Trust state leaders with marijuana policy? Let's talk before we do something we'll regret

It looks like the state’s legislative effort to legalize marijuana has failed, so another petition drive will soon begin.

Now is the time for our leaders to start talking about marijuana like there are kids in the room.

This is how I will talk to my daughter: First, marijuana is a mind-altering plant that changes an individual’s perception of time and space. Some people feel euphoric; many feel depressed; others get hungry; eyes turn red; mouths dry, some hearts race others slow; paranoia and apathy are common; and some people devote their talents to celebrating marijuana and others to stopping its use.

While nobody has fatally overdosed from marijuana, marijuana plays a prominent role in highway deaths, countless arrests, workplace injuries, house fires, fractured families and emergency room visits.

Our nation’s marijuana policy is outdated and unjust, which is why I support our U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer’s effort to have marijuana reclassified as a Schedule II drug. Reclassification will allow all doctors to prescribe marijuana for patients, scientists to explore safer and more effective dosages, and ensure growers use environmentally sound practices in cultivation of marijuana. And nobody should go to jail for just smoking a joint; it should be like the speeding ticket I got 10 years ago.

While I support a fair and compassionate marijuana policy, I don’t support transforming marijuana use into legal recreation. Besides, I already voted for medical marijuana in Oregon and feel duped because 16 years later we don’t have a functional system. Now, the same people behind that effort are trying to make marijuana use our new national pastime.

Regardless, your life is going to be filled with problems and decisions that are far more significant than deciding whether or not to use marijuana. I want you to be able to think about your future and question reality without needing a drug.

In fact, let’s get your mind questioning right now.

Think about our state government — I know it’s boring and depressing. Our state leaders cannot stabilize school funding or build a bridge across the Columbia River. Heck, we can’t even develop a website for people to get health insurance. Yet some people want to give them a windfall of money to regulate marijuana. Do you think our government should devote precious resources to another bureaucracy devoted to marijuana distribution and use?

You know why I avoid the delis with all the lottery signs? Because, it is sad watching our state entertain gambling addicts with video games and long odds. And of course the state regulates alcohol, but no amount of money will ever undo the societal damage that drug causes.

I know. We are supposed to be talking about weed. We buy organic and avoid genetically modified organism foods because it seems healthy and environmentally prudent. Today, marijuana grow operations are polluting our land while they selectively bolster marijuana’s potency. Imagine what a giant company could do with genetically modified marijuana. Pretty freaky, huh?

Finally, I want you to think about grandpa. The final weeks of his life were painful and difficult. Watching him die made me appreciate how medicine, ethics and government are supposed to work. The morphine helped grandpa die in peace.

He loved you so much and, like me, he wants your mind to live in a world where kids love nuance thoughts, and drugs are about compassion and health, not emerging new markets, generating tax revenue or getting high.

How will our leaders talk to your kids?

Max Margolis of Northeast Portland is a past director for the YOUTHLINK Program at Oregon Partnership (recently renamed as Lines For Life).

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