Retorts: Keep your pot to yourself, please

THE USE AND SALE of marijuana are hot-button issues. Did we do the right thing in legalizing it?

Don’t smoke that dope. At least not around me.

That sort of summarizes my whole attitude about the legalization in California for medicinal and recreational use of marijuana, also known as cannabis.

As our cities of Garden Grove, Huntington Beach and Westminster wrestle with the new laws relaxing the restrictions on weed, pot, Mary Jane, etc., many arguments are advanced on both sides as to the wisdom or rightness of smoking or eating this stuff.

Supporters of more access to “mother nature” claim that it’s less addictive and harmful than alcohol, nurtures creativity and provides a whole array of health benefits including easing the effects of chemotherapy to people being treated for cancer.

Opponents argue that the stuff makes you stupid, serves as a gateway to harder narcotics, can be addictive, impairs many motor functions and, after all, is still considered an illegal substance by Uncle Sam.

Each side can cite research to support its side of the leaf, er, story. The National Institute for Health condemns its alleged ill effects, but researchers in Australia and Harvard say, no, that’s all exaggerated and, at worst, temporary.

Liberals and libertarians agree that the acceptance of marijuana is a personal choice issue, and if we ban marijuana as dangerous, why are there liquor stores and bars all along Beach Boulevard and Katella Avenue?

I’m not in a position to fairly judge the merits of the research. And I certainly can appreciate the irony inherent in a society which bans one form of commercialized stupidity in favor of another.

I have never smoked or otherwise partaken of marijuana. To me, any form of smoke is repugnant. My parents smoked when I was growing up and I lived in a haze of nicotine for years. I had a roommate who – after promising not to – used to try to sneak a doobie or two when he didn’t think I’d notice. Not cool.

Philosophically, I am out of sympathy with any mind-altering substance. Sure, I will have a glass of wine about once a month, but I’d rather have a pitcher of Coca Cola. I don’t expect other people to be quite as dull as I am, but that’s my taste.

In viewing the whole issue of whether or not marijuana should be legal, or sold, or whatever, I apply the classic “nose” test. You may have heard it before. “Your right to swing your fist ends where my nose begins.” Although I don’t really believe in the stuff, it’s difficult for me to support a whole giant expensive law enforcement effort to suppress it. But what I do believe in is keeping it away from people and places where it doesn’t belong.

Unlike alcohol (mostly), marijuana is motive, meaning its effects travel through smoke. As society eases its objections to MJ, I am noticing more frequently the aroma of reefer, hash and roach. I can detect it more and more in parking lots, while walking the dog and in many closed-in places.

Some folks might like the free contact high, but I’d just as soon leave my lungs free of any burning substance’s effects. Police are reporting increased DUI incidents involving drug use, especially marijuana. The stuff may be relaxing, but it seems self-evident that one shouldn’t be driving with a hand-rolled narcotic dangling from one lip.

When voters were asked to approve the use of medicinal marijuana in 1996 via Proposition 215, I voted for it on the naïve assumption that it would be dispensed discreetly to a handful of people by sober pharmacists at CVS or Walgreen’s.

Instead, what we got was a flood of tacky-looking sketchy barely-legal dope peddlers all over our three cities operating out of the backs of down-at-the-heel strip malls. There’s no way there are that many glaucoma patients in need of ganja at 3 in the morning.

Too many users and sellers of the stuff are not showing the restraint they should, as I see it. As long as other people’s “personal choice” means my world has to become polluted with dope smoke, increased risk on the road and civic blight, I’m wondering if we really have thought this thing through.

So, if you are a lover of the herb, the best way you can keep citizens such as me from voting the other way next time is to keep that blunt, etc. discreetly consumed, bought and sold. Otherwise, the “nose” test – in the form of smoke – is going to work against you.

Jim Tortolano’s Retorts appears on Wednesday. His other major vice – other than Coca Cola – is pizza.



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