I want to thank Bill Matson for his comments in his My Word dated January 31, 2014, “Where’s the pushback on legalizing marijuana?” I meant to get back on this subject sooner, but that very night, the arson in my professional building took my attention. So I was distracted…momentarily.
As a Christian myself, I feel Mr. Matson’s pain. I am also a former in-house corporate lawyer qualified in England. Since 2005, I have practiced law, in Humboldt, as a minors’ counsel, deputy district attorney, associate defense counsel, and for the last four years, as a solo practitioner. I mainly practice defense work and I do represent juveniles. However, I am also an advocate for cannabis legalization. Contradictions? Not at all. Let me explain.
In the U.S., marijuana has been around for a long time. At one time, it was legal, and legitimate. Real medicine. Today, in varying degrees depending on the state, it is illegal, or at least heavily regulated. In Texas, one “doobie” can land you in jail, whereas, in Washington and Colorado, the government regulates its production, processing, distribution, and sales.
What causes a teenager to smoke marijuana? Well, it is the same thing that causes them to raid their parents’ liquor cabinet: self-medication, peer pressure, boredom, and you name it. The juveniles I represent find it very difficult to stay in school and do well when they are stoned, which is true of all the young people that I do not represent. Heck, it is true of adults. I counsel both young and old NOT to “upgrade” from marijuana to meth or to heroine. Marijuana does NOT have to be a gateway drug any more than alcohol. Although smoking marijuana has been shown to affect young people’s brain development, legalization will not increase the number of greedy people selling MJ or hash to my juvenile clients. In fact, there is a solid argument for the reverse.
With legalization and regulation comes the edging out of the criminal element. You know the criminal element I am talking about: Individuals who prey on others by committing unspeakable violence. Some of these “home invasions” leave dead bodies up on the hill or in a river or in an actual home.
And what about the environment? You cannot regulate something that is illegal. We must legalize in order to protect our rivers, fish, birds, and trees. We must take pesticides out of the equation. Many growers in our county already grow ethically. This doesn’t just protect the birds…it protects the health of humans and the planet.
And what about medicine? Every day we are finding out more medicinal benefits contained in this wonderful plant, which treats epilepsy, cancer, insomnia, loss of appetite, pain, to name a few. It’s not just for glaucoma anymore. Remember, you don’t have to smoke it. Smoking brings the recreational effects. Juicing it, consuming the pure unheated oil, and just plain eating its fresh leaves can save lives. Also, it is so much easier to research something that is legal than something that is illegal.
However, you say, this is all fine and good, but what about our economy? Yes, what about that? With legalization comes better and more secure jobs…with benefits. With legalization comes a real economy and not a false underground one. Our county can attract an entrepreneurial spirit instead of a criminal element. We are the master growers. We will protect our own brand. If the grapes aren’t grown in Champagne, the wine yielded doesn’t get to be called champagne. Likewise, if the cannabis isn’t grown here, it doesn’t get to be called Humboldt. Whether we like it or not, the word “Humboldt” carries global recognition for quality.
Tourism will increase exponentially. The California cannabis industry is already huge. Down in the Bay Area and LA, it is outwardly more legitimate. Up here, it is our dirty little secret, not so well hidden. Let’s come out of our greenhouses and realize our expertise…and our huge potential. Of course, none of this means marijuana DUIs are okay. However, let’s face it, when it comes to impairment, no drug beats alcohol.
Finally, let’s pray. But a word of warning: When we pray, God doesn’t always give us what we want or answer our prayers as we expect. He will do it His way. The God that I know and love, does not want people in pain. He wants people cured of cancer, epilepsy, and yes, even good ol’ glaucoma.
Kathleen Bryson is a attorney who practices in Eureka, CA