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Cool down the rush to legalize pot

Dec 19, 2013 - By Ben Barber, MCT News Service

There is a mad rush to legalize marijuana these days, but it's time to rethink that generous yet foolish move -- generous because it lifts the onus of crime from peaceful smokers, but foolish because it harms mental development and health.

Legalization, as we have seen it in Colorado and Washington state, lifts the cloud of legal fears from the shoulders of pot smokers.

But legalizing pot would almost certainly lead to much wider smoking of the weed, leaving millions damaged for life.

"People who started smoking marijuana as teenagers and continued into adulthood showed an average IQ drop of 6 points between age 13 and age 38" reported US News and World Report in 2012.

I know the effects of weed intimately and have seen the good minds of my generation squandering their talents and health on the addictive buzz of pot.

Back in the 1960s, I made my way to one of the best communes in northern California, a place where we built our little houses in the forest, cut firewood for the winter and delivered our babies in the pure mountain air.

But time moved on for many of us and we spread out into the wider world. I traveled to India and North Africa and the Middle East. Finally I decided to study journalism and swore off weed until I graduated and got my first full-time reporting job.

When that day came, I began covering the city council, traffic accidents, school conflicts, labor strikes, corruption, elections and the other meaty stories of small-town life in Massachusetts. I found that weed meant nothing to me compared to the rush of participating in public life.

Years later I returned to the commune and found a few old-timers still ensconced in the redwoods. On that visit, a couple of the young'uns were sitting around the main house smoking up a cloud. They said they were going to take the chain saw and cut up some fallen Douglas fir trees.

We left them in the gloomy house, rolling up yet another joint, and hiked around the hills.

After two or three hours, we returned to the house and -- guess what? No wood was cut. Nothing happened but hours lost in fantasy.

Pot destroys all initiative. If the brain needs to itch before we scratch it through meaningful work, pot soothes that itch and makes it go away.

Aside from the hacking cough so many of the older smokers developed, most likely linked to cancer as well as to emphysema, pot reduces the ability to interact with the modern world.

Too many pot smokers simply divide the world into "us" and "them."

Legalizing pot may take us to a place we will not want to be in a few short months and years.

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Editor's note: Ben Barber writes for the Baltimore Sun.

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