Legal recreational marijuana: a view from the trenches


Last December, the state of Michigan declared it legal for anyone over 21 to possess and use — with some restrictions — up to 2½ ounces of marijuana for recreational purposes. That’s the equivalent of about 160 joints of a half-gram each.

The state Licensing and Regulatory Affairs Department still has a half-year before it must even entertain applications from those hoping to sell the drug to nonmedical users.

In the meantime, marijuana is legal to use on the state level, but it can’t be sold. However, it’s still a federal offense to possess or use cannabis. It is not allowed on federal property or in public spaces, public universities included.

As someone who goes to work every day and sees men literally dying in their struggles to overcome addictions, I think we need to adopt the federal no-tolerance policy when it comes to marijuana.

If I were to round up the 500 gentlemen that our initiatives have served since I came aboard Guiding Light about a decade ago, most would shudder and point to weed as the portal through which they descended into a living hell.

Does this mean it’s the gateway drug? To them, yes. But I’m savvy enough to accept that a more meaningful model of liability also takes into account the ZIP code in which you live, the family in which you were raised, the friends you frequent and the availability of all other drugs — alcohol included — especially during your formative years.

As we continue to wrap our minds around weed, I want to stress what principled researchers tend to agree on: That there is not a mountain of hard evidence supporting marijuana as a safe recreational drug. There is hearsay and anecdotal information for both sides. But the U.S. Surgeon General recently reported that no amount of the drug is safe for teens, young adults and pregnant women. And the federal government still classifies cannabis in the same category as LSD and heroin, a Schedule 1 drug that has no medical value and is “highly addictive.” All of which makes it difficult to secure funding and break through the red tape that restricts its study.

Few, if any, arguments to use marijuana make it a healthy choice to help advance yourself as a contributing member of society — unless you’re advocating it for legitimate medicinal use, which I support.

Who is to blame? In part, my own generation — we boomers — who have been singing weed’s praises for our own edification because some of us are selfish and self-serving. We don’t or won’t see weed for the long-term problems it’s capable of causing.

Let’s be real: Arguing marijuana is like quoting Scripture. You can find a passage pro or con to support what it is you want to do. And what you and I intend to do is not always connected to what our psyches inform us as being right.

Perhaps worse is defending weed as being OK since you haven’t been adversely affected.

Let me introduce a frightening word into that seemingly innocuous equation: yet.

Stuart Ray is executive director for Guiding Light Mission.

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