Are pot legalization opponents using smoke and mirrors?

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Before you roll me in Bugler rolling papers and light me up in an exercise of pyro-paganism and effigy, today's column is not so much an opinion as it is a puff of smoke ring observations and questions.

The roll-your-own question of the day is: Is the legalization of marijuana in the state of Nevada (or any state) as big a concern as publicized?

My point is this (and really think about this): Will legalization make usage and abuse of marijuana that much worse?

Will it be that much different than anything illegal that people want so badly that they will do anything to get it anyway? C'mon the abuse of any substance is bad, whether inhaled, injected, or imbibed.

During the prohibition days of the 1920s, people probably drank just as much (if not more) than when alcohol was legal. Making your own wine and beer was easy. Buying it may not have been that easy, but it was an available option.

Kids (and adults) who want to smoke the bud will make it a point to find it. The same with prostitution where illegal. The same with any crime. People who use and abuse know the effects of the act. They know the punishment for the crime. But they do it anyway.

Let's consider the health-related impairments of smoking pot versus smoking cigarettes and drinking. When you think about it, isn't alcohol abuse more of a Molotov cocktail to the intestinal track and brain-cell locker than pot?

As far as smoking cigarettes is concerned, I remember when I used to smoke two and a half packs of Salem Menthols a day for nearly three years back when I was in my 20s. I was a late starter and I wanted to make up for lost time! I also coughed up some Technicolor lung sponges too. Some real beauties. Every morning while in my third year as a smoker.

Can pot do that? How about coffee? Did you ever go a day without coffee after a daily habit of a couple of cups? It feels like your head was sucked of its oxygen and then boinged by a tennis racket. Just a minor league version of a shaky cold turkey aftermath from any slam-on-the-brakes abstinence of drugs and alcohol by abusers. Can the same be said of pot? Just a question gang ... don't reach for your "burn the witch" torches just yet.

With alcohol abuse and cigarette smoking, we have two legitimate death heads hidden beneath the marquee masks of clowns, but outlawing those would mean a great loss of commerce and taxes. Can't do that now, can we?

Does smoking hemp make people ineffective? Yup. So does alcohol. So do some legally prescribed medications. So do legally prescribed medications when mixed with alcohol.

Do I condone smoking weed? No. Am I entirely and unconditionally against it? All I can say is that I have had loved ones die from lung cancer directly related to smoking cigarettes. I have known people who were killed by drunken drivers. Kids killed.

Do I think that the affects of smoking the bush will cause people to jump out of windows or wipe out a troop of Boy Scouts at a McDonald's? No. This isn't a clip from "Reefer Madness." Is there a direct and proven correlation between violence and pot? No. Probably the extreme opposite, like reaching for the nearest Pink Floyd CD, or reaching for your pillow. Is there one for alcohol and violence? They're in abundance. Pick 'em.

That isn't to say that people who smoke pot don't commit violent acts. I'm just not ready to say that it was the pot that fired off the violence.

There are incidents that can ignite argument that marijuana fueled a violent act, the most recent case being the heartless murder of 16-year-old Emily Keyes at Platte Canyon High School in Colorado. The assailant, Duane Morrison, was a known marijuana user. But his motivation was not triggered by smoking a joint. His unforgivable act was one of cold-blooded, purposeless and relentless fury. The kind you're born with. Not the kind you light up and smoke.

Hey look, I wouldn't want anyone operating machinery after smoking a joint. I wouldn't want them driving either. I wouldn't want anyone working after a toke on a weed wiener.

But even if legalized, the restrictions of purchase and use would remain very tight. Probably tighter than buying a pint of alcohol at a local convenience store.

All I'm saying is that legalizing pot may not cause an eruption of abuse that common thought may suggest. If we outlawed cigarette smoking and alcohol, we'd be morons to think that those addicted to the substances would not find a way to satisfy their fix. I think the abuse of anything will exist whether it's legal or not. Trust me, I'm not on my way to buying a dime bag right after I write this column. But on the other hand, I'm not going to turn phony and not recognize the fatality score cards of other more dangerous vices that surround us. Legal ones.

• John DiMambro is publisher of the Nevada Appeal. Write to him at


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