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home : opinion : opinion April 29, 2016

4/17/2014 11:57:00 AM
Letters to the Editor

Escaping reality?
I have been trying to follow with as much interest as possible all the news about the legalization of cannabis, both locally and statewide. I live here. I have not read much from those who voted against legalization. The majority voted against it in Douglas County, and a very slim margin voted in favor of it in Chelan County. Is that forgotten? At the very least, it doesn't seem to matter much to editorial boards or state representatives. I do not presume to speak for others, but concluded I should put some words to that concern myself in order to preserve any real sense of personal integrity. And I suppose I should take care of some information about myself to save someone else a little time and effort if they should feel the need to rebut through discrediting. Full disclosure: I am a recovering addict/alcoholic and, if the Creator wills it, will at the end of March celebrate 31 years of continuous sobriety. In a very small way I was, in my youth, involved in what some are calling the "black market" of the drug world. It was a way to make a little bit of money...but more importantly (for me anyway), it was a way to get my pot for free. I had my brushes with the legal system, went to treatment, and now am writing this. Over the past 30 years I have been helped and guided by many knowledgeable people who gave of themselves freely and with abandon, passing the light of hope and health not just to me but to countless others. I eventually took up the torch, and have done my best to emulate them these past 29 years in service to others. There are thousands upon thousands of us. I have been treating people with substance use problems these 29 years in hospitals settings, your local school districts, in residential inpatient settings, private practice, and now in a local community-based setting. All but 4 of these years have been focused on adolescent and family treatment, and all but 6 years have been devoted to assisting those who can't afford it. There is no monetary gain for me in keeping cannabis illegal. I do wonder at some of the statements made by the more vocal proponents of legalization, however...and much of that does seem to revolve around promises of riches and the saving of our youth from crime and corruption.
In many ways, the "black market" services corruption, rather than creates it. Corruption, in this case, is more thoroughly created through social sanction of a harmful behavior: ie., turning want into perceived need then, through legal sanctioning, turning misperceived need into a Right: the Right to entertain ourselves (recreate?) through substance misuse, gambling, sex, and/or violence. I'm no prude, to be sure, but over the past 20 years I have noticed these "rights" being expected by younger and younger members of our human family...and espoused by more and more of their supposed protectors. Kids haven't changed. Adults have created the dangers youth face. Kids don't run the cartels, own the breweries and distilleries and wineries, they don't own tobacco companies, advertising agencies or pornography industry. They didn't create Spuds McKenzie or Joe Camel, and they certainly didn't invent taxes and politics and the legal system. These are all adult endeavors...children only become the target, the hapless recipients of adult indulgence and greed. It is our adult lack of integrity that keeps us from doing what is right and from speaking the truth about what we have done.
What rationalizing and minimizing of reality is exercised in convincing ourselves that a legal market for pot will be handled any differently than it has been for alcohol or tobacco or prescription drugs? Taxing and regulating those things certainly solved all our financial woes, did it not? And it kept it out of the hands of our youth, yes? Look at alcohol now...it is a staple of life, right there next to the bread and eggs.
Our history, and indeed the whole of humankind, abounds with examples that teach us that what is sometimes legal is not always right or true. Legalization will not decrease demand; it will increase demand. Just like it did and is doing with alcohol, it makes it more acceptable to use at younger and younger ages. It makes it more accessible. That has been a lesson learned over and over again in our society. It is not even debatable. If it were not true why the promise of a percentage of the tax windfall for prevention, early intervention, and treatment? I read that crime, corruption, and lost sources of revenue are some of the main drivers for legalization. I also read that we can't stop people from using cannabis (Tracy Warner, 3/14/14), but maybe "we can defeat the black market and undermine its corrupting effects". I would encourage that outcome. By such logic, should we not do the same with heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine/crack, and all other such black market ventures? (no, I am not equating pot to those substances. It is a mistake to equate pot to alcohol as well. Everything is relative. No one thing is equal to another.) It would appear that for some there is a belief that prevention/intervention does not work. I would refer them to available research on the subject.
Someone once said that doing the same thing over and over again, each time expecting a different result, might very well be a sound definition for insanity. Is the way we are going about this cannabis business an example of that? Attempting to regulate and think about cannabis the way we do alcohol is ludicrous. They are not the same animal. Still, they do have at least two things in common: they are both intoxicants and alter brain function and perception, and they are both toxins. Pharmacologically, a major difference between the two is that alcohol is water soluable, while THC is fat soluable. The significance of this is that fat soluable substances take much longer to be eliminated from the brain than do water soluable substances. It would make sense to note, then, that a single dose of pot (whatever that means) lingers in the brain much longer than a single dose of alcohol (much easier to quantify and define a dose of alcohol). While a thing is in the brain, it acts upon the brain. How do you define or regulate that? We know that harm can and does appear in degrees with both substances. Does the question then become: what is an acceptable level of harm? What yardstick do we use? What are we willing to accept? Will that level of harm ultimately be worth the projected revenues? I understand that many of the Tribes in our state have simply said they will not allow the sale and distribution of cannabis on their lands. That is an honorable and respectful thing to do. It is the right thing to do. It is the courageous thing to do for the people...especially for the generations to come. They are acting with integrity. Leave them alone, and learn something from their example.
We have sanctioned a behavior- the use of yet another class of psychoactive substances we know to be damaging to the brain-despite all evidence to the contrary that it is right and good to do so. By making it legal, does that somehow change the truth? Cities and counties should not be threatened with penalties for acting in the best interests of their citizens. Those tactics are familiar to me...I used to get the same carrot and stick approach from my supplier many years ago. I do not believe the answer lies at the other end of the spectrum, either. Prohibition has not been the answer. If neither are the answer, maybe a more viable approach lies somewhere in the middle. Don't outlaw or sanctify a health condition: treat it. Don't repeat past mistakes, learn from them and act accordingly. Doing the right thing is often times the more difficult road to travel in the short term. Standing by one's convictions, with science on your side, is the right and honorable thing to do. Giving up and giving in because not to do so is hard will not be good for us, and will certainly not be good for our children and the generations to come.
Treat the cause, not just the effects. The cause is not the black market, nor is it the drug. The cause is unhappiness...a result of not being willing or able to accept the reality of a current state, and wishing it out of existence by employing the 'quick fix'; whether that quick fix is untaxed drug money, or the high a substance or behavior provides.

Chris Tippett
Cashmere





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