Tim Blagg

Blagg: Caught in a smoke screen

December 8, 2013

December 8, 2013

‘Era of Marijuana Prohibition Officially Over’ in Colorado

Going further than Amsterdam’s pot rules, state law now in effect allows for recreational sale of popular drug

Surgeon General Sets Tobacco End-Game as Smoking Persists

— recent headlines

Did I miss something?

Was I dozing when the disconnect between smoking tobacco and smoking marijuana was established?

How in the world can Americans doggedly pursue a decades-old societal and legal crusade against tobacco because it is both addictive and extremely harmful to our health, while at the same time joyfully celebrating making smoking cannibis products — which are also addictive and harmful — legal after decades of being against the law?


Yes, it’s true that residents of Colorado and Washington state can also buy items that contain THC, the key ingredient of marijuana, including everything from brownies to patches. Hawaii, Kansas, Alaska, Michigan, and Rhode Island are following suit.

But patches and electronic cigarettes, which administer nicotine and avoid the dangers of smoke are in the crosshairs of anti-smoking groups across the nation, which are tirelessly working to make them illegal.

Frankly, I’m baffled.

There’s no doubt that smoking anything — from cigarettes to cigars to doobees to crack — and inhaling the fumes is bad for your lungs. Cancer of the mouth, tongue or lungs is a common result.

And it’s also obvious that getting involved with an addictive substance, whether it’s THC or nicotine, can lead to dependence (physical or psychological) and that, in turn, can lead to the destruction of a life.

I’m not getting into the argument about whether pot is a “threshold” drug that often leads users to more potent narcotics — there are too many variables, and individuals and their histories are all over the place on that one.

And I’m also not going to defend society’s decision to keep alcohol — arguably the most destructive chemical addiction today — legal. A quick study of American history shows what happens when you try to ban it.

And I agree that there are many parallels between our attempts to prevent drug use by making them illegal and relying on police interdiction and the disaster of Prohibition. A graph of murders in the U.S. over the years shows two big peaks — during the “Great Experiment” of 1920-33 and during the “War on Drugs” from 1971 to today.

So there is a good argument for legalizing drug use, from pot to heroin, simply because the laws against them don’t work — the pressure of demand overwhelms police efforts to prevent their production, importation, distribution and use. And the fact that there are enormous amounts of money to be made funds endless violence across the country.

But simply lifting the lid on pot use really doesn’t make a lot of sense, especially against the backdrop of our increasingly stiff attitude toward tobacco.

In Colorado, for example, recreational pot stores can advertise in “adult-oriented” publications, but cigarette ads are prohibited. It’s against the law to print a T-shirt with a cigarette ad on it, but pot ads are fine.

That’s just nuts.

Am I the only one who’s confused?

Blagg has been Editor of The Recorder since 1986. He lives in Greenfield and is a military historian with an interest in local history. He can be reached at: tblagg@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 250.

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