I was a teen in the infamous Sixties, a truly oxymoronic era, where history would have you believe that adolescents and young adults grooved to psychedelic music, lost in a haze of dope, believing they were seeing the world more clearly than their parents ever could or would. That everyone who came of age in the era had an endless stream of sex partners, used every drug imaginable, never worked at a “real” job and only cared about getting high.
In reality it was only a few of my generation who vanished into their own drug-affected imaginations. Most of us didn’t use drugs at all. And for those who did, they got buzzed on alcohol, the “legal” drug of American kids, just like their parents, and their parents before them. Some tried a puff or two of marijuana, but it was not the drug of choice for risk takers because of its low THC levels.
It wasn’t until future generations of adolescents had access to genetically and chemically altered strains of marijuana with ever-increasing THC levels that marijuana use rates began to increase. These rates continue to go up as legalizers and legislators try to jump on the big business, taxation salvation of addictions, whether alcohol, gambling or marijuana.
The cost of trying to minimize the immense damage these addictions cause to individuals, families and communities far exceeds the revenue generated. We cannot afford to lose future generations to yet another addictive drug.
Just like the students in our middle schools and high schools now, adolescents of the Sixties and Seventies were not a generation of Charles Mansons, yet we were stereotyped as such.
We were manipulated, misquoted, maligned and shunned. Although we believed in some of charismatic leaders of the Sixties, like the Kennedys and Kings, their impact faded; first by the bullets of assassins, and later by the media assassination of their character. Fortunately the mission of these leaders, the power of service to others and equality for all remained stalwart in the hearts of the Sixties generation.
We believed in equal rights, animal rights, women’s rights, gay rights, left and rights. Beneath it all we just wanted to believe in the goodness of mankind, to erase the evil we had seen in the world around us from Auschwitz to Vietnam. That we were not the kind of people who allowed genocide, the rape of women and brutalization of children.
We espoused making love, not war; but those who made the headlines or the lead on the evening news were waging a civil war against the establishment with weapons only slightly less deadly than the bombs and napalm of the military. They protested injustice by burning down Watts, protested war by bombing military establishments, protested abortion by assassinating doctors at clinics, and protested the establishment by kidnapping and killing bankers and police officers.
The vast majority participated in peaceful protest, sitting on university steps in silence, banners raised with messages of change, actions adding substance to the protest. Some joined the million man march on Washington, D.C., sat in the front of the bus, or became a Freedom Rider in the still-segregated south. Our hearts broke as we watched churches become funeral pyres, young girls pulled from the ashes, paupers and preachers assassinated because of the color of their skin.
Most of our actions didn’t make headlines. We swarmed onto university campuses ready to change the world. We became teachers and preachers, doctors and lawyers, poets and businessmen, scientists and explorers. We joined the Army and the Peace Corps with equal passion to right the wrongs. We got married, raised our children, supported our families and paid taxes that supported the infrastructure of the establishment we once railed against. We helped build schools and libraries and hospitals. We taught our children to serve and help make the world a better place for themselves and others.
We were the average person who makes up the fabric of the country in which we live. We cared about the welfare of mankind, and as an extension of such, about our forests, rivers, land and air that sustains us. Our children are now instilling the same values in their children.
Hood River County can be proud of the choices these children are making. Although they face many of the same challenges previous generations faced including war, poverty and discrimination, they are choosing to overcome those barriers with hard work, education and service to others. They are not choosing to mask their hardships in a haze of drugs. As the generation of legislators and decision makers we need to make that choice easier for them.
We need to question why we would normalize through legislation the use of yet another addictive drug, marijuana. Much like alcohol, this is a drug that some use recreationally with little harm but is significantly damaging to others and the community. In particular, youth will pay the price. We have already seen increased youth use of marijuana in Hood River with the legalization of “medical marijuana.”
Our actions of legalization have begun to normalize its use with the highest damage caused among our youth. Research has shown that regular marijuana use by youth can rob them of up to 8 IQ points that is unrecoverable. The high potency of THC has caused increased addiction rates, with one-third of the clients served by treatment providers in our county addressing marijuana addiction, the primary addiction being alcohol. Counselors will tell you that marijuana addicts they serve are not always the mellow, non-confrontational stereotypical “pot head” of the past. Mental health issues are exacerbated by its use, and aggressive marijuana addicts are becoming more common.
I hope we can see past the big business, almighty dollar focus of legalizing marijuana in our state. Perhaps our legislature can build in enough protective factors to limit its normalization.
I would like to believe in their understanding of the consequences that Colorado and Washington are experiencing and hope to prevent it. But I haven’t seen it yet. It will be just one more addiction we will have to address at a significant cost to us all.