My wife and I do training runs on the Fox River Trail, a strip of asphalt on a former railroad bed that runs the length of the valley from Aurora all the way up to McHenry, Illinois. As such, it sits at the base of the river valley below a long line of businesses, factories and industrial plants in various states of use.
One of these old buildings was converted to a pot dispensary in anticipation of marijuana being legalized in Illinois. That pot store is the only one in our area of the county, and the first day of legal pot sales in Illinois was January 1st. The line of people to buy pot was a mile long and strung down Illinois 31 on a section of highway with no sidewalks.
Getting in a workout
Yesterday morning we stopped to do hill repeats near the pot dispensary and noticed right away that our normally deserted street with an incline was jammed with cars. So was the parking lot of the tumbling facility that housed a mattress company I once called upon during my career in newspaper advertising sales.
It’s all proof that times have changed, and continue to do so. Thirty years ago progressives largely believed making pot legal would spare a lot of heartache and bogus criminal records. The ACLU produced a report on the racial bias behind so many marijuana arrests. “The aggressive enforcement of marijuana possession laws needlessly ensnares hundreds of thousands of people into the criminal justice system and wastes billions of taxpayers’ dollars. What’s more, it is carried out with staggering racial bias. Despite being a priority for police departments nationwide, the War on Marijuana has failed to reduce marijuana use and availability and diverted resources that could be better invested in our communities.”
Walking for weed
As we finished up our run there were people parking half a mile north of the pot dispensary to walk down the trail and purchase their stock. I stopped to talk to one young couple holding hands as they started down the icy path. “Walking for weed?” I smiled. “Yes,” they replied. “We figured, why not?”
Later that day while walking our dog at a forest preserve west of town, a pair of young women emerged from their car. One of them was carrying a classic marijuana pipe with multiple stems. They were headed out to the fields to puff pot and get high. All I could think to say was, “Congratulations!” The one young woman raised her pipe in triumph. They both laughed.
I smoked pot now and then with friends in the 70s and early 80s. Then it vanished from my life as I was never a buyer, only a casual smoker. I have never really trusted drugs or myself when it comes to drugs. There were a couple scary incidents of overindulgence during college from which I could have died. Some of those incidents were from drinking too much and others from driving while drinking. Both resulted from the false courage alcohol pours into your veins and brains.
By contrast, I only got stoned and drove once or twice. Usually we parked somewhere to smoke or just hung out in someone’s apartment. But having driven a couple times while high, I don’t think driving under the influence of pot is any safer than driving while drinking. The same basic flaw is at work in either case. Getting high or drunk impairs your immediate logic and responses.
I also think chronic pot use impairs motivation. I’ve seen that happen with so many pot smokers it is more than anecdotal evidence that pot has effects on baseline emotional states. Of course, I’ve also known plenty of people who smoke pot to relax in the face of a competitive world. So it works both ways. Pot itself is neither good or bad. It is how you use it that determines the outcomes. That’s why it should be legal.
Good or bad choices
People deserve to make their own good or bad choices when it comes to drugs. Pot has long been available to those who use it. The ratio of those it harms is based on both objective and subjective evidence. The booze companies often campaign to “Drink responsibly” and such will likely be the case with pot in all its forms as well.
Laws about using pot during work hours or even outside of work are not liable to change much, at least not right away. Yesterday at a New Year’s Day cookout our conversation turned to drug laws and the workplace. Everyone agreed that the risk of getting fired for having pot in your system is likely just as high as ever. I suggested the best way to monitor employee behavior would be to stock the entire vending machine with six-packs of Oreo cookies. You could measure tell how high someone was by how many packs of Oreos they bought.
But the issue of having people high while on the job is a serious one, and full of really awful potential, especially in jobs where people work with machinery, drive for a living, or talk with customers about proprietary subjects. We all need good judgment for our own safety. Truth is, we’re all making a run through the legal weed patch right now.