Up In Smoke

It has been said that the first casualty of war is the truth. I was reminded of this recently when I turned on the TV late one night, and caught a recent episode of Special Assignment singing the laurels of legalizing that wacky weed, known in SA as dagga. True to form, the Special Assignment report was anything but unbiased and objective as they confused the issue by co-mingling two different aspects of the debate & homogenizing medical marijuana with its recreational uses. In truth, while related, these are two separate ethical issues that Christians need to approach differently.

Ever since the US states of Colorado and Washington legalized the recreational use of dagga, there has been major pressure from the world’s media and pro-pot advocates to push for legalization of the wizard weed for more than medicinal purposes. In part, the issue came to the fore here in SA when IFP MP Mario Oriano-Ambrosini, who has stage four lung cancer, told parliament he uses dagga oil for its palliative properties to help manage the ill-effects of his treatments.

As the issue of legalizing dagga ramps up, one can already anticipate the truncated logic and blatant propaganda that will be trotted out in hubbly-bubbly fashion to portray legalization of dagga as a Peter-Pan panacea. We can expect the same old worn out arguments that have been in vogue since the 1960s, when the counter-culture took Timothy Leary’s advice to “turn on, tune in, and drop out.” Sadly, many who took Leary’s advice failed to ever surface back to reality.

So what kind of smoke-screen logic will be presented endlessly as the pro-pot lobby marshals its forces, in effort to convince the public of the benefits of recreational dagga? What follows is just a sample of what is in store:

1. Public opinion has shifted dramatically in favour of legalizing dagga: But is this really a compelling reason to swing the gates wide open and legalize dagga? If public opinion overwhelmingly decides that laws related to reckless driving and speeding are “archaic” and “ineffective”, should lawmakers throw up their hands in defeat and concede to public sentiment?

2. The war on drugs has failed: This famous dictum is normally the first salvo fired in the debate. But the premise is flawed because it assumes, without any empirical data, that legalization will not be attended with any negative consequences. By the same line of reasoning one could just as easily conclude, based on current crime stats in SA, that the war on car-jackings, rape, violent crime, and murder have all catastrophically failed. So why not channel money used to fight crime into more positive pursuits like social upliftment? Since poverty supposedly causes crime, this would reduce criminal activity. Right?

In the US, the pro-pot forces have been using this rationale to great effect. Yet, when one looks at the war on poverty that began with President Johnson’s Great Society 50 years ago, it has epically failed. After 50 years, 20 trillion dollars in welfare distributed, the poverty stats today are comparable to those at the beginning of poverty alleviation. It has amounted to a zero-sum game — if 20 trillion dollars spent is a zero-sum game. But I don’t hear any liberal-like voices declaring, The war on poverty has failed. Why not?

3. Smoking dagga is no worse than smoking cigarettes or drinking coffee Such logic is stratospherically stupefying. Cannabis is well documented to promote numerous negative side effects some short term, some lasting: memory impairment and cognitive function for starters as it induces speech impediments, dulls thinking, limits knowledge retention, affects problem-solving, and hampers complex motor skills all of which is hardly the recipe to promote safe, responsible drivers, innovative thinking, or productive workers. In a small percentage of cases dagga produces psychotic responses like when 19 year old Levy Thamba, who was visiting friends in Colorado, ate a cookie laced with dagga. He went berserk and leapt off a balcony to his death.

Dagga smoke has more cancer-causing toxins than cigarette smoke, damaging both brain and lung cells. Where is the anti-smoking lobby now?

In short, let me ask you, would you rather board an airplane knowing that the pilot just smoked a cigarette and drank two cups of coffee, or that he just toked two refers? Which scenario would make you feel more comfortable as that plane barrels down the runway for take-off?

4. “People are going to smoke anyway: In a fallen, sin-cursed world, people are going to do many things that are harmful to both themselves and those around them. This is precisely why we need government and law enforcement. So do we really want to make this rationale the cornerstone for practical ethics and morality?

5. Prohibition on alcohol didn’t work, so we should legalize dagga for recreational purposes: This argument fails to acknowledge the staggering effects fuelled by alcohol abuse, alcohol related crime, domestic violence, and deaths on the streets and highways. In effect, pro-pot logic tacitly endorses, even if unintentionally so, more destruction of lives, the further demise of the family, the negative fallout on children, and the economic impacts of all this. In pro-pot logic, two wrongs make it a right.

6. Legalizing dagga will reduce social costs: No doubt some crime-fighting related costs could be reduced. But this will be offset by expenses related to enforcing government regulations legalization will require. Then, when one calculates the price-tag placed on the social consequences of legal dagga dagga related crime, drugged driving, welfare costs associated with familial breakdown, and the costs on state-sponsored rehab for the legion of new addicts & the tax revenues harvested from this new cash crop will hardly cover society’s THC induced coma. Can we really afford the unstated, unintended fallout from the recreational uses of this drug?

While a case can be made for the therapeutic and industrial benefits of dagga, it must be acknowledged that the pro-pot forces use medicinal marijuana as a backdoor entrance to recreational legalization. It has become a THC Trojan horse for dishonest proponents of the weed. My home state of California legalized medicinal dagga in 1996. According to my many law-enforcement friends in that state, the laws surrounding the implementation of medical marijuana are so porous and poorly enforced that California has no need to legalize pot for recreational purposes. Californians already enjoy recreational use of dagga by default of medicinal marijuana.

When you add it all up, what pro-pot lobbyists advocate will only serve to extend use of the drug. But if one dares to confuse them with the facts, they will use the media to take pot-shots, ridiculing their opponents in a haze of disinformation.

The sum of pro-pot logic amounts to placing a large, red juicy apple in a barrel of rotten apples hoping for the rottenness to be reversed. The sum of this equation is really quite predictable.

As Christians, we must remember we are called to be holy not high!

(Note: In my next submission I will specifically address the biblical response to pro-pot thinking.)

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