Marijuana Legalization Issue: The debate over marijuana continues as the movement for legalization gains more attention. Currently, medical marijuana is legal in 20 states and the District of Columbia. The states of Washington and Colorado have passed laws which have legalized the use of marijuana.
In my previous article published on February 25th, 2014 I challenged the idea put forth by many advocates for legalization that marijuana is a harmless, or at least a less harmful drug than alcohol. I would like to further the discussion of the marijuana legalization issue with this article. While it is true that marijuana may be less harmful than alcohol in some instances, it certainly is not a harmless drug, at least not for everyone.
Over the years I have had the privilege of working with a variety of individuals, of all ages, who have sought help for marijuana dependency. Chemical dependency is characterized by a loss of control over the substance (increased quantity and frequency of the substance) and continued use despite experiencing negative consequences in the main life areas.
Some of the negative outcomes of passing a marijuana legalization issue are financial problems such as spending too much or more than intended on the substance causing a strain in other areas of life where there is financial responsibility. Legal problems such as possession charges, trafficking, stealing as it relates to using, and other legal infractions cause further financial strain. Others may argue that there wouldn't be much financial strain if it were legal, but in light of the heavy taxation that would be placed on it; I believe it would be a costly activity to engage in on a regular basis. There would continue to be the legal costs connected to driving under the influence, or underage using, same as there is with alcohol.
Many marijuana users do not believe that their usage has a negative impact or influence on others around them. In numerous cases this simply is not true. Relationship problems with parents, significant others, friends and coworkers due to the concerns and conflicts have been a major struggle for some people. Because of the intense connection and great fondness the user has with the substance it can be hard to see the problem and therefore a natural tendency to defend the marijuana legalization issue. Denial is the inability to see the reality of the situation.
Health issues such as depression, emotional issues, bronchitis, asthma, lethargy and amotivational syndrome can occur. Emotional and behavioral issues can include a change in personality, loss of ambitions, shifts or changes in priorities, diminished coping skills and an inability to delay gratification. I believe that the higher concentration of THC in today's marijuana exacerbate these problems. Clients have reported that their marijuana use has been an obstacle for them in achieving or reaching their intended goals.
I am a person who believes in our freedoms and pursuit of happiness. But with those freedoms comes responsibility. Often dependency prevents people from being fully responsible. In addition to individuals who use, the people who manufacture, regulate, sell and profit from marijuana also have a responsibility to society. If we look to tobacco and alcohol as a model for new marijuana legalization policies, I am not impressed. Now as it stands, we are contemplating the legalization of a classified schedule 1 drug for which there is very limited regulation and oversight.
I find it ironic that we that we live in a society health conscious enough to consider banning the "Big Gulp" (large sized sodas) while promoting the legalization of a substance that is addictive and can cause serious health care problems. The marijuana legalization issue doesn't add up unless you consider the profit motive, which is used by the pro-legalization side to further their agenda. "Legalize it and tax it, it will help our economy!" is the cry of many marijuana advocates.
It's not just the segment of our society that can afford 'these freedoms' that get caught in the crosshairs of addiction, but many times it's the less fortunate, or those with very limited resources who become addicted. When the realization hits that they need help they often do not have the resources to obtain it. I guess that is why when the state of Washington legalized marijuana they earmarked part of the tax revenue for substance abuse prevention, education and healthcare purposes.
This country has filled its coffers through the taxation of addictive behaviors such as gambling, alcohol and tobacco sales and now the legalization of a schedule one drug? It cannot be denied that these addictive behaviors have left many in ruins. Do we really want to continue down the path of allowing our government to fund itself by being a parasite feeding off the despair of those who are less fortunate and addicted?
The government does not make the bulk of the revenue from the occasional blackjack player or social drinker or once a week marijuana smoker. No, sadly enough, the more dependent and worse off the person is, the more revenue the government will gather through the taxation of increased usage. By profiting from these mood-altering, addictive behaviors our government actually becomes an enabler.
My real concern is not the marijuana legalization issue, but the bigger picture. Why has our society become so geared to a variety of potentially harmful mood altering behaviors, such as drugs, alcohol, smoking, overeating, video games, gambling, pornography, shopping and spending in order to feel good, numb out, relax, be happy or have fun? I think this is the discussion the country should be having and examine the reasons or the root causes of such behaviors. For me, this is the real issue and I don't believe legalizing marijuana helps us address this ever-growing problem.
Angie Carter, CRADC, SAP is a certified alcohol and drug counselor in the State of Missouri and DOT certified Substance Abuse Professional. She is in private practice with her husband at Carter Counseling & Consulting Services in Central Missouri. Angie primarily sees clients in office, but is also available for telephone coaching and/or consultation. Click here to contact Angie with your questions or feedback.