Bob Franken


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Let’s face it, I am one boring person and, as you’ll soon discover, a bit preachy sometimes. I don’t drink, and I’ve only tried weed twice in my entire life. The only reaction I had was to get thirsty. And I certainly don’t need pot to get the munchies. Right now, you are probably asking yourself, “Why bother even telling you this?” Here’s why: A lot of commentators who are musing about the spectacle of Colorado’s decriminalization of recreational marijuana find it necessary to begin their reflection by fondly reminiscing about their own mellow times getting stoned. Apparently they think it bestows credibility on them, as they ponder the long lines in Denver to buy newly legalized pot. It’s now allowed in the state, but it’s still against federal law, and that’s why a debate has lit up anew. Shouldn’t the prohibitions be lifted everywhere in the country, so sales and use can be regulated by local officials and the feds in a joint effort (sorry, I had to say that)?
Shouldn’t it be treated like alcohol? The answer is, of course it should be. The restrictions against a drug that is clearly less harmful are clearly absurd, particularly when studies show that brutal penalties against violators are enforced much more harshly in America’s poor and minority communities. Alcohol is an addictive drug that is demonstrably more destructive to individual health and to society as a whole, it’s regulated and limited, but it’s sold to anyone who meets the age requirement. We should be able to lead our private lives as we want, as long as there’s no danger to society. Of course there is plenty of danger, but we should be evenhanded. After all, what’s good for the booze should be good for the ganja.

But here comes the preachy part: Why do we use the stuff? Why have we always indulged in substances that make us crazy, loud, destructive, you name it? Are we as a species so frightened of reality that we need to escape it by ingesting something mind-altering rather than just dealing with it? Obviously the answer is we do need chemical reinforcement, since we have drunk, inhaled, chewed or injected it since the dawn of time. As obnoxious as we inevitably get, we overlook all that and design subterfuges that make it hip to partake, a sign of maturity and/or sophistication. So we go out and get high or drunk or whatever word you want to use to describe obnoxious. For many, having a good time without a “toke” or a “pop” or a “snort” or whatever is just too much work.
It’s not just recreational use of drugs. If we’re feeling just the slightest bit sad, no matter what the good reason, there’s always some physician willing to prescribe Zoloft or Prozac, or some other SSRI, which messes with the brain’s chemicals in ways no one fully understands. Is your kid a bit scattered? Well, it’s not hard to find a doctor to prescribe Adderall, which is speed, by the way. It’s important to mention that these pharmaceuticals provide tremendous benefit to those who have a genuine medical or psychological problem, but the stuff is dangerous to those who don’t, whose only purpose is side-stepping responsibility for their performance. Instead of dealing with their issues, they want to cop out by becoming numbed.
That’s the appeal of alcohol, marijuana and the other playtime substances — they numb us. But why do we want that? Yes, I’m sure this is being dismissed by many of you as a priggish attack on fun, but I’d love to think I enjoy a good time as much as the next person. I just don’t want to regret it afterward. I’d like to remember it the next day when I wake up. But we really do need to wake up. Sure, legalize this stuff, but realize what it does to us.

© 2014 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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