- - Wednesday, September 23, 2015

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

During the second Republican presidential debate, Senator Rand Paul remarked that drugs are “a crime for which the only victim is the individual.”

Really?

Leaving aside arguments about federal laws trumping state laws, and assuming that Dr. Paul’s observation was directed towards marijuana, he not only did a great disservice to America’s youth, but undermined the herculean efforts of parents struggling to educate their children about drugs.

It’s hard to fall for the “no one gets hurt” argument when so many of us have seen otherwise—the twelve-year old who gets hooked by his older brother; the casualties from a car crash; the sleepless nights waiting for teens to come home; the neglected child whose mother is always high; the grandmother whose wallet is emptied every time her grandson visits; the 16-year old daughter who gets pregnant, too stoned to know any better; and the little girl fatally shot in the middle of a drug war.

Although Hollywood and our pop culture trivialize the ill effects of regular marijuana use while promoting its benefits, the drug culture is dark and dangerous.

We cannot put a price on the sorrow parents experience when the light of their life, the talented child in whom they had such hopes, descends into drug addiction. Family relationships and friendships become secondary to drug needs. Repeated and unsuccessful forays into rehab, counseling and treatment programs bankrupt families. Society pays a hefty price keeping neighborhoods safe and drug free, financing community and school programs, and fighting the cartels. The cost of turning productive, often brilliant and talented individuals into zombie-like drains on society, is inestimable. And the strains on an already burdened healthcare system can only intensify.

Habitual and casual users claim they can smoke and function just fine. They might be able to fool themselves, but the fact is, people notice. Recreational users who come away from habitual but casual marijuana use unscathed, are just plain lucky. For others and their families, the struggle for sobriety is fraught with failure.

What good can come from pushers who relentlessly pursue ever younger customers? Or cartels that infiltrate suburban and rural areas, once considered immune? Are we really comfortable with private companies taking over marijuana production? As the government and private sector wrest the marijuana business from the cartels, the cartels will increase production of more odious drugs and their brutality will know no boundaries as they fight for their turf. It’s just too profitable.

And now, the government is honing in on the action. Are we really comfortable letting the government profit from and/or get into the drug business? Won’t it be in the government’s interest to increase profits by expanding the number of consumers? If we can’t trust the government to do the things it is supposed to do, why would we trust them with this?

While not every pot smoker is an addict or ends up using more potent substances, most who graduate to harder drugs confess to having started with pot. Haven’t we all seen young people become apathetic and squander their talents after embarking on a love affair with weed? And, while in their stoned stupor, they might truly believe they are brilliant thinkers, writers and orators, to the rest of us they come across as, well, stoners.

The suggestion that drugs can be used safely and casually is a chimera. Marijuana can negatively affect the lives and health of recreational users just as it does with addicts.

No, Dr. Paul. Drugs know no bounds in terms of victims and costs. They force users to do things they wouldn’t do when sober, and destroy mental acuity in ways that can never be reclaimed. Drugs do not discriminate. Everyone is fair game—no matter their choice of drug or frequency of use. It doesn’t matter if rich, white parents pay for rehab and lawyers or taxpayers do—either way, the road to recovery is a long shot regardless of gender, color, or wealth. Go ahead: debate federal vs. state law, overcrowded jails, and improvements to the criminal justice system, but don’t tell our children that marijuana use is a victimless crime.

Demanding more taxes to fund more rehab centers, treatment programs, and counseling—while honorable—misses the mark. Like poverty, we pour more greenbacks into the symptoms while neglecting to treat the cause. The problem with drugs is the lure they have and the involuntary dependency they invariably create. In addition to helping addicts and tweaking the criminal system—both worthwhile endeavors—we need to do everything in our power to thwart the manufacture and importation of all drugs, and the ease with which our children access them.

We should be skeptical about crafting policy based on a tiny minority of people who smoke pot regularly, do not use harder drugs, and are functional. And shame on anyone who casts this as a liberty issue. It is an insidious epidemic and an existential threat to the country easily exploited by our geopolitical enemies.

Trumpeting that drug use is a victimless crime reveals only one thing:  for an ophthalmologist, Dr. Paul has an acute case of myopia.

Sally Zelikovsky is a former attorney who founded the San Francisco Tea Party and the Bay Area Patriots in 2009, and was active in Republican and conservative politics in California.


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