There is yet again another initiative being pressed nation wide, and especially in Nebraska, to make marijuana legal. People doing the heavy lifting posit that if the use and possession of marijuana were legal crime would go down, taxes (as tobacco and alcohol are taxed) would flow into local state and national coffers and users would be happy. Don't worry -- be happy. It all makes me wonder.
Now personally I have never tried the stuff. I've not smoked it nor tried any of the extracts of cannabis or THC the potent ingredient that gives marijuana the desired "kick" for its users. That is only half the story as I intend to never use the stuff intentionally or unintentionally. Pilots have no need for the stuff!
Marijuana or hemp is an old-world plant. The story goes that during World War I farmers in the U.S. were encouraged to grow hemp for fibers used in the making the familiar hemp rope. It was feared that the world war would disrupt our imported supply of that necessary material and that we could easily produce our own supply. Then during the 1920s growing of hemp in the U.S. was banned as a matter of public policy. Unfortunately following its introduction to agriculture, the hemp plants liked the environment and went wild.
Nobody has to plant it. Now it has morphed into an unwanted weed growing wild in local pastures and roadside ditches. Hence one of the modern slang terms for marijuana is "ditch weed."
Hemp that is grown for industrial purposes or its wild cousin the pasture weed produces very little of the chemical THC and is of little regard in the illicit drug trade. In fact, it is of no value as a forage plant, because few animals other than goats will eat it. The plant's seeds, however are a favorite of mourning doves who flock to the weed patches in the fall.
One of my memories living in California was an evening stroll in the Merced City Park with Ann and our three young children. I sniffed a familiar scent in the air, a scent that I remembered from burning road ditches in the fall as a farm youth.
I asked Ann if she recognized the familiar smell and she, too, detected the odor but couldn't place it. Ah, it was the smell of marijuana being smoked by persons in the shadows nearby. Ditch weed a-burning.
Not long after I retired from the Air Force and returned to the family farm, we were delighted to host a visit by a pair of Air Force Captains. Mike, a pilot, was one of my KC-135 crew commanders and wife, Donna, a commissioned nurse specializing in infant care.
Both had grown up in large cities and were curious about farm operations. They accompanied me early one morning as I was setting irrigation water. I spied a flourishing 4-foot tall wild marijuana plant along a creek bank, pulled it up and held it out for them to examine. Neither had any idea what it was until I pointed out its rank smell and distinctive leaf pattern. "Marijuana, oh my gosh!" Neither would touch it, nor allow me to photograph them holding the plant. Pilots have no use for the plant and the couple were not about to allow a picture to be made with them holding the stinky specimen.
Marijuana is considered a "gateway drug" by many in this country. The concept is that people, particularly young persons, are introduced to drugs by smoking readily-available marijuana and then progress to other hard drugs.
A former law enforcement officer explained it to me in this manner: "A person tries marijuana and likes the high that it first gives him. Then he continues to use it in search for that wonderful feeling of euphoria that he encountered in using marijuana for the first time.
"He increases his use, but just can't replicate that first high, so tries other illicit drugs such as heroin, cocaine or meth and then becomes addicted."
Could be, but I suspect that nicotine in tobacco and caffeine in coffee, along with alcohol, all legal drugs of choice, might have somewhat the same effect on our bodies.
Personally, I suspect that one of the real attractions of marijuana comes from the concept that our society today frowns on its use. Experimenting with the drug is exciting simply because "old fogies" are against the practice.
"Everyone knows" that marijuana is not harmful and the kick it gives from use feels exciting, so why not give it a try? The road to hell is paved with good intentions.
Growing and dealing marijuana is big business in the U.S. For a time, I lived in the huge California County of Merced. One of my best friends there was an agriculture inspector for Merced County, who proudly stated that the gross agriculture product of his county was equal to the total value of what was, at that time, produced in Nebraska. He stated that the value of marijuana locally grown plus imported and sold in Merced County itself made it the number one agriculture product, but not counted in the official statistics. All that was before "medical marijuana" was legalized and may have only increased that drug's use in California society today.
The supporters of legalizing marijuana may have a point in that its popularity may diminish and crime will decrease, if like alcohol, the drug is made legal. For sure, our prison population will decrease much as it did when Prohibition was terminated. Tax the stuff and politicians will have even more money to spend. Everybody benefits or so goes the argument. Be happy.
Somehow, I am reminded of an observation that my father made concerning the end of Prohibition. He had neighbors, yes, right here in rural Nebraska, who operated hidden stills and others that were known bootleggers. Dad's opinion was that legalizing alcohol greatly increased its use, much to the detriment of society. During Prohibition, hooch was transported across the state line from Kansas in the trunks of bootlegger's cars -- now it comes across the state line in semis. So it will be when marijuana is legalized again, much to the detriment of society.
That is the way I saw it.