The stupidity of legalizing pot

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe once said, “By seeking and blundering we learn.” That is true, of course; some of life’s most painful–and most valuable–lessons come as a result of blundering and failure. Still, it is not necessary to experience everything for ones’ self in order to learn. In other words, it is quite possible to learn from the experiences–and the mistakes, in particular–of others. Being willing to do that is a demonstration of wisdom. There are two other quotes I have heard before in varying forms, and I have not been able to determine the originator of either, that demonstrate this truth. First: “Wise men learn from their mistakes, but wiser men learn from the mistakes of others.” Second: “A wise man learn from the mistakes of others while fools learn from their own mistakes.” Similarly, according to Forbes contributor Vitaliy Katsenelson, there is a Russian expression that says this: “The wise man learns from someone else’s mistakes, the smart man learns from his own, and the stupid one never learns.” I am afraid we have a lot of stupid people in the United States and next week–apologies to my friends who live there–we are going to find out exactly how many of them live in Ohio.

Next Tuesday, Ohio voters will weigh in on whether or not to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. According to some reports I have seen, polls are indicating that as many as 56% of Ohioans are in support of the idea. On September 15, Toledo voted to change its city ordinances to decriminalize marijuana, “abolishing jail terms and penalties for possession of up to 200 grams of marijuana” according to the Toledo Blade. The measure passed by a margin of more than 2 to 1. Only 9% of eligible voters turned out to vote on the question, called the “Sensible Marijuana Ordinance.” Sensible? Yeah right. Very effective spin by someone, though. It is not as if Toledo specifically, or Ohio in general, have a monopoly on stupidity, though. Colorado, Alaska, Oregon and Washington already allow the recreational use of marijuana. President Obama is on record supporting the idea. The National Organization for Women and the ACLU have been lending their support for legalizing marijuana in the upcoming Ohio vote.

Why am I saying that if projections hold it means the majority of Ohioans are stupid? The Russian expression says the stupid man never learns. Taking even the most cursory look at the impact of legalized marijuana in those states where it is permitted, though, reveals exactly how bad an idea it is. It is surely tempting on many fronts. After all, people have been saying for years that marijuana does not cause the problems that other illegal drugs do. Those places where it has been legalized enjoy tremendous tax revenues as a result of its sale. A recent WORLD article reports that Manitou Springs, Colorado is expected to have $25 million in marijuana sales this year. That translates into $1.2 million in tax revenue for the city. The state of Colorado is projected to take in over $100 million this year in marijuana revenue. In the month of May alone there was more than $11 million in “marijuana-related taxes, licenses, and fees” according to the WORLD piece. And those are just state-level numbers; they do not even include local taxes like the $1.2 million for Manitou Springs. If someone says, “hey, this doesn’t hurt anyone and it will bring in lots of money for the city and state, too?” who wouldn’t be tempted? Only the stupid, though, refuse to look beyond the sales pitch and investigate the darker reality. The financial windfall is legit, but so are the costs that will eventually result. And I do not mean only financial costs, either.

Oklahoma, Nebraska, Wyoming and Kansas have all filed lawsuits against Colorado, seeking compensation for the additional costs they have as a result of marijuana purchased legally in Colorado. Sheriffs in Colorado counties that do not allow marijuana sales–and fewer than one-third of the state’s towns and cities do–have sued the state in an effort to get back the additional costs they have as a result of the problems caused by marijuana. What kinds of problems? John Suthers, the mayor of Colorado Springs–which does not allow marijuana–says, “Marijuana has become pervasive in our schools. Most of our suspensions are from marijuana. Legalization has lessened the perception of risk among young people, and when the perception of risk goes down, use goes up.” That quote is from the WORLD article. A September 22 report on RT addressed a 166-page report released after a federal government study. The study revealed “increases in marijuana-related traffic deaths, hospital visits, school suspensions, lab explosions, and pet poisonings.” Furthermore, the report stated “that the number of drivers testing positive for marijuana increased 100 percent from 2007 to 2012, with marijuana-related fatalities doubling….” Oh, and as for the suggestion that legalizing marijuana will actually make it safer by eliminating the illegal sale, or black market, for pot? Forget about it. In a February article in Newsweek Ben Smith quoted William Bennett saying, in response to a questioner asking if pot was worse than underage drinking and abuse of prescription drugs, “It’s not worse than alcohol. We know we have a problem, and we have not managed to keep those things from kids. Colorado was supposed to eliminate the marijuana black market, but it did not.” On May 18 Dion Rabouin reported in the International Business Times about the face that legal pot dealers have incredible amounts of oversight and red tape to deal with whereas the illegal dealers do not, creating the problem of “the competing black market dealers who have none of the costs of operating a lawful business and often have access to product of similar quality. Marijuana advocates long suggested that legalization would be the key to wiping out the black market for marijuana, but almost a year and a half into the experiment, that hasn’t been the case.”

There are numerous more reports, articles and studies that could be quoted to support the case against marijuana. None of that gets much attention on the ground, though, when the vote is looming. In the last Republican presidential debate Chris Christie had the courage to say what few others have said, which is that the federal government needs to enforce the law. It was established long ago that when there is a conflict federal law trumps state law. The sale and use of recreational marijuana is still a federal crime. Funny, isn’t it, how the federal government has been happy to allow states to do their own thing on the issue of pot but would not let them make their own laws regarding marriage. Sadly, they have their role exactly reversed. Marriage is not a federal government responsibility, and, per the Tenth Amendment, should be left to the states. Drug use, though, can easily be substantiated as a public security and health risk, making it an appropriate responsibility of the federal government.

I shudder to think of yet another state voting to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. My hope is that there are enough people in Ohio who are not stupid that will show up next Tuesday and vote to keep it illegal. And the state then needs to do to Toledo what the federal government needs to do to Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington. The last thing we need is more stupidity.

What a Fool

The Bible has plenty to say about fools. Do a quick search and you will discover that there are dozens of verses mentioning fools in the Scripture, and the majority of them are in Proverbs. The “book of wisdom” provides an abundance of insight into what makes one wise and, on the contrary, what makes one a fool. Proverbs 18:2, for example, says, “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion” (ESV). This was perfectly demonstrated mid-May in front of the Qingdao Auto Show in China…

Chinese media reported that an unidentified Chinese man hired three men wielding sledge hammers to destroy his Maserati Quattroporte outside the show. Why? Because he was unhappy with the Furi Group, the company that handled the $390 repair job on his $423,000 car, claiming that they used secondhand parts.

Oh, okay…well at least he had a reason. A foolish reason! This man was perturbed with a company that did a minor repair job costing a miniscule fraction of the cost of the car, so in order to vent his frustration he decides to destroy the car? What good, pray tell, did that do? None…other than that he got to “express his opinion” in a very public, very noisy, very expensive way. But he clearly takes no pleasure in understanding, and that makes him a fool.

Proverbs 29:11 reads, “A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.” This unidentified rich man certainly gave full vent to his spirit! He was irked. He was ticked. He was spitting nails! He has so mad he just had to do something to express his fury. “Ah!” he said, perhaps; “I will bash the car with sledgehammers! That will show those imbeciles at the Furi Group!” A wise man would have found a much healthier (and much less expensive) way to vent his frustration and even to correct the problem, but not the fool.

Proverbs 13:16 says, “In everything the prudent acts with knowledge, but a fool flaunts his folly.” Paying men to destroy a nearly-half million dollar car with sledgehammers is definitely folly. Hiring men with sledgehammers to smash the business with which the man was irritated would have been foolish too, but it would at least have made some semblance of sense. If there is such a thing as being foolishly foolish ( a fool squared, maybe?) this man is it. Rather than vent his anger at the ones with whom he was upset he paid men to destroy his own car. There is no knowledge in this action, no prudence whatsoever. But he certainly flaunted his folly!

The reality, of course, is that it doesn’t take hiring three dudes with sledgehammers to publicly smash a car to qualify as a fool. In fact, if you want to be humbled do that search I mentioned above…find the passages in the Bible that mention the characteristics of fools and read through them. If you are honest with yourself you will find, as I do, that far more often than we care to admit we act like fools, too. Fortunately, many of the passages in Scripture that describe the fool also describe how to not be a fool. Bottom line, Proverbs 1:7 explains it like this: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” Would that we fear the Lord, seek instruction and act in wisdom!