The widespread use of marijuana and its growing social acceptability has now led to a political movement to legalize its use all over the country. Recently neighboring Massachusetts has legalized the sale and use of recreational cannabis. Politicians have been quick to see the possibilities of tax revenues from legalized pot sales, and neighboring states like New York and Connecticut are thinking of getting in the game.

Francis DeStefano

My wife and I have always loved the Berkshires, that hilly, heavily wooded section of western Massachusetts and still like to go up for an occasional overnight in Great Barrington. The motel we stay at is near a cannabis dispensary and it is somehow sad to see the long line of people waiting outside from morning to evening to make their buy. Most of them look like middle-aged men with time on their hands.

On our most recent trip we had an even sadder experience. We often visit a men’s clothing store in a nearby town that is the epitome of the kind of old-time men’s clothing store that has disappeared practically everywhere else. I’m not a clothes horse but my wife loves it and she picks out most of my clothes there. We are regulars and have come to be friends with the charming and nattily dressed owner who always regales us with stories about his wife and children.

On this visit we sensed that something was wrong. He responded to our how are you with a modest ok but his face looked sad. My wife is good at engaging in conversation and while picking out some pants for me to try on, she got the story. Since we last saw our friend, his daughter had been in a horrible automobile accident that had practically taken her life. She was the apple of his eye and he always told us about how well she was doing in college.

We didn’t get all the details but she apparently had pulled over to the side of the road to check out something with her car. She was then hit by a speeding car driven by two seventeen year-old boys. The boys had been using marijuana. The girl suffered an incredible amount of brain damage, and is still in a special hospital. Her brain plates have had to be removed because of swelling and she goes in and out of consciousness. She has difficulty recognizing her father and mother.

Incredibly, the driver of the car that hit her was released. To the surprise of the state police who came to the scene of the accident, the District Attorney has dropped charges. She is a young politician and marijuana advocate who apparently has political ambitions. The family had to hire a lawyer to arraign the driver. Her father does not want the boys put in prison but believes there should be some punishment.

On an earlier visit to Great Barrington we actually talked with some people from New York who had come to Massachusetts to purchase marijuana. They admitted that they could have easily obtained it illegally at home, but preferred a variety that was available in the Great Barrington dispensary. We met in a restaurant parking lot after dinner and they were in a talkative mood. One older woman said that she used it because it was the only thing they gave her relief from chronic aches and pains. A somewhat younger social worker admitted that she used it just to get high once in a while. She explained that she was not a drinker and that she used marijuana for the same reason that someone might have a few drinks at a party or bar. A young man was with them who had apparently come along as the designated driver. These people were pleasant, ordinary people who did not look like drug fiends.

I think it inevitable that marijuana sales will be legalized in Connecticut and New York. People will say that marijuana use causes no more auto accidents than drinking or texting. Advocates will discount the cancer risks of smoking marijuana even though studies show that more carcinogens can be present than in cigarettes. Moreover, it will be pointed out that millions will continue to use marijuana whether it is legal or not. Finally, politicians will be attracted by the possibility of not only increased tax revenue, but also private profit opportunities.

The drive to legalize marijuana reminds me of the way cigarettes became popular during my childhood days. Although cigarettes were not illegal, we were warned they could stunt our growth. Nevertheless, they were glamorized in the 1940s and 1950s by the film and advertising industries. Of course, we had no idea that they could cause cancer.

Our favorite celebrities and athletes were not only smokers but they were also featured in innumerable ads in print or on the radio. In these days before TV, incessant and glamorous smoking was evident in the movies we attended every Saturday afternoon. Stars like Humphrey Bogart a chain smoker who would eventually die of lung cancer, smoked constantly in his films. Baseball stars smoked in the dugout during the actual games, and endorsed their favorite brands in advertisements. I don’t know why I never took up smoking. Maybe, I could never see myself as the rugged, outdoor Marlboro Man.

Over the past 50 years, cigarette smoking has become viewed as a disgusting and dangerous habit. It’s not just the cancer connection, but it has also fallen out of favor in the media. At the same time, pot smoking has grown in popularity among the celebrities of a new generation. They have spearheaded a cultural revolution that has made opposition to marijuana seem pig-headed and obsolete.

Even though marijuana may be legalized, its use could still have the same terrible consequences that resulted from cigarette smoking. We require cancer warning labels on cigarettes, ban their use in public places, and even try to tax them out of existence. They can no longer be advertised, and have virtually disappeared in movies. How long will it take the film and entertainment industry to turn on marijuana? One just has to look at that line in Great Barrington to see that it isn’t that glamorous.

Francis P. DeStefano, Ph.D., of Fairfield, is a writer, lecturer, historian and retired financial planner.

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15 Comments

  1. No one should drive a car while intoxicated on anything ever. That being said people in the United States have been driving under the influence of alcohol, prescription drugs and cannabis in ever increasing numbers since the mass produced automobile was invented. Alcohol and prescription drug intoxication are commonplace as the direct cause in a very large percentage of all fatal auto accidents. Over 16,000 traffic fatalities a year are directly attributable to alcohol intoxication and over 5,000 more to pharmaceutical drug intoxication. Both alcohol and prescription drugs are well known statistical serial killers both in driving and in life in general.

    All automobile accidents with fatalities require full spectrum blood toxicology for all the driver at fault. If cannabis use did cause large numbers of traffic incidents we would see it in the news and the statistical data but we don’t. To the best of my knowledge ( I have checked thoroughly), not a single police agency in the US even keeps a statistic for automobile fatalities caused “solely by cannabis intoxication”. Every police agency in the nation shows ever increasing numbers where alcohol and pharmaceuticals are cited for traffic deaths.

    I am completely against anyone driving intoxicated on anything and support severe penalties for intoxicated drivers, but the silly “OMG cannabis users are going to start driving and cause a rash of accidents” position is just more reefer madness nonsense and has absolutely no basis in actual crime statistics!

    1. Hi A Freedom Fighter, we welcome your comments but please note that our guidelines require that comments be limited to 1,000 characters. We will not be able to approve comments that exceed that limit going forward.

    2. Perhaps you haven’t checked out the impact reports issued by every state that has legalized recreational marijuana. Colorado is one of them. And there are increasing numbers of traffic accidents and fatalities where marijuana is the sole impairment. And if your argument for legalizing recreational pot is that people drive under the influence of alcohol and pharmaceuticals already, that really IS nonsense.

  2. Conflating cannabis and tobacco because they can both be smoked is like conflating coffee and whiskey because they are both liquid beverages.

    Arguing that cannabis is bad because “tobacco” clearly indicates that one has no real argument to mount against the herb.

    1. I think you may have misunderstood. I believe the point being made was that for so long tobacco/cigarettes were touted as wonderful, cool, safe, not a hazard to health, etc. Same with marijuana, whether it’s smoked, vaped, eaten or whatever. How many people became ill and/or died from smoking tobacco before testing established it was a carcinogen and addictive? Where’s the safety testing on marijuana? There is none. How many people must become addicted, become ill or die because of marijuana (despite what states do, can’t call it “legal” because it’s still illegal under federal law) because our lawmakers are chasing the almighty dollar?

  3. Learned alot about Cannabis the other night. Noted the difference between medical marijuana and a typical pain prescription is that the doctor controls the prescription, tells you 1 pill every 4 hours, 4 a day, etc. With a marijuana card, you can self medicate eat an entire box of brownies, smoke what you like, the doctor doesn’t monitor, doesn’t provide rehabilitative care with a plan to end the script. 2, CBD products are in every gas station and albeit not marijuana, they are the close cousin, a hemp product. They are being sold as the cure all to everything and being openly targeted to kids. 3. Only 3 states with recreational laws have enacted per se impairment thresholds. 4. Vaping – we know the additives are killing people. Its sad that the rush to get tax revenue is seemingly more important than working out the problems.

    1. Utter hogwash. You use the failures of this public policy as excuses to perpetuate them. The direct, proximate cause of the vaping deaths is prohibition itself. None of the vaping illnesses have been linked to products regulated by the States. It’s time the sycophants of prohibition take some personal responsibility for the costs imposed by prohibition.

      Nobody is targeting youth with CBD. That is truly beyond absurd to even imagine.

      1. I also learned how polarizing the topic is. I don’t disagree that people have to be responsible for themselves, but unfortunately today, people are quite ignorant about the products they consume, otherwise they would buy the product over the counter as they can and avoid these issues.

        If you don’t think that CBD Gummies, CBD Night Teddy Bears, CBD Relaxation Bears, and CBD Froggies are sending a message to kids that they’re ok to consume, you’re simply not thinking broadly enough. Maybe we should bring back the Marlboro Man, candy cigarettes and all the advertising that has been deemed a way to rope kids. It’s ok, over time we’ll see how the theory of evil government and denial of reality work’s out.

  4. Maybe the problem wasn’t that those two boys “had been using marijuana” (whatever that means, as the author does not specify whether they were high or actually under the influence), but that seventeen-year-olds were driving in the first place. Why discuss the perils of weed when clearly it was the fast-moving car that caused the damage to the shopkeeper’s daughter. I see a lot of hand-wringing over marijuana, but very little discussion about public transportation reform or raising the driving age.

    Additionally, marijuana isn’t even legal for seventeen-year-olds to purchase anyway. You can’t argue against legal weed for adult use by citing a case in which weed was illegally used by minors.

    1. Are you suggesting the driving age be raised to 21 or building another bus to nowhere because a kid using weed had an accident and caused someone’s death? Poor Johnnie, killed someone, he’s just a victim of his age. OMG, ask the family of the deceased how they feel. Instead of raising the age for everything, why not hold them responsible for their acts and make them grow up instead of holding their poor little hands and crying a river for their “mistake”. How about instead of locking them up maybe they should be mandated to serve a tour in the military for 10 years in a combat zone to help them grow a little.

  5. As a user of reefer for over 50 years I find it difficult to read an article from an author who seems to be educated but ill informed.
    Intelligent people ingest reefer by eating it.
    Grow it yourself and make some incredible edibles.
    Works great for my arthritis and all around well being.
    Any kind of smoking seems way too odorific and nasty.
    Eat reefer and enjoy !

  6. The state took pot and made it a drug that benefits the rich, is overpriced, and is stimulating the black market, which is raking in the dough.

    The middle class and working poor, who use the plant for medicinal purposes, are screwed, financially. and medically. The entire marijuana legalization structure in CT. MA at al.. rips off every budding entrepreneur and turns them into drug dealer beause the DEMS/Communists made it an elite business.

    Americans in the middle class and working poor are denied any opportunity for success in Blue States. Buyers should just learn to grow it for themselves. The Dems/COMMUNISTS get rich over the ignorance of the masses who never asked the question, ‘Why is this not a free market product? Why are your daughters and sons not rich enough to obtain a license, grow or distribute a weed?’ After all, it is a weed. Communism. That’s all it is, economic Communism.

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