Watching brave new world of legal marijuana unfold

Watching brave new world of legal marijuana unfold

watching-brave-new-world-of-legal-marijuana-unfold

California citizens can breathe a little easier for having taken the law into their own hands through the initiative process and finally legalized the “recreational” use of cannabis. This means that smoking a joint won’t land you in prison with a felony conviction — a striking example of pot leading to the harder stuff.

But the normalization of marijuana and its infusion into the commercial mainstream will surely have consequences both beneficent and unintended.

While everyone’s subjective experience with this plant is somewhat different depending on the psychic and physical conditions of the individual (and the strain and strength of the herb), my own judicious use of it regularly over the past half-century has done me more good than harm. No doubt there are cases where the opposite is true, so I don’t pretend to speak for anyone but myself, but as it comes out of the shadows of small-time criminality, I find myself reflecting on its value.

Like many other plants, foods, intoxicants and medicines — tobacco, sugar, alcohol and prescription drugs, to name a few — cannabis can be abused. Most of us have witnessed examples of people acting like idiots under its influence. But people are idiotic under many circumstances, and it’s dishonest to blame what we have voluntarily ingested (whether too many drinks or too many tokes) for our own dopey behavior. Like other substances, it is only as dangerous as the people using it.

I speak of adults, of course, not unformed adolescents whose developing brains and impulse control are always at risk of premature corruption. But for grown-ups who can govern their appetites faced with the vast array of contemporary temptations — the internet alone is an ocean of alluring vices compelling in its offerings of virtually everything imaginable — pot can be an instrument of healing, of calming equanimity in the face of stress, of creative thinking or of harmless fun, depending on its application.

Surely this is not news to those (including many of you reading this) who have used it for these and other purposes. It has been so widely available for so long in the informal economy and will be so carefully regulated as it enters the formal one that I doubt the patterns of its consumption will change very much. What will change is its entrepreneurial and industrial potential as a capitalist product with enormous profits to be had from its production and distribution.

And here is where the corporate predators — big alcohol, tobacco and pharmaceuticals — arrive and, like other manufacturers and marketers and retailers of scale, threaten to crowd out the independent small-business people and the mom-and-pop pot shops that have bravely pioneered this budding industry.

It’s hard to predict exactly how it will shake out, but you can be sure that once the big boys get in the game, the little guys and gals will have a hard time competing in the open marketplace. And yet, the nature of the plant itself, its ease of cultivation and private trade, almost guarantees a continuing off-the-grid and off-the-books business model. Free-enterprising outlaws, operating on a smaller scale, will go on doing their thing under the radar.

So it will be interesting to watch this brave new world unfold in states like ours where pot is legal but still at odds with federal laws that prohibit its cultivation, sale or possession. I imagine the new president will have more urgent things to do than crack down on the cannabis business — there are so many immigrants to expel and refugees to reject and treaties to abrogate and alliances to break and dictators to make fabulous deals with — but those of us who use marijuana not for “recreation” but as a mood stabilizer or social lubricant or imagination stimulator or pain reliever or antidepressant or anxiety settler will find it a useful tool in navigating a new and unpredictable reality.

Next up for California: single-payer health care.

Stephen Kessler is the author, translator or editor of more than 30 books and a regular contributor to the Herald’s opinion pages.

Source – Monterey Herald

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