Toking into the New Year

As 2014 dawned, sales of recreational marijuana began in Colorado.  Many residents and visitors celebrated this cultural "enlightenment" while others were appalled by the voter-approved legislation.  My sentiments lie squarely in the middle.

Though I have long believed that the criminalization of drug use is a mistake and have favored the availability of marijuana for approved medical purposes, I am concerned that the commercialization of this drug will encourage its use among those who might otherwise have passed on the opportunity.  While it may be true that the side effects of marijuana are less severe that those of alcohol (when either is used to excess), the risk of abuse remains significant and the incidence of DUI arrests will surely rise.  After all, while many of us enjoy beer or wine for its taste, consuming a glass or two with some of our meals, marijuana will be used primarily for its mental and emotional effects (except, of course, when placed in brownies).

Time will tell how this social experiment will unfold.  As one who knows from experience that humans are too inclined to rely on medications, drugs and supplements for their various symptoms and ailments,  I am concerned that marijuana will just become the latest crutch, complete with side effects and the risk of abuse.  Unfortunately, as with government sponsored gambling (i.e. lotteries), the financial benefits of this law will likely negate an objective assessment of its impact on society.