Bedford Ramblings
Steve Mills

Should marijuana be legalized, or at least be left up to individual states to decide?

Posted Thursday, October 20, 2011, at 2:06 PM
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  • I absolutely think it should be legalized. First, there is no constitutional authority for the feds to regulate, or outlaw it. Second, we should have learned the lesson during prohibition. Outlawing an item only creates a black market for it as people still want it. The risk of arrest gets factored into the black market price, increasing profits as well. So now we have people and organizations willing to bribe, beat or kill for their "market share".

    If drugs were legalized, their price would decrease, meaning addicts wouldn't need to rob or steal to afford them. Sellers wouldn't have huge profit margins worth killing over. Drugs could be taxed, and would probably fix our deficit problem by itself.

    The war on drugs has cost untold billions, created some of the most intrusive laws, and had very little effect. The average high school student can still buy drugs any time they want to.

    -- Posted by quietmike on Thu, Oct 20, 2011, at 4:29 PM
  • Being a child of the 60-70's I saw my fair share of pot smokers. I was a bit naive at first since I had no idea that the classmate who used to take me for plane rides in a Cessna out of M'boro was smoking pot in his pipe.

    Maybe that is why I don't like flying too much but it was not until later that I learned that his jovial manner, glassy eyes and insatiable hunger were all indications.

    Thank God he was in control enough to fly a plane and I don't think I could say the same for someone who had been drinking. If alcohol is legal, it makes no sense to me that marijuana is banned.

    I know the folks who need to feel naughty or those who are prone to addiction will move on to something else, but I have to agree that (in my opinion) legalizing and taxing Mary Jane will accomplish several positive things that quietmike mentioned.

    -- Posted by stevemills on Thu, Oct 20, 2011, at 5:25 PM
  • In October, 1970, a single marijuana cigarette was discovered by the Shelbyville Police Department.

    That night, 41 years ago now, was our first warning we were no longer immune to the scene. Within days more drugs were found, more arrests made, more lives ruined.

    I wish all of you could have seen the things I've been called on to take pictures of over many of those years. Would you like to see a young person dead with a needle in his arm? How about marijuana hidden under an infant sleeping in its little crib, horrible wrecks that claimed lives and I could go on and on for hours.

    Yes, most of them started on marijuana. Crack and meth and, yes, marijuana, are out there everywhere.

    We're all guilty for letting this take over our city and county and we pay a huge, huge price each and every day in more ways that just money.

    Unhappy Anniversary!

    -- Posted by bomelson on Fri, Oct 21, 2011, at 2:47 PM
  • I agree that criminalizing mind-altering substances has created a drug culture,supported the underworld and unleashed tainted and dangerous materials that are either unlawful or one minute/one molecule away from being contraband.

    I wish I could believe that the publicly-approved highs would be healthful and less destructive to people's characters.

    Prohibition might have been a successful experiment if beverage alcohol had been tolerated as the temporary burden of emotional cripples.

    Instead,it became the symbol of excitement,glamor and being "grown-up".

    That "party" mind-set has spread to the sources of chemical sabotage that have been popular in all the years since the days of the speak-easy.

    Taking the poison and the profit out of the habits would be great but we must erase our need before we can reduce the greed.

    The responsibility lies with us rather than crooks or law enforcement.

    I heard that the original plants (coca,cannabis,tobacco,etc.)were safe because they had beneficial ingredients the forbidden versions don't while lacking the toxic additives of the banned kinds.

    It was easy (if not necessary) to blame the plant enough to prohibit American-made hemp products that had no connection to hallucinogens.

    But,we chose to make the plants harmful and illegal.

    If we change ourselves,the laws and the plants will change to match.

    If not,I fear that we will make improvements in one area just to transfer the problem to another source.

    -- Posted by quantumcat on Fri, Oct 21, 2011, at 3:40 PM
  • Looking back at the late 60s & 70s, I am not proud of some of the things we ushered in during those years. A return to morals, family values, etc. would do us all a heap of good.

    As a newsman, I am sure you saw more of the seedy side of our community, but I over the years, I recall much more death and destruction from alcohol, meth, and lsd than pot.

    In my opinion(worth what it costs :-))the person that gets addicted to alcohol, to marijuana, hard drugs has a basic need that is not being filled by their environment. It starts with the family, but it could be their friends, community and their religious family (if they have one).

    Some drugs take a while for chemical dependency while some take hold quickly. We as a society need to work hard to reduce the need for chemical stimulation or numbness in the first place.

    Throwing someone in jail for smoking a joint, or even hiding their stash under a baby's crib has not proven to be the solution.

    Maybe legalizing it will not be a solution either, especially if we do not do more to help people feel a part of this society, their community and their family.

    This is where I believe many churches and religious movements are missing an opportunity. They are so intent on pushing their interpretations of the Bible, how they worship, what they believe, etc. that they overlook many of Christ's methods of bringing the people to his Father.

    Whoa, I need to step off my box. I will leave the previous comments in, but preaching is not my strong point. I accept that so, enough said.

    -- Posted by stevemills on Fri, Oct 21, 2011, at 3:56 PM
  • Having worked as an addictions counselor, I'm certain that some form of punishment for drug offenses is the correct thing to do, but without treatment, incarceration is a waste of time and taxpayer money. I don't believe that legalization is the only solution to the problem, but I do know that the non-existant "war on drugs" has done absolutely nothing to deter drug use.

    -- Posted by Tim Lokey on Sat, Oct 22, 2011, at 6:26 AM
  • Tim, with your experience as "addictions counselor" I would appreciate hearing more about your views on this.

    I have found that the "on the ground" folks who handle any challenge usually have great insights that no one on top seems to hear or consider.

    If you have been out of it for a while, even better because you would have had time to sit back and think about what your experienced. Sometimes being right in the 'thick of it' can unduly influence.

    -- Posted by stevemills on Sat, Oct 22, 2011, at 8:04 AM
  • Mr. Mills, I am still employed as an addictions counselor. I've worked for the Tony Rice Center for almost 11 years now and I was also employed at Buffalo Valley for a period of almost 7 years.

    Marijuana is very often a gateway drug that leads to the use of harsher substances. I am well aware that smoking marijuana does not always lead to hard drug use, but over the years I've counseled hundreds of Meth, Heroin, Cocaine and prescription drug addicts and nearly 100% of these addicts reported marijuana as being the first illicit substance they used.

    Those who are proponents of legalization do make some very valid points in their support of this idea and the most often quoted concept is one of very tight government control and the collection of tax revenue. I won't debate these. However I do question the wisdom of legalizing yet another harmful substance, therefore making that substance readily available to our children in the same manner that alcohol and tobacco are now.

    I deal with men every day from all walks of life. They range in age from 19 to 60. Alcohol/Drug addiction and related behaviors have brought these men to the brink of self destruction, as well as costing Tennessee's taxpayers untold millions of dollars every year. Locking them up and "throwing away the key" has never been, nor will it ever be the solution to addiction. As I mentioned before, if treatment is not a vital component of any period of incarceration, the offender's addiction has not been addressed. Statistics do show that those receiving treatment have a much lower rate of recidivism.

    -- Posted by Tim Lokey on Sun, Oct 23, 2011, at 12:10 AM
  • Drugs are already accessible to our children now. Most stats show that nearly half of high schoolers have tried marijuana.

    For the arguments of Marijuana being a "gateway" drug, addicts usually have something missing inside, some unresolved psychological issue that they are hiding from or trying to numb away. They will usually be addicted to "something". They what is irrelevant as addiction is only the symptom of their real problem.

    -- Posted by quietmike on Sun, Oct 23, 2011, at 3:50 AM
  • Quietmike, you are somewhat correct. The booze and the dope are only symptoms of the problem. Drugs and alcohol do not cause the user to become addicted. If that were true, then everyone who ever took a sip or a hit would be addicted. The road to addiction begins when one uses drugs or alcohol to medicate their emotional state. During this process, the addict soon begins to use alcohol/drugs to medicate all emotions, from one extreme to the other. Eventually the addict reaches a state where they aren't using to get "high" anymore, they are using just to feel normal.

    Marijuana is a gateway drug, in the same sense that tobacco is. I've already pointed out that not all marijuana users progress to harder drug use, but a very large percentage of them do.

    Sure drugs are readily available in every community. Some more so than others. However, in order to obtain them, one first has to overcome the fact that they are committing a criminal act. Making them legal would remove that obstacle and therefore encourage many to initiate drug use who otherwise would not do so.

    Another argument for legalization is that it would lower crime rates. This is a somewhat plausible line of thinking, however a drug addict who robs and steals to support his/her habit is not going to stop this type of behavior just because they can now purchase their drug of choice legally. I would argue that legalization has the very frightening potential of causing even more criminal behavior. I realize that the potential for criminal activity is there anyway. We all are aware that prohibition gave birth to the mafia.

    The fact that marijuana is considered by many to be harmless or less harmful is the motivating factor behind many who seek to legalize it. Clinical studies have shown marijuana to be very harmful and legalization, in my humble opinion is a step in the wrong direction. Even those who use this substance refer to it as the "stupid" drug.

    -- Posted by Tim Lokey on Sun, Oct 23, 2011, at 12:28 PM
  • I hate to leave a comment just to express my agreement with someone else's, especially quietmike's, but he (along with a few others) summarize my thoughts pretty well. I do not have much too add, except that the byproduct of an increased police state, in order to combat drug use, is far more pernicious that the social ills that are brought about by drug use in the first instance. Moreover, I imagine an increased police state was one of the motivations to criminalize originally.

    Tim, You advocate punishment and treatment in combination? What kind of treatment did you have in mind? "One drug dealer dead and another in jail for most of their life sounds like a good outcome. The only thing better would be two dead drug dealers."

    Marijuana may be the lazy drug or even the epiphany drug, but likely not a stupid drug. I guess those designations must be dependent upon the natural state of the user though.

    -- Posted by memyselfi on Sun, Oct 23, 2011, at 2:13 PM
  • Tim, is their a typical treatment for marijuana users?

    -- Posted by stevemills on Sun, Oct 23, 2011, at 6:09 PM
  • legalize it. just be done with it.

    -- Posted by 4fabfelines on Mon, Oct 24, 2011, at 7:44 PM
  • Steve there is treatment available for Cannabis addicts. It often employs the use of 12 Step modality whereby one simply learns a new manner of living wherein the addict is educated in how to face life on life's terms, practice acceptance, forgiveness, amends making and personal responsibility. Of course, anyone can do these things without going into treatment. However in-patient treatment programs offer a safe environment for the learning, development and internalization of recovery/coping mechanisms and relapse prevention skills that are vital to maintaining abstinence.

    There are those that refer to this type of addictions treatment as brain-washing, however the results are self evident. It has worked for myself and millions of others who's brains needed a "bath".

    @ memyselfi....I do advocate punishment in combination with treatment. If an addict is just locked away without treatment, he/she will very often just begin using again very soon after their release from jail. The recidivism rate for addicts that do not receive treatment is extremely high. I've long been an advocate for having a drug court here in Bedford County. Many surrounding counties have them in place and they are working quite well. Not every addict is going to take advantage of the help offered to them. Many will die in their addiction, but they don't have to. As far as drug dealers go, I have absolutely no sympathy for their fate at all. I deal with the broken lives and the misery that they profit from every single day.

    -- Posted by Tim Lokey on Tue, Oct 25, 2011, at 12:42 PM
  • Tim,

    I did not see mention of any drugs to help withdrawal symptoms, so can I presume that MJ is not the same type of chemical addiction as nicotine, & heroin?

    By the way, does alcohol require a medical withdrawal treatment?

    What is a "drug court" and how does it differ form traditional court?

    Thanks for educating some of us.

    -- Posted by stevemills on Wed, Oct 26, 2011, at 6:23 AM
  • I notice no one is "admitting" to anything . I would guess the majority of us are around the same age. I would like to see it legalized because it sure isn't going away! Tax it and maybe some good will come of it. I disagree about Pot being a gateway drug for most people. I am tired of the government in my life making laws and rules that effect my every "move". I now have a fear of buying something for sinus because of the association of buying something that would make me feel a little better. Don't tell me being locked up is going to "cure" an addict. There are more drugs in our prisons than on the streets. Of course if it were to be legalized a lot of people would have to be released from jail and the judges would not have as many cases and of course it would reduce the people on probation and therefore the tax dollars. We have a comment in my family about "11/29 for LIFE" because it sure seems like the same people get the same thing... over and over again.

    To someone who is not an addict it just all seems like a waste of time. One of the best "highs" in life is watching your child take their first steps, their first day of school and them turn into an adult. It is a good high as you watch them grow and be sucessful.

    I have never been sucessful counseling anyone. Tim Lokey, my hat is off to you. Maybe I don't know the right steps .

    I did get a letter from Diane Black, I wasn't to excited about her comments, but it was what I expected. I guess she has never had a family member die that could have been helped by a little weed.


    Thank you for contacting me regarding the legalization of cannabis. As a nurse for over 40 years I understand the long term effects of marijuana which include short-term memory impairment and difficulty to learn ; impaired lung function similar to that found in cigarette smokers which can lead to more serious effects, such as cancer and other lung disease; and impaired immune response among other issues.

    -- Posted by Union on Sat, Oct 29, 2011, at 5:20 PM
  • It would sound as if she wants to outlaw alcohol and cigarettes.

    I wonder how many folks she nursed in 40 years who were in the hospital for marijuana compared to cigarettes and alcohol. I would bet the vast majority, if not all were for A & C, not MJ.

    I have a friend of 62 years who has smoked MJ for the last 40+ years,probably on a daily basis. I talked to him just yesterday and he had no problem carrying on a lucid conversation.

    Likewise, I have another friend of the same time frame who drinks beer on a regular basis. I am not sure how many per day, but I know I sure could not handle it. He is losing his thoughts with increasing frequency.

    It seems to be almost the exact opposite of what Diane Black has experienced.

    Of course, I have some experience with forgetting things and I do not drink, smoke tobacco or MJ, so.... go figure. Living a straight life must be damaging to my health.

    -- Posted by stevemills on Sat, Oct 29, 2011, at 10:28 PM
  • There is not a standard detox protocol for Cannabis that I am aware of. There are various noted withdrawal symptoms however, ranging from mild discomfort to headaches and insomnia.

    Ethyl Alcohol is quite a different story, due to the fact that it damages the body on so many levels if it abused. Anyone who has witnessed the death of a friend or family member from cirrhosis or other alcohol related illness can attest to this. It's absolutely horrible to watch.

    Alcohol is classed as a sedative/hypnotic, chemically comparable to Valium or Xanax and these all require a definite medical detox because this type of withdrawal can be fatal. Many chronic alcoholics and sedative addicts suffer grand mal seizures during detox. Statistically speaking, about 30% of alcoholics that experience Delirium Tremins (DT's) have these types of seizures and do not survive them.

    The typical detox period from alcohol runs it's course in about 4 to 7 days. It often involves the use of Librium and/or Valium in decreasing doses during the detox period, along with a vitamin regimen to increase appetite and restore potassium levels.

    In many alcoholics however, the damage has already been done. Though I have been clean and sober for well over 11 years, I do have liver cirrhosis as well as alcohol related liver hepatitis. Both of which won't get any worse as long as I don't drink alcohol. At age 53, I can assure you that my body has now started to repay me for all the "fun" I had.

    -- Posted by Tim Lokey on Wed, Nov 2, 2011, at 8:44 AM
  • Tim, comparing what a body has to do to get off alcohol and drugs, would it not seem that marijuana is actually less damaging than the other two? Or are there other things we are not considering?

    -- Posted by stevemills on Wed, Nov 2, 2011, at 4:15 PM
  • Steve, if the subject of marijuana legalization were strictly looked at through the eyes of logic, legalization makes sense. If the penalty for possession of marijuana were reduced to the same level as a simple traffic citation, I could live with that. Our government spends far too much money punishing people for what most consider to be not as harmful as others. I also don't believe that someone be strapped with a criminal record for life for using this substance.

    The main consideration that I personally have regarding the idea of complete legalization would involve the message we would send young people by doing so. Alcohol and tobacco are legal, and according to statistics, tobacco use alone kills more people than all other drugs (including alcohol) combined. In a perfect world, young people would all wait until adulthood to decide whether or not to experiment with drugs, but in reality, the average age for onset of first use is getting younger every time these type of statistics are gathered. I just can't help but believe that complete legalization of marijuana would cost our society far more than money.

    -- Posted by Tim Lokey on Fri, Nov 4, 2011, at 12:35 AM
  • Tim, I understand your concern about loosening the values and standards of our society. I believe THAT is a major contributor to the ills of our society now.

    Youth will always test the boundaries and if those boundaries continue to relax, there is no moral fabric to the society and history shows that it eventually collapses.

    We will always have dangerous, harmful substances being offered to us and always have a few that have the need to escape their reality, but with a stronger family base and social moral code, I believe we could have avoided much of what is plaguing us today. :-) Just My Humble Opinion

    Regarding Marijuana, I believe decriminalizing the use of it, decriminalizing and regulating the growth and sale of it will go a long way towards eliminating the profits that make it so lucrative for organized crime.

    Granted, organized crime will find something new to exploit. but maybe we can get a better "bead" on that.

    Taxing the sale of it like cigarettes and alcohol will not necessarily be a big burden on the American people. They are paying now, but it is going to the criminal organizations.

    Put our efforts into strengthening our social moral codes and values.

    Encourage the family unit.

    Encourage parental involvement, not relying on "Big Brother".

    Encourage social morality based on religious principles. While I am Christian, I believe that MOST religions have a base morality that would benefit society.

    Encourage abstinence until one is mature and financially stable enough to responsibly handle the possible outcome. Don't just accept it as a sign of the times.

    Discourage the popularity of mind altering substances, while nurturing positive, enriching activities like the arts, sports, nature, Scouting etc.. There are numerous "enriching" activities and making it "cool" to participate would give our youth something to focus on besides all the "vices" available to them.

    Again, just my opinion.

    -- Posted by stevemills on Fri, Nov 4, 2011, at 11:22 AM
  • Steve, you hit the proverbial nail squarely on the head here. For far too long, we have relied on our government to legislate morals and somehow hoped that the schools would teach our children values. Neither one of these concepts has worked and never will.

    -- Posted by Tim Lokey on Fri, Nov 4, 2011, at 12:25 PM
  • Mr. Mills, I waited for a month after this blog died before I commented further. I understand that you appreciate more civility, and less confrontation, in your topics. Unfortunately, graciousness is not one of my strong suits. Not everything that I want to write is entirely negative though. I will start with that.

    There is nothing new about marijuana in this area. According to some "old timers" whom I was fortunate enough to smoke with in my youth, it has been grown and used regularly in Bedford County, at least since the era of prohibition. It was only after that experiment had failed that the resources previously allocated to alcohol eradication were assigned to other drugs, ironically enough, by the same people. The actual enforcement was originally directed to large commercial importers/cultivators /retailers (if not primarily interested in retaining funding) and was typically uninterested in individual use. Instead, an expensive propaganda machine was set into motion to work upon the hearts and minds of the otherwise uninterested public, essentially driving the practice further and further underground through stigmatization, which only produced the outward appearance of non-existence, and effectively eliminated the commercial crop. It was such an effective campaign that the residue of disinformation still lingers within the background of modern thought.

    For decades afterwards, there were few statutes regulating drug use (particularly marijuana) and fewer still mechanisms of enforcement. It was only after the decade of the 1960's that a unified policy (with teeth to enforce it) was produced, largely in response to the unrest witnessed amongst the youth. The demonstrations, the race riots (especially those triggered by the assassination of King), the rise of militancy, and the troops returning from combat as addicts were all points of concern for those who were in a position to protect the status quo from those who sought to upset it. The effective criminalization was not viewed as a salvation for those affected by drug use, but rather as a method of usurping dominion from individual liberties vigorously protected previously. When selective enforcement creates criminals of political enemies, opposition is effectively squelched with the introduction of fear and paranoia. Whatever opposition that is not readily silenced is easily marginalized by a public gulled into unquestioning acceptance of dictated standards regarding social responsibility and propriety.

    To make matters worse, when the list of ties between the illicit drug trade and the federal government is seriously examined, there is little doubt (at least to me) that a connection exists between the two, likely a connection of causality. From Indochina and Central America, to the Bloods & Crips and modern Afghanistan, the indictment is to be found within the record.

    On a larger scale, the idea that there is anything novel about 20 and 21st century drug use is completely misguided. Marijuana has been grown in this nation since the colonial period. Both Washington and Jefferson grew tons of it. The record does not preserve either gentleman's thoughts regarding the medicinal properties of the plant, or if they ingested it themselves, but they undoubtedly knew what the properties were, as did everyone else at the time. Moreover, as farmers, if there was a demand for the buds, they most certainly sold them as opposed to letting them waste. This is further attested to by their choices of plants. There are varieties with high fiber content and those with high THC content. Both were grown. I do not doubt either president's likely use, but it is somewhat irrelevant anyway as Washington, like many of his era, was notoriously fond of Opium, and the Jefferson's brewed enough beer to make small commercial breweries of the time envious.

    The acceptable fate of a drug dealer is no more being shot in the street, than a speeder's fate should involve their carjacking. A drug dealer (if convicted) "deserves" only what the law prescribes. Any extrajudicial expectations of laudable homicide are indicative of absolute hypocrisy. Moreover, given the system of distribution required for such illegal acts, there is absolutely no way to separate the users from the dealers. They are one and the same.

    To assert that drugs (or drug dealers) ruin lives is the same as insisting that inanimate guns kill people (and that the gun dealers provide motive). If guns do not kill people, then drugs do not ruin them. You cannot have it both ways. Like guns, drugs have no intentionality. It is the way in which we collectively deal with drug use that is laden with intentionality. What ruins individual lives is the reality of high prices, intermittent supply, fines, incarceration, disenfranchisement, separation from family, lack of employment for the users, fear, guilt, shame, isolation, and the almost certain destitution that is seldom entirely overcome within a single generation. What ultimately ruins lives though, are the people who continue to blindly endorse this well-orchestrated intrusion upon what was, at one time, justifiably considered to be a basic liberty for a free people, the ability to be secure in one's own decisions of medication.

    -- Posted by memyselfi on Wed, Dec 7, 2011, at 2:06 AM
  • memyselfi, your contribution to this discussion is appreciated. I saw much to be considered and nothing that violated my sense of decorum.

    -- Posted by stevemills on Wed, Dec 7, 2011, at 10:49 AM
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