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Letter from the Editor

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This column should be entitled "A Brief History of Pot" or, better put, "Marijuana and Me." I've been around marijuana, off and on, for 40 years. I first smoked a joint in high school. It made me dizzy, and my friends and I were terrified we'd get caught and sent to prison for years. But it didn't stop me from inhaling regularly over the next 10 years — during which time I graduated from college and worked several day jobs while playing in various bands.

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When I was 30, I got married. Two years later, my daughter was born. I quit the band and landed a respectable job at a newspaper. I didn't smoke pot much over the next few years, but I saw it often at parties, concerts, etc.

When I was in my 40s, my kids went through their teenage years. We were good parents and our children had curfews and we monitored their behavior as best we could. We were honest with them about the legal and health pitfalls of drugs and alcohol. But we assumed — rightfully, as they later told me — that they would be exposed to pot and probably smoke it. But they made good grades and graduated from high school and, later, from college.

(A defining moment from those years happened at a party in East Memphis, when a friend told me he'd confiscated a joint from his daughter's purse. "Did you throw it away?" I asked. "Hell, no," he said and lit it up.)

I don't see pot much in my social circles these days, though I was offered a toke from a guy riding in my golf cart a couple weekends back. He is 55. In the 18 years I've been in Memphis, I've seen doctors, lawyers, a CPA, a city official, corporate executives, musicians, journalists, and countless other respectable adults smoking pot. It's the "don't ask, don't tell" of drugs. I've also known several people who smoked it as part of their cancer treatment.

I've never known anyone who had to go to rehab for pot. It's just not addictive, at least not in my experience. I'm not saying it can't be abused, but I have been exposed to it long enough to be convinced that pot is a much less destructive drug than alcohol can be.

Other states have decriminalized pot and are reaping millions of dollars in tax revenues — and saving millions in law enforcement, court proceedings, and prison costs by ceasing to prosecute for possession.

Decriminalization of pot is a matter of when, not if. Marijuana prohibition isn't working. We should regulate it and tax it — and quit blowing smoke about it.

Bruce VanWyngarden

brucev@memphisflyer.com

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