It strikes me that in all the recent discussion over legalizing marijuana, no one has actually written about the pros and cons of actually smoking the stuff. I mean what it feels like, what it does to you. This is likely because the people who would write about this subject are in respectable news outlets -- many of whom, no doubt, have at the very least dabbled in the stuff -- and are worried that doing so would make them look like total stoners. Fair enough.
So, at the risk of being labelled a pothead, here goes. Smoking marijuana offers any or all of the following positive effects: It will make you more relaxed, more thoughtful (though not necessarily insightful), and more creative. It will make all the good things in life a little bit better, and the bad things a little less bad. If you suffer from disease or chronic pain, it will ease your distress. If you are sociable, it will make you more so. If you're a loner, it will increase the pleasure of silence. If you have trouble falling asleep, pot can help with that, too.
Sounds pretty good, right?
And yet, I'm 100 per cent against legalizing marijuana. This doesn't mean I think people shouldn't use the stuff -- that's up to you -- just that making pot legal would open us to a host of negative side-effects (beyond occasionally crippling paranoia and general laziness).
Pot is fairly easily accessible -- I have never heard an adult say, "I'd love to try some of that marijuana everyone's talking about, but I can't seem to get my hands on any of it." If you think none of your friends smoke it, or at least don't know where to get some, you're too naive. Further, pot smokers are a fairly easy-going bunch -- ask them for a piece of the action and they'll be happy to help out.
So if it's already out there, and everyone's doing it, why not legalize marijuana?
The most important reason is kids. Children are the least likely of us to have access to pot or pot dealers. I'm not talking about the stoners smoking up in the bathroom (who will wake up one day in 10 years and realize how stupid they were) but the more timid teenagers too afraid of getting in trouble, or, worse, being rejected, to ask their hooked-up classmates for a joint.
Legalizing pot would give that bunch an easy in -- the same way they ask adults to buy them booze or cigarettes, they could ask for marijuana. Pass Messieurs Cheech and Chong a 10-spot and they'll be happy to pick up a little extra from the dispensary.
Staying with young folks, let's consider the debate over whether marijuana is a "gateway drug." It isn't, in the sense that pot isn't addictive, but it is in the context of legalized marijuana. If pot becomes legal, drug dealers won't sell it anymore, obviously. Which means they'll be peddling harder stuff (or pot laced with harder stuff) like cocaine. So when kids go looking for something illegal to do, as they are wont to do, they'll no longer have the relatively mild pot as a rebellion option.
Cocaine, by the way, is extremely addictive.
Another point: Legalizing marijuana will turn us into a stoned society. Want an example of what that looks like? Consider Amsterdam's red-light district, where pot smoking is famously legal. If you've been, you know that that area sullies an otherwise beautiful, historic city. Forget the soulless stares of prostitutes that follow you for a moment -- the staggering stoners, clichéd Bob Marley street art, and seedy drug dealers standing on every corner offering a cornucopia of hard drugs are depressing enough. Picture that, but in Toronto.
Finally, I truly believe that for the welfare of society it's important there be some things that are technically against the law but practically overlooked. Some small acts that allow the general population to feel free and rebellious but at the same time remain at least a little mindful of the law. It's like making a rolling stop at the stop sign -- chances are it's a safe move and you won't get caught, but because you might get caught, you come a little bit closer to actually stopping, and you never run right through a stop sign.
The illegality of pot and the threat of being caught and punished, even if the chances are slim, keep us on our toes. And that means we'll think twice before doing something that's really bad. In a weird way, illegalized marijuana empowers us and at the same time makes us more likely to respect the law.
For all the talk at this week's Liberal convention, the Grits are unlikely to make legalization of marijuana a campaign platform -- the young Liberals behind that movement will, like the teenage stoner, regret championing the cause in time. (And there's no way the Tories are going anywhere near it.)
This is for the best. Pot rules are perfectly fine the way they are right now. It's illegal enough to make kids think twice before smoking and keep our cities clean and active, but not illegal enough to stop sensible people from enjoying a nice toke in private. Makes perfect sense to me.
And no, I'm not high right now.