The Problem of Pot. A Reflection on the Increasing Legalization of Marijuana

012614It is perhaps emblematic of our decadent times that the two most noteworthy legal maneuvers of late, occupying significant time and resources of the the legislative and judicial branches are: providing legal recognition to homosexual unions, and the legalization of the smoking of marijuana. Welcome to the decadent West.

To these legal maneuvers it must be added to other ignominies of recent decades such as no-fault divorce and the horrifying legalization of the killing of the unborn; 53 million dead Americans and counting, plus the untold cost of the destruction of marriage and family as we once knew it.

Maybe there is a certain perverted “Logic” to wanting to legalize getting stoned. People after all need to medicate their anxious and bewildered souls! I say this, of course, tongue-in-cheek.

I think this is the first time I have commented on the increasing attempt to legalize the use and sale of marijuana “in small amounts.” Frankly, there are bigger issues. Most of us know that pot has been around for a while is probably here to stay. Nevertheless our insistence that we legalize its selling and use is not a healthy sign.

I suppose the libertarian in me says, “Why should the government care if people smoke a little weed. But the pragmatist in me says, “The last thing we need is a more widespread use of another mind altering drug that makes people, frankly, stupid.”

A few disclaimers, before I make my main point.

1. Some claim, that alcohol has caused far more harm than pot. This is probably so. But of course alcohol is more widely used, and that surely explains its more devastating effects in our culture. And it hardly makes sense to argue that sanctioning another legal mind altering drug will have little or no effect through traffic accidents and other deleterious behaviors. Of course it will, being out of our right mind is seldom going to produce good effects.

The bottom line is alcohol has been with us almost from the beginning, and is here to stay. It is in a different category that other drugs in that the Scriptures permit, even commend its moderate use, and Jesus made wine and used it for the sacrament of his Blood.

No one would argue that alcohol abuse is a good thing. Why add to the problem with pot?

2. Some say that legal sanctions are not the proper way to deal with drug use. To some degree it is reasonable to argue that incarcerating people with drug problems is not a wise approach. Perhaps it is these more punitive measures that need adjustment, rather then sanctioning the use of marijuana by the removal of most legal obstacles to its sale and use.

3. Some say that laws will not stop the use of pot, it is a cultural trend and people who want to use it will find a way. I will say that law has influenced me. Knowing that something is illegal and carries possible severe legal issues influences my thinking an helps my choice to stay away from such proscribed behaviors, not just with drugs, but other illegal activities too. I doubt I am alone. Law does have a pedagogical (educational) function.

4. I ought to say, I have never even tried pot. Frankly I have never even taken a drag on an ordinary cigarette, not even once. The thought of dragging filthy smoke into my lungs has never had any appeal to me. I like the smell of a good cigar or pipe, or incense but I have no interest in dragging that stuff into my lungs in large and literally choking quantities. That the anti-smoking zealots are not on the warpath about smoking dope is a puzzling silence and probably another example of the self-censorship of political correctness.

But on to the main point, Namely, a discussion I would like to have about the observed effects of marijuana use. I want to say that the reflections I offer, are anecdotal; they are not rooted in advanced statistical studies. Frankly, I don’t have a lot of interest in looking up the statistical surveys on pot use, most of which will be questioned by anyone who doesn’t like the results anyway. I am more interested in having a discussion here about the effects of marijuana use as I have observed them, and to inquire of your own experience with having either used marijuana, or observed others who do.

Some say that pot causes no harm. I disagree from about fifty + years of observation of what I have seen it do to others.

Back in high school (mid 70s) about 30% of the students in my Public High School of 3,500 students smoked dope regularly. They called in “partying” “getting stoned” or “getting high” in those days.

It wasn’t hard to know when someone started using marijuana. Almost instantly their over all attitude changed. Many who had been good students, engaged and talented, started to withdraw, and adopt a passive aggressive stance.

Regular pot use by them, from my observation, caused a kind of lethargy, a sort of laid-back, who-cares attitude often mixed in with a non-complaint resistance: “Hey man, I ain’t got to go to the man’s class…”

The look on the face of pot users came to seem vacant and dull, their eyes glazed and unfocused. Their posture became slouchy, clothing and hygiene suffered. Absenteeism and tardiness increased. And when they were in class at all, they weren’t really engaged or alive. Their faces tended to take on a kind of hang-dog look, jaw half open, hands in their pocket, shirt untucked; they seemed bored with life, and uninterested. Frankly, they seemed “medicated.”

Generally grades dropped and anti-social tendencies increased. Some who had once played sports withdrew when drugs entered. Membership in other clubs also ceased and was replaced with hangin’ out in the smoking court, a place (in those days) set aside for students who smoked cigarettes.

Now mind you these were the after-effects of pot use. I am not saying they were “high” all the time. But long after the high was gone, these lethargic symptoms lingered and became a rather stable part of their disposition.

Except for those who are in more advanced stages of alcohol abuse, the effects of the alcohol abate after intoxication passes (plus perhaps a brief hangover). But pot seems different, it seems to alter the personality more “stably” so that the user is dull even when not high.

Some may call this dullness by more positive labels such as being laid-back, carefree, or cool. But I am sorry, I have seen spiritually serene people, and they don’t come across as medicated. What a spiritually serene person manifests is worlds apart from the dulled medicated look of pot smokers.

Now as I say, this is my anecdotal testimony. But I offer it with fifty-two years experience, 25 of them as a priest and counselor.

Pot is no good. It messes with your mind on a semi-permanent basis, causes lethargy, dullness and makes you unmotivated. Getting “high” introduces a kind of dull and low bottom dwelling when the “high” is gone.

Don’t do drugs. Pot is not harmless, it will change your personality and make you dull of mind and heart. It introduces stinking thinking.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says,

The use of drugs inflicts very grave damage on human health and life. Their use, except on strictly therapeutic grounds, is a grave offense. Clandestine production of and trafficking in drugs are scandalous practices. They constitute direct co-operation in evil, since they encourage people to practices gravely contrary to the moral law. (# 2291)

This is pretty unambiguous and something a Catholic ought to take to heart before saying the legalization of drugs is no big deal. And while many say pot is harmless, my experience of observing others is that it is not harmless at all.

How say you? What have you observed?

This song by Joe Walsh was a favorite in the late 70s and celebrated drug use, but also illustrated the fogged in, confused and anti-social tendencies that resulted from it. Perhaps the most classic line from this song is: I go to parties, sometimes until four. It’s hard to leave when you can’t find the door.  Vacant, empty and stinking thinking.