Originally published in my high school newspaper The Sentinel in 2008, this examines the ongoing marijuana controversy (really? 2013 and still not totally legal?).
Johnny smoked a rock of crack,
And almost had a heart attack.
Billy smoked a lot of pot,
A little hungry is all he got.
This endearing four-lined nursery rhyme is more beneficial to me than any information I acquired during the years—and class time—wasted in D.A.R.E, the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program that inculcated the majority of my middle school beliefs. I wasn't taught so much as I was brainwashed with black and white shades, the same straightforward hues that seemed to color most of my views in those days. All drugs, we learned, were deadly; all users were abusers. There was no room for gray area, as this would only muck the canvas of high school life and "the real world" our educators painted. Although there was brief mention of drugs from categories that are actually hazardous—central nervous stimulants and opiates—an outrageous amount of lessons were dedicated to the loathsome gateway drug, marijuana.
Oh, for the love of Mary Jane.
Using scare tactics derived from hypothetical situations, DARE coerces students to Just say no!—without using actual statistics to explain why marijuana will destroy them.
Perhaps because these numbers are vitually nonexistant. How many marijuana related deaths are reported yearly? Marijuana related accidents?
Other forms of anti-marijuana propaganda, particularly the "Truth" and "Above the Influence" ads, don't convey any more reality. I have yet to understand the reoccurring theme of dogs telling off their owners, bitching about how disappointed they are in their smoking habits. Seriously, these aren't just talking dogs—they're negative too.
I'll admit, I did enjoy the commercial in which a girl completely melts into a puddle on her couch…definitely the ideal way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Although I know my mom would totally kill me if my liquid self leaked over the cushion and stained the carpet.
Our society has welded the very iron that forms this marijuana gateway. By law, we classify marijuana as a Schedule I drug, placing it in the same category as heroin. "Schedule I drugs have a high tendency for abuse and have no accepted medical use." Evidently, the Federal Drug Administration also owns talking dogs, although their pets are both negative and misinformed. Not only is marijuana prescribed medically, but it is inherently non-addictive—something that cannot be said of many legal substances; alcohol, cigarettes, and prescription drugs. When Billy smokes pot and realizes DARE and the government lied—he got high and nobody died—he begins to question the validity of other substance warnings. If this is the reason for ruckus, if Daren-the-fuzzy-DARE-Tshirt-wearing-opposable-thumb-baring-anti-drug-lion-mascot is full of lioncrap (the vilest kind), then what other harmless kinds of fun are the authorities hoarding?
This is when Billy becomes Johnny and our drug culture is no longer funny. Fear dominates. Front page headlines scream detriment in bold print, locks and keys keep out the you to keep in the me; nightlights, The Bill of Rights, foreign soil fights. As part of our survival instinct, fear is practical; as a governor of our every action, it is ludicrous. We fear what we do not know—be it the dark, the future, nameless faces…strange substances. It is only when we understand matters for what they are that we can handle them accordingly, without blinding fear. This is achieved only through facts and the real truth—information gathered from a variety of resources. But it's much easier to alleviate fear with fast action. By casting good guys and bad guys, we simplify the world to fit our lack of knowledge and then eagerly play our roles accordingly. We preach and demote in a similar monochromatic manner, because color only complicates. Yet the color will be discovered no matter what we do, and a mess of tie-dye will inevitably ensue.
If you smoke a joint, you will not die, your dog will not be disappointed in you, you will not become a puddle, and your life will not suddenly spiral downward. Granted, you're not being particularly productive. Smoking too much too often can lead to habitual laziness, which means you don't really do, uh, anything—and although it's less harmful than cigarette smoke, it doesn't exactly purify your lungs. And yes, marijuana shouldn't be used in excess…just like everything else. Yet we do not go to extremes to outlaw the trans-fatty foods that cause obesity and death, to prohibit the Internet that creates an alternative reality far more addicting than our actual lives, to forbid the outrageous amount of coffee guzzled daily so Americans can function "normally." Although these pose as much of a threat—if not more—to our well-being as marijuana, we are accustomed to them and because of this familiarization, unafraid.
No need to fight that which we do not fear.
Our minds are already stuffed with enough two-toned concerns; a world composed of more color is where Billy really learns. For Miss Mary Jane's sake you'd best be keen...rather than so damn scared of a little green.