It was all over the papers, the shooting of one James Hunt at the hands of a drug cartel on Long Beach. According to reports, he had been involved in scoring drugs for clients and had tried to rip off his source. The media was having a brilliant time, using an enlarged photo of James beside the tagline ‘Marijuana can kill’.
But I knew better than that. I had known James, and he was an alright kid. I had played football with, hung out together and smoked pot. I know that this last bit of information might be looked down upon in society, but I knew James was a decent guy. Whatever be the case, he did not deserve to be shot, and he certainly did not deserve to be used by the media as a scapegoat for how marijuana was affecting youth.
I smoke pot too. I am also the smartest student in my class, on the scholarship and also on the football team. That is the ideal dream of an American youth, but if I were to admit I smoked pot in public, things would be different.
There is a deep stigma against marijuana in California and it is funny that so much concern can be put on a plant. Some of our counterpart states are learning though, say Colorado. Pot legalization means that people can enjoy recreational marijuana responsibly and legally.
Incidentally, it also means that pot can be found in retail stores, and not in shady alleys in the hands of a mini-cartel. I strongly believe in pot legalization, and I think that had pot been legal in California, James would still have been alive.
Three weeks ago, James had scored for us and we were sitting in one of our mutual friend’s place. There was idle chit-chat before we started the night. I had never been a habitual smoker, and I always underwent quickly. I always remembered my first time.
The first time I had done it, it had been a thrilling experience. When it hit me, I didn’t want to let go, keeping close the stigma that society had fed us.
I was a brilliant student, how could I be smoking pot here? When that phase passed, and I let go, everything turned blissful. I had always thought that marijuana turned you into a zombie, and made you incapable of any thought process. But I learned how wrong people had been; my mind was working like a computer here. I thought of things I could never have thought of in my normal state. It was as if I was now in a completely different plane of living.
When my high passed, and we gathered for munchies, I talked about some of the ideas I had during the high and I was literally amazed at what I was saying. From that day on, I became a fan but never an addict. That is the dilemma of drug users, and the biggest worry of governments.
There is a perception that those who do drugs are drug addicts. But there is a significant portion of people who do marijuana, only for recreation. There are also those who have found medicinal purposes for it. Of course, some of us will turn addicts but that is a matter of choice. You have to give people a choice, before they can make a smart decision.
My theory about marijuana was simple. It was like a forbidden fruit, and the more you regulate it, the greater the attraction it would have. People argue that drug usage is a vice, and vices need to be separated from society. I ask them in return, what about liquor?
While we are on the subject, I do not drink but my friends do, and one of my best friends used too. Carl was a brilliant person, but his greatest problem was drinking. On one of our bar nights, he had too much drink and I offered to drop him home. He laughed, and shrugged off my offer.
The day after, I found that Carl had driven his car into an intersection and died. I was broken, guilt-ridden and disappointed in the intoxicant that was so readily available everywhere. I stopped drinking thereafter, because it reminded me of him. But I always pondered on how comical our situation was: on one hand drugs were not legal, and on the other hand liquor was freely available and socially acceptable.
If I were to make a direct comparison, alcohol is much more dangerous than pot. Because unlike pot, liquor can disorient you, make you sluggish and you will never remember what happened the day before. Pot will only heighten your consciousness, but liquor will blunt it till you do not feel it. I found this the hard way by losing a friend, but others know about this too. But our society and government cannot see this obvious logic.
Drinking is common now, and we take it as a norm. The government can tax it and earn through it, and that makes them happy. Why are drugs so different?
I have friends in Colorado who can now buy pot in retail stores. It is pleasing to know that society and the government there have come to terms with what’s what, and taken a smart decision. What it effectively means is that people would no longer have to ‘score’ pot, but simply buy it. No more shady deals for a bit of recreation. There are obvious advantages to drug legalization at large.
The government can tax drug usage and gain revenue on one hand. On the other hand, they can help take away business from drug cartels and reduce their grip.
I can only hope that a domino effect would lead to more states realizing that the drug problem will never be solved through making it illegal. There needs to be a more pro-active approach at the governmental level. California has come quite close to marijuana legalization a number of times, but something always came up to hinder the final push.
We do have pro-pot speakers and renowned ones at that, but till now nothing substantial has been done. But the society is changing, and there is more tolerance for marijuana in California today than there were a couple of years back. A key part has been played by the pro-legalization lobby, in creating awareness and encouraging acceptance.
James Hunt’s death was disappointing not only because I knew him, but because it was avoidable. I do not blame him for going in a shady deal with some drug dealers, because someone had to do that for the benefit of the group.
And young people like us will continue to do so for the sake of recreation, no matter what government regulations are put in place. If we are only given the option to make an informed choice, we could achieve a win-win.
We have already done that with tobacco and alcohol, both of which are equally dangerous and fatal. It is time that the agenda against drugs is dropped too, and citizens are allowed to do what they feel is best for them. Colorado realized that, and pot will soon be legal in Washington. Why must California be so rigid?
It is time that the forbidden fruit is no longer forbidden. Marijuana should be available in retail stores, not in dark alleys. There are two ways that the future of marijuana can play out: either that legalization will pull through leading to the attraction for pot dropping off.
Or that pot is not legalized, and we continue to find more James Hunts shot dead in the night. Whatever be the case, I know my case for the legalization of marijuana very well.