One man's bad marijuana experience is no basis for public policy [Letter]

January 26, 2014

I'm glad people such as Dr. Joe Black assume their individual experiences with a naturally occurring substance must necessarily be common to all users ("Pot not same as tobacco, alcohol," Jan. 23). Certainly his specific peculiarities should serve as the basis for a social policy which impacts all Marylanders!

Some people get flabby from drinking beer. Some people get violent from tequila. Some people can't abide the taste of red wine and get headaches from it. Some people become amorous after downing a Riesling. Others drink vodka and read Dostoevski. Some are plastered quickly after a drink or two, others can suck gallons and function well.

My point of course is that individuals using marijuana might experience a variety of effects, including increased appetite, sudden hilarity, deeper acuity and compassion, improved intellectual focus and stamina for work, "profound" or "mystical" experiences or deep introspection — just as those who drink alcohol might experience different effects based on a bewildering array of variable factors. If we allow boozers to be users despite the wide range of potentially pernicious impacts, we should give marijuana the same legal status. Marijuana is not physically addictive, nor does it encourage the sorts of belligerent, violent, and anti-social behavior associated with booze. And yet alcohol is legal and regulated.

Just because Dr. Black got the jitters and became a zombie when he used marijuana doesn't mean everyone will. Used responsibly, marijuana is not equivalent to alcohol — it's better and much more useful. Everyone should have the option legally to explore its effects or not, so long as they are old enough and responsible enough to do so.

G.R. Godfrey, Baltimore

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