As you undoubtedly know, last year the U.S. states of Washington and Colorado voted to legalize marijuana for recreational use.
In 14 other states, it has been decriminalized to varying degrees and 20 states plus the District of Columbia allow marijuana, also to varying degrees, for medical purposes.
The use, sale and/or possession of cannabis is outlawed by the federal government under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 although last August, it the feds announced they would no longer pursue prosecution of such offenses that take place in states that have legalized cannabis.
As to the general public's view of pot, a 2013 survey by the Pew Research Center found that
”For the first time in more than four decades of polling on the issue, a majority of Americans favor legalizing the use of marijuana. A national survey finds that 52% say that the use of marijuana should be made legal while 45% say it should not.”
Even as the United States moves toward acceptance and legalization, there remains a large amount of ignorance about cannabis that impedes progress. For the record,
• Its success in relieving such symptoms as inflammation, nausea, insomnia, chronic pain, anxiety, depression and much, more are well known in the modern medical community
• It has been a legitimate remedy for many conditions for thousands of years
• No one has ever died from using marijuana
For many elders, cannabis works better for many conditions than prescription drugs and in 2013, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who had publicly opposed legalization of marijuana since 2009, reversed his position and then produced an hour-long documentary on the beneficial uses of marijuana.
This is a short interview about his change of mind just prior to the documenatary broadcast on CNN last year:
As to recreational use of marijuana, as Gupta notes in that clip, dependency is about 9 percent compared to 15 percent for alcohol and it's difficult to find any serious harm to adults who use pot.
I'll testify to that. I've been smoking weed for nearly 60 years with no ill effects. None.
Oh wait. There is a downside but only if you choose to categorize it that way. Many years ago, a friend expressed this issue when he told me why he'd stopped smoking pot:
He described sitting around one evening with half a dozen friends as they listened to a new, highly anticipated album from a well-known rock group (this was the sixties) while passing around a few joints.
One of the guys pointed to another sitting across from him and said, “Wow.”
Some time went by as the music continued until the second guy pointed back at the first and said, “You're right.”
My friend realized that is what had been passing for communication among his group for a good while and he wanted more than that.
So, yes, anyone who has ever been stoned knows about distraction, forgetfulness and the tendency to mistake a splendid high for profundity.
But those are certainly not reasons to have incarcerated millions of (mostly) young people over the years particularly compared to alcohol that actually causes thousands of deaths a year.
Even in states where medical marijuana is legal, it is difficult to qualify for a prescription and/or expensive. But it actually works. Weed helps alleviate symptoms that plague elders without subjecting them to the terrible side effects of harsh and, often, addictive prescription drugs. Millions more could benefit with legalization.
As I have mentioned here in the past, I live with a disorder that deprives me of sleep and for which there is no treatment. When I get too far behind, I smoke a joint which allows me to stay asleep for a more normal period of time and feel better rested.
Although my affliction is far less serious than that of most elders who could benefit from a little THC, all of us should be able to use this proven substance to help alleviate what ails us.
Personally, I don't like making the distinction, in the question of legalization, between medical and recreational marijuana. If it relieves pain and other debilitating symptoms, it should be available. Period.
But pot is also a load of fun - at least as much fun a having a few drinks with friends - and my occasional indulgence is not confined to a need for sleep.
Then there is the public benefit to legalization. Nationwide, it would bring in billions of dollars in taxes that states need, reduce the prison population, free up law enforcement officers to chase real criminals and create new jobs.
Not to mention that it would make an effective treatment for many conditions more easily available to elders. What could possibly be wrong with all that?
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, William Weatherstone: Little Billy Weatherstone's Tonsillitis, Age Five