Published: Feb 05, 2013 07:00 PM
Modified: Feb 05, 2013 04:48 PM
I have no doubt that guest columnist Ron Bogle has the best interests of our youth at heart (Harmful effects of marijuana well documented, CHN. Jan. 18, bit.ly/XFFL7G
). So did my parents and countless other authority figures of my youth who taught me a lot of unintended lessons.
In his column Bogle listed what he considered several harmful effects of marijuana and concluded with the admonition that we can no longer ignore what they are doing to our children. That was it. After all the scarifying and anticipation of concrete suggestions, the reader is left with nothing more than an invitation to join him in cluck-clucking from his imagined moral high ground.
Im not going to make a case that marijuana and other substances can have no ill-effects. Its simply not true and would ruin my credibility in the same way that Bogle ruins his when he obsesses only on ill effects. The most important thing we can do for young people who are exploring the complicated, all-too-human curiosity about mind-altering substances is to maintain our credibility so that they trust what we are saying.
When you only tell a young person that pot causes psychotic reactions, panic attacks, and irreversible IQ loss, what is he or she to think when a successful friend reports enjoying it? Or when Willie Nelson talks about his long-time usage? Or when they try it themselves? The first thing the young person realizes is that, if they want balanced information, theyre not going to waste their time asking you anything.
Furthermore, this lack of confidence in your flawed understanding of drug use is also likely to extend to other issues of importance.
If we want young people to respect our judicial system, why would we put a 20-year-old in jail for pot possession while meting out lesser sentences for crimes with actual victims? Anyone can see that alcohol is more dangerous than marijuana, yet it is legal and celebrated. So another unavoidable lesson is that many of societys institutions lack credibility.
A couple of years ago I was sitting around with my son and two of his friends, both of whom I had spent considerable time with and sometimes shared open discussions about drugs. They asked me if I knew about spice or incense that was being sold at kwik-marts all over the area. I had seen some signs at stores here and there, but it had not raised any flags.
So they told me about these new synthetic drugs that were designed to somewhat mimic marijuana. I had no idea. One of them had tried it and explained to me the effects. There was widespread legal usage, the effects were clearly unhealthy, and it was being sold secretly right under our noses.
I guarantee that if I had not been viewed as a fair and credible person, I would not have known about this stuff until many months later when the phenomenon hit the news. Nor would I have had the opportunity to strongly caution them about using this suspect chemical that was being manufactured without oversight and purely to make a buck. I offered them my opinion that this was an example of a serious ill effect from prohibition and that pot was certainly far less unhealthy.
Mind-altering substance use is a complicated issue. To tut-tut that it is just plain bad and then to vaguely and impotently suggest as Bogle does that its time our community got serious about addressing these youthful public health threats is worse than ineffective.
In every human historical age and in every society on earth, the pursuit of intoxicants has proven to be an undeniable human trait. Like other human pursuits, it is not without its dangers. Young people need to be exposed to the wide range of information about intoxicants: the science, the folklore, the mystery, the psychology, and the fact that most every substance ingested comes with a price. Mark Marcolpos lives in Orange County.
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