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Wednesday, September 2, 2020

The Scranton Times: Legalizing Marijuana Editorial

The Scranton Times posted an editorial on August 29th regarding the legalization of recreational marijuana use in Pennsylvania.  You can read the editorial at the following link:

If the link doesn't work/is behind a paywall, well don't worry, as you're actually not missing much.  Basically, the newspaper makes the point that Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf's proposal for the legalized recreational use of marijuana should be debated by the legislature.

What definitely can't you read on-line?  That would be my comment regarding the editorial because The Scranton Times would not publish it.  I'm not sure why; my best guess is that they are using some kind of AI to screen postings based on keywords, and I must have flipped the switch.  That facet of this story is more interesting from a process/technology perspective than anything else.  Part of me can almost envision the Asian technology services company selling the newspaper's leaders on this incredibly smart AI cloud-based comment screening software that would be "foolproof" and save them money.  Based on my comment, well, it may not be so foolproof after all.  In any event, that ball-o-thought is noted below.

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Two thoughts:

(1) Personally, I think using marijuana is pretty damn stupid unless you have glaucoma or your chemotherapy causes you to lose weight (and you actually need a case or three of the "munchies"). Again, just my opinion, but intentionally getting high is a sign of personal weakness and an inability to deal with the real world. I'll note though that I feel the same way about those who constantly get drunk, something for which NEPA has a well-earned reputation. Simply put, it seems to me that marijuana use probably isn't all that worse than drinking alcohol (and for the record, I don't do either).

(2) The editor(s) mention tax revenue when comparing to the legalization of marijuana to gambling, but they miss a central point: Gambling revenue was supposed to measurably reduce property taxes. Instead what actually happened was that gambling revenue more or less became a kind of slush fund that allowed politicians to sponsor local projects, etc. Granted that some of this work was needed, but gambling wasn't sold to the population as a way to fund was sold as a way to reduce taxes. I'm not going to touch the issue of property tax rebates, as while getting a rebate is great, in reality, it's just a cynical ploy for politicians to say that property taxes are being reduced when in fact they are not*.

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(*) Think of a property tax rebate as being a 10% off sale at Boscov's. That shirt still costs $25, but for now, you get it for $22.50. The price though is still $25, and at any time Boscov's can end the sale and charge you the full $25.

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I do worry about the recreational use of marijuana.  As noted above, I get that it's probably not worse than alcohol, but that's a thin argument to make for legalization.  There is also an admittedly selfish component to my thoughts about legalization:  Honestly, I find the smell of it repulsive.  I can see the day when just walking down the street my nose might be assaulted by the rancid stench.  

A bit more seriously, I had (emphasis on "had", as in past-tense) a brother who suffered greatly from substance abuse issues, which ultimately cost him his life.  Now I don't necessarily buy into the gateway drug argument against marijuana, as by that logic, smoking cigarettes could also fall under that category.  What I do wholeheartedly believe though is that substances designed to do nothing other than temporarily alter reality actually serve no useful purpose in life.  You see, that's the thing about altered realities:  They always lose to, as referenced in the play Rent, "actual reality".  For some, that notion of a temporary-but-altered reality is good enough.  The problem though is when the altered reality becomes so much more preferable than the real thing.  Having yet one more roadway into the temporary realm of unreality doesn't help society.

In the end, I suspect it is inevitable that marijuana use will become legal in Pennsylvania (and eventually the entire country).  Fast forward a few years after that and the campaigns against buzzed driving will start in earnest, along with additional resources to deal with the psychologically addicted.  It will be a movie we've already seen time and time again under the title of alcoholism.  This is basically a slow-moving train to nowhere, with the only real beneficiaries being those who find a way to legally monetize temporary excursions into the land of make-believe.

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