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OPINION: Marijuana’s going legal, and nobody's making a fuss!

New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo. AP photo

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

This week, Governor Cuomo is expected to announce a plan to introduce legal medical marijuana in New York State.

Unlike some states, where marijuana can be prescribed for almost any minor condition (and many dispensers undoubtedly just wink at this prohibition), medical marijuana in New York is expected to be only available for serious conditions such as glaucoma and cancer. It will also be dispensed only at a select number of hospitals, rather than “dispensaries” like those in states like California, which often bear provocative names like “The Green Light District.”

Here in Brooklyn, our new district attorney, Kenneth Thompson, has said his office will not prosecute arrests for possession of small amounts of marijuana, but will just give them non-criminal fines. "Too many young people are being arrested for low-level drug charges that leave a permanent stain on their records for what should be a violation," Thompson said.

Getting back to medical marijuana, 20 states have now legalized it in some form or other. More remarkably, two states – Colorado and Washington  -- have passed laws legalizing recreational marijuana. The initiative is being delayed a few months in Washington, but in Colorado, a reported $1 million in business was done at about 35 “pot shops” during the state’s first day of legal marijuana. One such store, in Boulder, also offers items like “Sweet Mary Jane Crackers,” “Heavenly Honey Lemon Chill Pills” and “Twirling Hippy Cheesecakes.” Maybe the latter item can give Junior’s a run for its money.

The most remarkable thing, however, is that these wide-ranging changes aren’t setting the world on fire. No one’s turning cartwheels in the street. Conversely, no one’s warning that legal marijuana will lead to heroin and crack addiction.

Imagine if marijuana, legal or otherwise, had become legalized in the ’70s! What a change it would have been! Radio stations would have been playing songs like “Panama Red” and “One Toke Over the Line” night and day. People dressed in tie-dyed shirts and walking like Mister Natural would be “toking up” in public. Chcech and Chong, and a thousand other comedians, would have been making “weed” jokes on late-night TV. “High Times” would have sold out every copy.

What do we have today? There are few modern equivalents to Cheech and Chong or the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour’s “Take a Little Tea with Goldie.” Smoking marijuana isn’t considered “deliciously naughty” anymore. Much of this can be blamed on the Reagan administration, which included marijuana in its “War on Drugs” along with cocaine, heroin, meth and others. Whereas beforehand, students smoked marijuana openly at college concerts with the cops looking the other way, and in their dorm rooms with the doors wide open, this attitude forced marijuana indoors. While few people share those attitudes nowadays, the damage was done.

For the record, I smoked marijuana, mainly at parties, but didn’t think much of it. To me, it was like having one glass of beer – something with little effect. Maybe the big mystique of marijuana was that it helped to give the younger generation a sense of identity. “They” drank Scotch, but “we” smoked marijuana (and drank sweet, cheap wines like Boone’s Farm Apple). Now, that distinction has been removed. Parents of one of today’s college students, upon learning that their son or daughter smoked a joint, are likely to just shrug their shoulders.
Legal marijuana is arriving, fast and furious. Too bad they took the fun out of it!

January 6, 2014 - 2:30pm


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