This is a guest blog post that was submitted to Village 14.
Like many other Boomers, I favored legalizing recreational marijuana in the Commonwealth. Not that I wanted to partake- far from it! In my early adulthood, pot was both a blessing and a danger. It opened my life to Dionysian experiences without alcohol; it loosened my inhibitions, mostly for the good. At other moments, however, it trapped me in a suffocating apathy and even melancholy. Those days are long past. I prefer to live life with eyes open.
Still, it seemed absurd and hypocritical, given my own history, to vote to prohibit recreational use of a drug already so easily available. With some reluctance, then, I voted “yes” and hoped for the best.
Surprisingly, the issue hasn’t evaporated. In the approaching election, Newton voters address two ballot questions that both overlap and contradict each other. One would ban the presence of recreational pot shops in Newton altogether. The other, a supposed compromise, would limit the number of recreational pot shops to two to four, fewer outlets than otherwise allowed by the new state law. Even if the outright ban triumphs, nothing, of course, would prevent adults from shopping for pot in neighboring communities. Remember every legal adult, in every Massachusetts community, has the right to light a joint or consume marijuana edibles.
Which leaves me concerned and frightened. Legal pot might contain TSC levels higher than the funky stuff of my college years. As a former high school teacher, I always drive reluctantly, warily on weekend evenings in Newton. Why? I know that a significant number of high school students, some of whom also drive, get drunk on Friday and Saturday night. How much more dangerous will our roads become if student-drivers gain access to potent marijuana? Have no illusions: underage students, who have little difficulty acquiring illegal pot, will easily get the legal stuff. To be fair, adults high on pot may also pose a threat on our roadways. The Commonwealth has yet to institute a marijuana sobriety test to complement the one for alcohol consumption- a powerful deterrent to driving while intoxicated.
At a recent meeting of the Waban Area Council, on which I serve, a health professional who works with troubled young adults at McLean Hospital in Belmont argued against recreational marijuana sales in Newton. He declared that around 90% of his patients abuse marijuana. Apparently, he fears that legalizing recreational marijuana sales will increase his patients’ access to the drug. Someone at the meeting countered, with justification, that those abusing the drug already have access to it. I need not summarize the numerous arguments on all sides of the issue; you have probably heard them all.
Undeniably, adults who use marijuana moderately can live responsible, productive lives just as moderate drinkers can. Some Boomer friends of mine never really stopped smoking dope after college.
To them, the high is more relaxing and less dangerous than that of alcohol. However the electorate votes, the ballot questions will not deter many Boomers and Millennials and Generation X’ers from chilling at day’s end with their weed. Nor will their peers stop drinking alcoholic beverages, whatever the risks to their health and safety. Unless the Commonwealth becomes a police state, people young and old will choose either to stay sober or to drink alcohol or to ingest marijuana…or to do all these things at different times!
So how should I vote?