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As I See It: Going to pot

I went to college in the 1960s — the heyday of peace, love and drugs. I also joined the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) as part of my quest to become a fighter pilot. One thing they made perfectly and dramatically clear was that if you ever used drugs, your flying and military careers would be over for good.

My mind — one that works well with binary logic problems — understood immediately. Drug use equaled no flying.

So many of my fellow students at the University of Minnesota quickly branded all ROTC students as warmongering, anti-drug people who were likely incapable of loving anything or anybody. They were wrong about the loving side of this, but that’s another story.

The issue with drugs and aviation dealt with the fact that all drugs — legal or otherwise — had side effects that could or would affect a pilot’s perceptive and reactive abilities. When you were piloting a multi-million dollar machine either alone or with a crew and passengers, you needed to be at your top level of performance. As I recall, the only thing you could take without a flight surgeon’s approval was aspirin.

So now we are talking about legalizing another substance that alters a person’s perceptive, reactive and reasoning abilities. Many people want to legalize a substance that is primarily smoked in a cigarette-like manner after banning cigarette smoking in just about every public and many private places.

We are talking about legalizing this after many locations have opted to ban e-cigarettes because of the appearance of smoking and the unknowns associated with them. Weren’t there serious health problems associated with smoking, too?

I saw a letter to the editor today who framed this as a matter of “choice” for adults. I guess it doesn’t matter that one of the ways children learn about many things is to watch and emulate adults. We have been doing such a stellar job of keeping alcohol out of the hands of children and teens that I’m certain we can accomplish the same with marijuana.

There are so many studies on the short- and long-term effects of marijuana both on the positive and negative sides that it’s hard to settle on the ultimate truth. One fact appears to be clear: If you use marijuana when you are young — pre-teen or early teens — it will have negative effects on your brain that will last for the rest of your life, maybe even if you get elected president.

The great state of Minnesota — and many others — has a poor track record of successfully dealing with people who drive under the influence of alcohol. In my opinion, the courts of our state are almost criminally lenient in allowing drunken drivers to plead down to lesser charges or to sentence these drivers who kill and maim far too many men, women and children to a prison term that actually reflects the damage they have done to other individuals and families.

Are we ready to add another “legal” way for irresponsible drivers to be stoned?

Our national and state leaders are none too helpful. The panderer-in-chief when given the chance to say something meaningful instead plays to his base by opining that marijuana is no more harmful than alcohol. Plus, our own governor obfuscates his own thoughts by stating that if the police chiefs in our state oppose legalization, he will, too.

So much for strong, principled leadership.

Many people believe illegal drug use is another victimless crimes, similar to prostitution. If you think of how you might feel if your daughter decided to run away from home and was befriended by a recruiter or pimp in a big city only to be pumped up on some drugs and then raped and forced into prostitution — you would drop the thought of a “victimless” crime.

If you don’t understand that someone in school might generously give your children some pills, pot or something stronger in hopes of hooking them on something and developing more rabid customers, your head is in the sand or somewhere else that is equally as dark but closer to home.

If you don’t see the connection between the mass killings in Mexico and around the world as drug cartels try to corner the market for their product and the bags of marijuana, cocaine, heroin and other drugs that are sold on the city streets to adults who just want to get a little high, you’re living in la-la-land and should stop drinking the Kool-Aid of cluelessness.

Back to my binary logic. If people were not buying illegal drugs, there wouldn’t be anyone else bothering to produce, transport or sell them. I realize that’s naïve, but no more so than adults who think it’s a basic right to get high whenever and however they want to and that it doesn’t affect anyone else.

Along the way, I learned how to get high on life, on learning, on music, on nature, on literature, on poetry, on friends, on my spouse, kids and grandkids, and on other people and their kids and grandkids.

Phillip Seymour Hoffman is just one tragic example of how far off base we are in dealing with all drugs. Will someone in your family be the next? I truly hope not.

Well, that’s the way I see it.