2002-04-18 / This Week's Attitude

This Week’s Attitude

This Week’s Attitude

By Neil S. Friedman

Legalization Won’t Result In Nation Goin’ To Pot

In the same week that Mayor Bloomberg reached his 100-days-in-office milestone, his face was plastered in print advertisements helping to promote something with which he’d certainly not choose be associated — the legalization of marijuana.

Last week, NORML (National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws) kicked off a $500,000 campaign with a full-page ad in The New York Times, using Bloomberg’s image and his resounding 2001 admission about his experience with cannabis, the technical term for the illegal substance: "Yes, I used it. You bet I did. And I enjoyed it."

While the mayor did not appreciate the group using his image and words, uttered last year before he was mayor, to promote their agenda and regrettably becoming their new poster boy, he nevertheless handled the minor incident with aplomb.

"I am not thrilled," he told reporters, but added that he was not going to try to suppress them because "there’s that First Amendment that gets in the way of stopping me."

The group also placed ads in subway stations, on buses and public telephone booths and in other newspapers, with the tag line, "It’s NORML to Smoke Pot."

NORML has been around for over 30 years with one essential issue on its agenda — to get marijuana legalized, which would greatly reduce arrests for merely smoking pot in public. NORML’s radio spot claims there are 50,000 arrests annually for pot smoking in New York City alone!

I support their strategy. However, I don’t advocate anyone, especially those under 18 and those who’ve never tried it, rushing out and sampling marijuana while it remains an illegal substance that may have criminal consequences.

When I smoked marijuana, like the mayor, I enjoyed it, too. In fact, it’s safe to presume that a substantial majority of anyone from 40 to 55 years of age has tried it. I daresay that presumption includes many politicians — except, of course, the most famous repudiator, former President Bill Clinton, who said he smoked but did not inhale. As a matter of fact, such noted politicians as New York State Governor George Pataki, former New Jersey Senator and presidential candidate Bill Bradley and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich have admitted smoking pot in their youth.

Essentially the only reason the drug hasn’t been legalized is because there’s an unsubstantiated assumption that smoking marijuana leads to harder drugs. That’s like proclaiming consuming beer will lead to drinking 80 proof whiskey!

Neither is addictive nor harmful in moderate use, but those who are long-term users or seek a higher high will likely succumb to more harmful drugs and potent potables.

There was a buzz (pun intended) in the freewheeling ‘60’s that a major American university conducted a study whereby researchers fed lab rats their body weight in marijuana over a period of 30 days. As a result, the pot-saturated rodents showed a multitude of problems, leading to the conclusion that cannabis could result in similar effects to humans.

That study was scientifically questionable and patently unrealistic. Of course anyone capable of smoking their body weight in pot in a month will be harmed — and probably experience a severe case of the munchies!

Anyone who consumes their body weight of anything, whether it’s water, broccoli, tofu, potato chips or Twinkies, in a month, may risk adverse side effects.

The key, as in anything else, is MODERATION.

I don’t know of any conclusive study purporting that smoking an occasional joint does more harm to the human body than a daily shot of liquor. But marijuana is an illegal substance, while alcohol supports a multi-billion dollar business, including retail sales and advertising.

Marijuana legalization was a long shot at best in the early 1970s — and just as unlikely today. Nevertheless, 30 years ago, seizing an opportunity that was too good to miss, there were unconfirmed rumors that several American tobacco companies had copyrighted a bunch of brand names, such as "Acapulco Gold" and other pot-related sobriquets, in case the substance became legitimate. I don’t doubt those copyrights still exist, and will be used if and when marijuana is legalized.

It was recently reported by a national substance abuse group that underage drinking accounts for one-fourth of all alcohol consumed in this country. It’s no surprise that the alcohol industry rejected that estimate as "absolutely wrong."

While continuing to preach "No" to addictive drugs, we should send a similarly stringent message repudiating alcohol, especially to the nation’s youth.

However, despite pervasive use, we’ve not become a country of alcoholics. And legalizing marijuana won’t result in the nation going to pot.

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