Why Am I Forced to Vote to Legalize Marijuana Use?

Why am I forced to vote on Initiative I-502 that “authorizes the state liquor control board to regulate and tax marijuana for persons 21 years of age and older, and add a new threshold for driving under the influence of marijuana?”

I worry about me as a self-diagnosed addictive personality who’s fought off addictions ranging from smoking to the computer game, Freecell. I’ve ignored marijuana, never having puffed a joint without inhaling, nor consumed a marijuana-infused product or brew without swallowing.

Compelled to be an informed voter, I learned marijuana’s addiction rate is low. Jann Gumbiner, a licensed  psychologist and clinical professor at the University of California, Irvine College of Medicine concluded, “Only about 9 percent will have a serious addiction.”

Several other sources indicated that rate is about the percentage of addictive personalities. I usually like being in the top ten percent, but not for addiction.

I resent a minority of users forcing me to vote on the issue. None of my aged friends admits to consuming marijuana, no doubt partly because our knuckles are too knurly to roll cigarette paper or prepare marijuana-laced recipes for lunch prior to afternoon naps.

Marijuana use surrounds my children, all of whom know adult users. Our oldest with two sons entering Seattle high schools said, “Pass it. Marijuana’s readily available in our high schools.”

The Initiative states, “The people intend to stop treating adult marijuana use as a crime and try a new approach that: (1) allows law enforcement resources to be focused on violent and property crimes; (2) generates new state and local tax revenue for education, health care, research and substance abuse prevention; and (3) takes marijuana out of the hands of illegal drug organizations and brings it under a tightly regulated, state-licensed system similar to that for controlling hard alcohol.”

But the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs opposes the initiative, as do others who believe the law is too restrictive, such as driving by patients who use it for medical reasons.

Andi Ervin, who worked locally to keep youth drug-free and currently is Co-Program Director of Okanogan County Community Coalition, is opposed. She warns medical experts agree marijuana is harmful for youth. “When something becomes ‘normalized’ for adults, kids don’t see the difference [for themselves]. This leads me to believe legalizing it would be a disaster for youth substance abuse rates.”

And yet The Children’s Alliance, a statewide public policy advocacy organization for children, announced, “I-502 is necessary to eliminate one source of the impact of racial disparities that are currently harming Washington’s children, particularly children of color.”

The Initiative is strengthened by an appealing argument ‘that the government doesn’t have any right to tell me what I can I do with my body as long as it doesn’t affect anyone else.’

That argument is utterly baseless because individual behaviors accumulate one by one in our complex society until they affect everyone. My smoking endangered family members and playing Freecell wasted time and led to deception, both of which impaired my responsibilities and intimacies as a husband and father.

Reluctantly, I read and scanned the 65-page bill on the Secretary of State’s website. Its effect would be significant.

It’s comforting to know New Approach Washington wrote it. New Approach describes itself as “a coalition of Washington citizens, [including] doctors lawyers, treatment and prevention experts, business people and parents [who] consulted with policy experts, community stakeholders, and leaders within the Washington legislature, executive agencies, and judiciary to craft a detailed proposal for taking a step in a new direction.”

OK, I acquiesce, I’ll vote yes.

Here’s a warning for users who think it’s too restrictive. Don’t even think about asking me to support something less restrictive for now. You’re already threatening me with my predilection to addiction.

About Russellsclearskies

Writing to poke fun at a retired klutz like me who's curiously exploring the absurdities and complexities of the good life. .
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3 Responses to Why Am I Forced to Vote to Legalize Marijuana Use?

  1. I disagree with your conclusions that it is ok to allow 10% of users to become addicted.
    I have never smoked or used marijuana but have been around those who have. Most of those that I have seen
    using it have not acted rationally, in my opinion. They become stubborn and for the most part combative.
    This will lead to more regulations on my business requiring me to not discriminate against those who wish to
    use it while working and to provide resources to pay for their addiction. It is an oxymoron to me that we will tax it to pay for substance abuse prevention, healthcare and education. In addition, the initiative does not even require that those revenues be used for these purposes, it ALLOWS them to be. I also laugh at the thought that this will bring it under a tightly regulated, state system. It will still be available in the high schools and other places cheaper. What about second hand smoke, etc. etc.?
    The next logical step will be to allow the legal use of cocaine, heroin and prostitution so we can tax it to pay for something else.
    I for one will be voting against it.
    I did smoke cigarettes when I was younger. I thought it was cool because all the grown ups smoked. I started when I was 10 years old and by the time I was 25 I was smoking 4 packs a day. I was addicted. It was one of the hardest things I ever did when I quit. I didn’t believe the surgeon general, but when I started coughing up blood every morning and my son starting begging me to quit I did.
    Trading one problem for another is no solution.
    Vote no!
    John McDarment

  2. I’ve come to the same conclusion as you, reluctantly. In large part, because I am the product of six decades of hearing about the perils of marijuana.

    We’ve hosted 3, maybe 4 events about the issue at Wenatchee’s Democratic Party office this spring/summer. Those exposures have prompted me to do a little more reading and ask lots of questions of people knowledgeable about marijuana from various standpoints. I come to the conclusion that the message has been controlled, to a large degree, by influences interested in things other than health/legal implications. If approved, we may be heading down a “slippery slope,” but I’m prepared to say “yes,” and give the new approach a try.

    I came of age during the Viet Nam War era, but managed to never knowingly partake. I’m still not sure I can detect the odor of mj smoke 😉 and I don’t expect to try it recreationally. But with the current structures in place, access is so tightly restricted that research about its benefits cannot even be conducted. Washington would be one of the first states to begin to force a national conversation. As I understand it, that’s still just a beginning.

    Karen Keleman

  3. Sandy Covey says:

    As a retired chemical dependency counselor, who treated young people and was responsible for the youth program and prevention/intervention services to “Juvie”, I can speak with some authority on this topic. Also because in the ’70’s, I did inhale. From that broad experience, I know that marijuana robs the addict of initiative and focus; that it can be highly addictive to some members of society; that it is a gateway drug to heavier substances; that the cost in health care and incarceration is just a drop in the bucket to our GNP in lost productivity, to our children in social damage, to our pocket books in treatment, and as Mr. McDermott pointed out, to the potential financial repercussions of legalizing it. How did legalizing alcohol prevent alcoholism? It didn’t; it merely shifted the issue to a moral instead of legal issue. As Andi Ervin pointed out, legalizing a damaging substance just says to our kids that it’s okay. I also believe it is saying we are too lazy to deal with it and set reasonable boundaries around what has become a rampant problem in our culture. We cannot afford to be wishy washy on substances that cause so much pain and suffering in our communities from its USE, not just the legal costs. Please reconsider your stance on this. As you know, good boundaries make for good relationships. Backing down on this merely opens a path to be indifferent and passive when passion is called for.
    Respectfully submitted,
    Sandy Covey, CDC retired

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