■ By Rusty Strait / Senior Reporter
I am from the era where “Reefer Madness,” a film that now seems boring, sent the country into a panic over the use of marijuana. I’ve been talking to people in coffee shops, bars and on the streets about the recreational use of pot. Attitudes are generational. The older the person questioned, the higher the percentage they believe it is the devil’s potion that will kill you or drive you mad in short order.
Millennials seem to have a more balanced opinion. Responses include, “I’ve done it since I was a teenager. Hasn’t bothered me.” to “Old people don’t want anybody to do a drug unless it is their drug, like cigarettes and booze.”
I did some serious research. I pretty much knew what I would find, but was truly shocked to discover how little I knew about the results.
Did you know that 88,000 people died from the use of alcohol as recently as 2014 and that is becoming a bigger problem than opiates, which killed 56,000 during that same year?
A recent study revealed that 300 people a day die from the consumption of tobacco. That’s 300 times 365. Do the math: 109,500 deaths a year from tobacco products.
And who do you think puts up the most money to fight the legalization of marijuana? The tobacco industry. And who lures young children into the death-causing product through advertising? The tobacco industry, that’s who. And why is that? Simply said, legal pot will interfere with tobacco sales. And King Tobacco doesn’t like that. So they speak out of both sides of the mouth, claiming to protect our young folks while at the same time luring them into a lifetime addiction. It ain’t brain surgery.
The political arena is not immune to misleading. How often do you hear some elected official decry that we must protect our youth from the evils of marijuana? Who is kidding who here? The joke is that only adults are being denied access through laws so obscure they precede George III of England.
Teenagers laugh at us. A kid can find pot on any street corner, parking lot or school yard. And where do you think they get their start with real drugs and alcohol? In the family refrigerator for alcohol and an opiate-laden medicine cabinet in the family bathroom, because it seems everybody is on pain pills.
In my research, I found several experts who state that we have no idea how the future will affect young users of marijuana. Marijuana has been a big issue in this country since the 1930s and I would say that we are well into the future from then. Yet, I have been unable to find any real evidence that anyone in the “The Greatest Generation” has succumbed to the use of pot or jumped out of a skyscraper window over those years.
As a veteran of World War II, I can tell you from personal experience that a great many of us were on some kind of drugs. Benzedrine (amphetamine) was the chief culprit because it kept us awake. Ask some old veterans – they know what I’m talking about. And pot was no stranger to the troops, either. Vietnam is well known as the “drug war” because those guys lived on drugs to get through the horror of combat. Do they have problems today? You bet – the gore of war does that to you just as it does a cop who has been exposed to human behavior over the years.