal”. I think smoking cigarettes is a relatively dimwitted thing to do, but I’m not suggesting that we start throwing the people who choose to smoke cigarettes in jail.
“And as for dangerous behavior while under the influence, 50% of the teenagers involved in serious injury auto accidents in Florida have marijuana in their system when tested.”
I’m not advocating that people should smoke pot and hit the roads. What percentage of teenagers involved in serious auto accidents in FL or any other state involve alchohol? Alcohol has been proven to lead to all kinds of health problems. Yet no one is suggesting that we put people who choose to drink alcoholic beverages in prison.
Pot is less harmful for you than two out of the three “legal” drugs in the United States. (the third legal drug, caffeine, seems to have less damaging effects than cigarettes, booze, or pot.) Unlike cigarettes and alcohol, cannabis can actually be used to treat certain problems. I have suffered from grand mal seizures (I’m epileptic from birth) that pretty much cripple my life. They have tried all sorts of drugs, some which help a bit but have flaky side effects, some of which don’t. The synthetic drugs for my epilepsy (most recently Depakote) reduce the number of seizures that I have to a more reasonable amount (from multiple seizures a week to maybe one every other month). However, cannabis use COMPLETELY eliminates seizures from my life. A bit of research shows that it also helps people with cancer, glacoma, multiple scilorsis, and other ailments.
“If you think alcohol, which has a long social history, most of it positive, is bad, then why promote yet another drug which seems to have even worse effects?”
I would humbly suggest that alcohol has, largely, had a more negative impact on society than pot has.
“Dont forget that we live in a society where what is legal is somehow considered to be good and even recommended, and the legalization of anything massively encourages its use (look at abortion).”
Eh, I kind of disagree with this. You can legalize heroin tommorrow and I don’t know anyone who will run out and try it that would not have been doing it otherwise. In fact, if alcohol has shown our society anything, it’s that if the people really want something, just having it made illegal will do nothing to stem the tide of demand (see Prohibition) and if anything trying to stem the tide of demand will create a thriving underground market.
Bottom line: a whole lot of people use cannabis regularly. The percentage of cannabis users is probably higher than you realize (ha ha). To have these people, who by and large are hurting no one (othen than, arguably, themselves) thrown in prison alongside violent offenders seems to be doing an injustice. People should have the right to choose what they wish to ingest in their bodies, whether it’s a joint, a beer, or a 64 ounce soda in New York City.
reefer in and of itself is harmless, in my opinion.
If anything, it is a fun drug, not physically addicting and if controlled, is no danger to self nor others.
MY comments above were taken from a lifestyle of pot smoking that lasted about 15 years.
Did I mention this was from around '65 - '80 ?
I haven't smoked since then and the reason is because I became a born again family man and I desired no adulterants to my thinking and behavior.
I'm not afraid of a giggling idiot, but an incorriceable drunk can be deadly.
People have been using MJ in various forms for thousands of years.
MJ makes you laugh, eat to much and sleepy.
I think to many people here still believe ‘refer msdness’.
People have used MJ for thousands of years, it didn’t turn up out if nowhere in 1960.
nice try.... Anecdotal seizure cure. Yeah..... Just say you like to get twisted with the chronic and stop bullshitin
that's what really gets me is the faux justification pot smokers use. Look if you and your family and friends want to smoke pot.... Go for it because my kids will be competing for jobs against your pot smoking brood and I like my kids chances against stoners in any field of productive endeavor. Why do you think democrats and those in control want you and yours high on pot? Yeah, watch some football/basketball/baseball/soccer for hours at a time, get twisted on some pot and chill out while the men in control of their senses manipulate you and yours.
“nice try.... Anecdotal seizure cure. Yeah..... Just say you like to get twisted with the chronic and stop bullshitin”
So essentially you are calling me a liar because my first hand life experiances don’t support your narrative.
I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: CANNABIS PREVENTS SEIZURES. I’ve suffered with epilepsy throughout my life, from about the age of five. The medications play hell on my body and mind. Cannabis works for me.
Do you also feel that people who smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol are not able to compete in the job field?
Is there any other morality that you would like to legislate? Maybe we can improve society if we court order church attendance?
You got nothing done - except building friendships, fixing cars, making art, all worthy endeavors. Even absent that, who is to say that every moment of one’s life is to be productive in a sense that’s meaningful to others?
I was waxing philosophically in this vein the other day with my son, and comparing/contrasting our "fatherness"
I like how he is with his 2 year old boy