The Most Dangerous Drug

07-31-2016Fr. John LettersFr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

A lady that I know just came from Columbia,
She smiled because I did not understand.
Then she held out some marijuana, ha ha!
She said it was the best in all the land.

And I said,
"No, no, no, no, I don't smoke it no more,
I'm tired of waking up on the floor.
No, thank you, please, it only makes me sneeze,
And then it makes it hard to find the door."

— No, No Song by Ringo Starr

Marijuana is the most dangerous drug simply because so many people think it is harmless. Which means you have an intoxicating substance that has potential serious consequences being used by people who think it almost innocuous. People thought the same thing about cigarettes and cocaine until the consequences became undeniable.

Arizona voters will decide in November whether or not to legalize marijuana for profit and recreational use. How did we get here? Most of the legalization or decriminalization of marijuana laws were voter-approved initiatives (including AZ's Medical Marijuana Law). It seems today many people have bitten the libertarian apple of the supremacy of individual rights. What that position fails to account for is the rights of others or the fact that even individual rights exist in the context of other people. Take for example the model for the individual rights obsession: No-Fault Divorce: any spouse has the right at anytime to terminate a marriage for any reason or no reason without consideration for the rights of the other spouse and more importantly the rights of any children in the marriage.

The fact is that most of us are a little too enthralled with the idea of individual rights, of no one telling us what to do or how to live our lives. But we have to realize that part of being in a family and in a community means that at times a claim to sovereign individual rights is not absolute. Considering how a right affects us and not just me needs to be part of our consciousness. Just because I may theoretically have a right it may not be right to exercise it in all cases.

Unless we start thinking and making decisions and voter choices with an eye to what's good for us not just "me" then, well, our society might just go to pot.

In this marijuana mania sweeping the country whether for medical or recreational purposes we seem to forget that keeping bad behavior limited to "free adults who have a right to determine their own existence" is nearly impossible. Have we kept cigarettes out of the hands of young people, have we kept pornography out of the hands of young people, have we kept alcohol from the hands of young people? So why do we think that marijuana which harms the unformed psyche of teenagers will be any different, any less harmful? Especially since we already know that teen use of marijuana is epidemic.

Lot of parents who smoked pot and still like to now and then justify its legalization and use with the line of thinking that says: " I used it when I was young and I turned out OK." That's a very risky answer. Just because you did it and got away with it certainly is not a predictor that your child or any other child will not suffer some serious consequences. Too often those who experience no detrimental effect from occasional pot use think that a universal experience is the norm. Yet our society's problem with drug abuse proves that way of thinking very wrong. When a parent who used drugs or uses drugs looks at their young child and asks, "Do I want my child to use drugs?" how do they answer?

I realize that the generation pushing for legal status for marijuana is the same generation that grew up watching "Reefer Madness" and Cheech and Chong both of which made the anti-pot position a laughing matter. Unfortunately too many of that generation got stuck in that way of thinking and rather than fixing the problem they are making it worse. Life is not a Cheech and Chong movie folks.

Drugs, it is often said are for people who can't handle reality. Well reality is for people who can't handle drugs. Which can't you handle?

Love,
Fr. John B.

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