Brother Joe placed a well-written and cogent letter-to-the editor in the Fertile Journal in favor of the legalization of marijuana. It has unleashed a round of "have you seen the Journal yet?" gawking locally, as is to be expected. The knee-jerk shame reaction to having somebody take a stand contrary to prevailing dogma is strong.

We need to examine these questions cooly and logically. All scientific studies have found that marjiuana's negative effects are simply inconsequential compared to alcohol's. It is high hypocricy to sit at the bar sucking down beers while denouncing marijuana. The beers cause deaths on the highway. Marijuana has almost no effect on reaction time. Alcohol is addictive (although not as addictive as nicotine), marijuana causes psychological dependency, but nobody has had to go through detox to get off pot. 

I agree with Joe that pot isn't harmless, but locking up 800,000 people for marijuana offenses in this country is a waste of jail space. 

Is marijuana a "gateway drug" for kids? Only if you maintain the lie that it is in the same class as meth, cocaine, LSD, etc. The only way it is a gateway drug is if you have propangandized the children to believe pot is pernicious. They try it. They don't grow horns. They don't grow hair on their palms (an actual result promised in anti-pot literature of the 1920s). So then they think the are also being lied to about cocaine, meth and heroin. Then they turn into junkies. It is the lies that make it a gateway drug. The answer, then, is not to maintain the lies about pot to your kids as you head out the door to the bar, but to face the truth and say, don't do it. And then if you actually believe it, don't do it yourself, either. 

Another hypocricy that parallels this, to my notion, is people who don't curse around the kids but who swear like sailors when the kids aren't there. The fear there is not that the kids might grow up to swear, it is that they will swear at the improper time and bring shame down on the household. So many irrational "I don't want my kids to..." prohibitions stem from the fear of potential embarrassment rather than an actual honest assessment of risk to the body or mind. 

Joe just forwarded me the text of his letter, posted here in full:

I have heard that there have been several recent arrests in our community for the possession and/or distribution of marijuana. My heart goes out to the people whose lives have been affected by these arrests. It’s time for the madness of marijuana prohibition to stop.

The facts show that marijuana is less addictive and far less harmful than alcohol, tobacco, and many prescription drugs. There is no known lethal dose of marijuana, something that can’t be said for aspirin or ibuprofen or Xanax. While it is possible to become psychologically dependent on marijuana, it does not cause the severe physical addiction associated with narcotics, tobacco, or heavy alcohol use.

This is an issue that crosses political divides. Conservatives oppose unnecessary government interference with our lives and choices, while liberals want the government’s involvement in our lives to be rooted in compassion and logic. The current state of prohibition is illogical, intrusive, and the farthest thing from compassionate.

Millions of people in this country use marijuana recreationally and are able to lead productive, normal lives. I have read story after story of people who found marijuana effective for a medical condition when no other treatment would work. A commission appointed by Richard Nixon conducted a comprehensive review of marijuana and public policy and concluded that "from what is now known about the effects of marihuana, its use at the present level does not constitute a major threat to public health.” More than a dozen other government appointed commissions here and abroad have come to similar conclusions.

Before you judge those who use or sell this plant, please take a look in your medicine cabinet and your fridge. I’ll bet that the painkillers, anti-depressants, and Xanax consumed each day in our community would fill a coffee mug. Likewise, the alcoholic beverages we consume in Fertile would likely fill a bathtub. We all have problems, and we all struggle to find the best solutions to those problems. We should have the right to choose our own medicine, and our own way to unwind at the end of the day.

I am not for a minute suggesting that anyone, especially young people, should smoke pot. It dulls the mind, inhibits short-term memory, and I feel that it can delay emotional development by allowing people to run away from their problems day after day. It is much better to keep a clear mind and face the problems of life head on.

However, we need to start respecting the intelligence of our youth. Kids are adept at detecting when they are being lied to. When we attempt to portray marijuana in the same light as truly dire drugs like meth, we run the risk of losing all legitimacy with our kids. Worse yet, they might assume that the warnings about harder drugs are also baloney. Regulating marijuana like alcohol will eliminate the black market that now makes pot so easily available to kids, while helping to restore faith in the law.

Joe Bergeson, Fertile, MN

Good work, Joe!