Up in Smoke

Judith M. Villenueve of Maine has wrestled me to the ground and demanded that I hand over my column space this week for her writing pleasure. That is a total lie of course but I wanted to seize your attention. Judy is from the Pittsburgh region originally and has a certain affinity for this area to this day. This is a subject that should be near and dear to most everyone and if not, please make it so—as they say in Star Trek The Next Generation.

Up in Smoke

Hello people of Western PA!

I have asked your regularly scheduled columnist whether I could borrow this section of the paper to talk about something that has been on my mind, and she has graciously consented. Thank you Lisa! I always enjoy sharing my thoughts with your readers.

I want to talk to you about a plant. A plant that is, even as we speak, growing in backyards, garages, fields and warehouses all over this country and all over the world. I'll bet you know which plant I'm referring to already, but in case you don't, I'm talking about cannabis. This plant has many other pet names, which inevitably happens when people grow fond of something or somebody, but I think the word “cannabis” has a lovely ring to it, and not just because it sounds Latin, although that could be part of the reason. (I've been accused of being slightly elitist before, and perhaps I am.)

Now, I could approach this subject from any number of different angles. For instance, I could talk about how cannabis leads to far fewer deaths than tobacco or alcohol, both of which are legal. I could mention how the governors of states that have legalized it have done about-faces in regard to their objections to it, once they saw that their states did not experience the anticipated negative consequences they had feared would befall them. I could go into depth about how, just in the few years since some of our states have legalized cannabis and begun to tax and regulate it, their tax revenues have increased substantially, while the South American drug cartels have started to feel the pinch in their income stream. Or how those same states have experienced a precipitous decline in the number of deaths attributable to the opiate crisis.

I could go on and on, but I'm going to assume that you are all aware of these facts and statistics. In fact, I'm going to assume that most of you are as ready as I am to get certain federal laws, restrictions, and prohibitions on cannabis overturned.

But instead, I am going to talk to you about my family.

Last summer I took a road trip with my two adult children. We were driving from here in Maine to my brother's wedding in Missouri. It was actually a great excuse for a family reunion. There are ten of us siblings, and it won't surprise you to hear that our parents (who are no longer with us, sadly) were Catholics. Not a single one of us has remained in the Roman Catholic church. Instead we have each gone in a rainbow of different directions, and now we have a little bit of everything: conservatives, liberals, Bible-believing evangelical Christians, agnostics and atheists, Rush Limbaugh-loving Trump-voting capitalists and Bernie-loving socialists. And yet somehow, we were able to spend four long, beautiful summer days together last year, eating and drinking, singing around camp-fires, and celebrating my brother's marriage. We love each other very much and we are passionate about our beliefs, but when we get together we usually have a wonderful time. We always seem to find plenty to agree about, in spite of our many differences.

I enjoy talking about my family, because we are a sort of microcosm, or cross-section, of American society. And I find it very interesting that there is one thing that we ALL agree about – and that is the ridiculousness of cannabis still being illegal on the federal level in the USA.

At our family reunion, there were edibles and smokeables. Little pipes and bongs, brownies and some kind of coconut granola bar that my brother-in-law from Maryland had in his pocket in a baggie. Many of us drove from various corners of the country, from the east coast and the west coast, driving across state lines with cannabis in our vehicles. I suppose we felt quite safe in doing so (I did anyway) because we are all middle-aged white people.

At one point during the reunion, a bunch of us were sitting in my brother's garage (the brother who just got married), passing around a little pipe, and as I looked around at my siblings, children, nieces and nephews (don't worry, they were all over 21), I was struck by the fact that what we were doing was technically a federal offense. Not only that, but what we were doing was illegal in the state of Missouri. Now, there was quite a bit of silliness going on, don't get me wrong! Nothing that reached the level of Reefer Madness, mind you, but there was a inordinate amount of giggling and goofing around. So in a way, I can see how we were hurting society and ourselves in that smoke filled garage. I know that I personally started feeling a bit paranoid, especially knowing full well that I had supplied a good bit of the illicit substance that had led to the lawlessness going on around me.

It was just awful, let me tell you.

I can certainly understand why Jeff Sessions is so adamant about putting his tiny foot down on this issue. And why our own governor here in Maine, in spite of the people's referendum which showed that his constituents wish to legalize, tax, regulate, and sell recreational cannabis, continues to drag his feet and lie about any legislation the State legislature comes up with. I mean, who would want that to be his legacy? LePage certainly wouldn't want that evil weed to be legalized on his watch! I can see why this very insidious and dangerous substance continues to be vilified.

I have a confession to make right now. I personally very rarely indulge in any mind-altering substances. In fact, I've joked many times that I could convert to Mormonism pretty effortlessly, without having to give up any beloved vices. I don't smoke tobacco, or drink alcohol, and I have a cup of coffee maybe once or twice a month. Herbal tea is my biggest vice. I'm not a prude, and I try not to judge. Many people I know and love (and who wish to remain anonymous in case they ever want to apply for a federal job) use cannabis. And I've seen no ill - See Effects page 9

Effects - from page 3

effects on them as a result of this. They hold down good jobs, live in nice houses (not in their mom's basement), and all of their brain cells appear to be intact. I enjoy being around them. They never act like jerks. Can you say the same thing about that idiot in your neighborhood (or in your house) who gets drunk every weekend and wants to start - See Fights page 13

Fights - from page 9

fights and play with his guns? I'm just saying....

I probably would be preaching to the choir if I brought up the fact that Big Pharma and Big Alcohol pay Big Money to our law-makers to keep cannabis illegal. That is why this topic, even for a Big Prude like me, is so infuriating. It encapsulates a lot of what is wrong with our political system today. Keeping cannabis illegal benefits many wealthy corporations, while hurting the powerless. Our prisons are full of non-violent offenders, who are there because some wealthy

-See Keep page 14

Keep - from page 13

corporations don't want to give up their projected profits, and they know full well that if cannabis were made legal nationwide, that is exactly what they would have to do. To me that is the height of immorality. What about you?

[Editor’s note - Opinions and views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of Community News].