The Straight Dope

Letters from the week of November 7, 2002

The High Life

Lookin' for one last hit: I greatly enjoyed your article about the widely unknown mainstream usage of pot ("Reefer Mainstream," Amy Silverman, October 31). I felt that the profiling of persons who smoke marijuana and lead completely regular lives is important to get out there.

Being a pot smoker (and occasionally other stuff), I feel that the time is coming when the usage of drugs, especially pot, will become a non-issue. Persons from my generation and the new generation on the way are very pro-drug.

However, I found myself wanting something more from your article at the end. The statistics you offer about how many people really do smoke marijuana at the beginning were interesting, as were the profiles of professionals who do, but it would have been nice to see a closing wrap-up -- especially for those who don't smoke pot and already know this -- that it's not that big of a deal. Quite frankly, the vast majority of smokers I have known are responsible professionals and good people. It seemed as though you made the case for the normalcy and generally benign nature of marijuana use, but then didn't really hit the home run. I smoke pot, so what? I'm not hurting anybody else, and probably not even myself.

For the record: I'm 25, a student at ASU, have smoked pot since my teens. I just recently went back to school after working as an information systems manager for about five years. I made great money, managed critical infrastructures for my employers and was known for my long work hours. I once told my boss after two days of hell fixing a systems crash that I was going to go home and get stoned out of my mind. He laughed and hoped I enjoyed it. I received a pay raise a couple days later.

The majority of people don't mind what you do at home. I pay my taxes, vote and am involved. I care about my friends. In school, I have a 4.0 GPA. I smoke pot and have never felt ashamed, or even felt I needed to hide it, except from the friendly law enforcement, and I don't think they much care, either.

Great article, wished there was more.

Derek Grimme

Don't fear the reefer: Boy, you sure hit the head on this one. If every pot smoker came out, we would all be amazed who actually does do it. From the executives down to the office cleaning lady. I know people who are Christians and metal-heads who smoke dope, just all types of people, all walks of life, even some who use for medical purposes, and it helps them.

Legalize. What are we waiting for? Amsterdam seems to do okay with it. But it takes a while to get anything done. First should be medical use. That's just the tip of the iceberg.

Wade Coutee

We're all stars now in the dope show: I currently live in Oklahoma but graduated from high school and college in Arizona. I can't tell you how refreshing it was to see people come "out of the closet" regarding recreational use of marijuana. I am 34 years old, married with a responsible job, a full-time graduate student and I take care of my grandfather with Alzheimer's on the weekends. I also enjoy an occasional toke after working hours.

There, I said it. I appreciated the way the article stressed that people who use marijuana are not part of some fringe group. We are your neighbors, friends, co-workers, teachers, doctors, etc.

The first time I ever smoked pot, I was 14 and we got the pot from one of my best friends' parents' stash. Her dad was a doctor in Phoenix. People need to realize that marijuana is not a big deal. Not any bigger of a deal than alcohol, anyway, and less prone to incite violent behavior.

Tonya Chapman Jones
Stillwater, Oklahoma

Keep off the grass: Both Michael Lacey in "Marijuana and Mortality" (Lacey, October 31) and Amy Silverman spout generally held misbeliefs about marijuana, yet in their own examples, show the inconsistency of what they are professing. I will start by saying that I am a drug-prevention specialist, so if I sound like one, there's a reason. But that also means I have done a lot of research, and I have heard all the excuses.

Most important, marijuana does not cure, treat or help with cancer. What it does is help decrease the nausea of people on chemotherapy. It is chemotherapy that treats the cancer, not pot. And the reality is that there are better drugs to treat the nausea than THC, and ones with fewer side effects. Lacey tells of his own desire to smoke a joint after spending time with a dying Tom Fitzpatrick, who did not use pot during his cancer treatment. And Deborah Laake, who did use pot, ended up depressed and committed suicide, though was cancer-free by that time. So the actual use of marijuana seems to be as a coping skill, and a bad one at that.

Amy Silverman quotes many people who say they smoke pot almost daily and are productive, functioning citizens. There are also a lot of "functioning" crack users out there, and prescription drug users, but it doesn't mean we should make them accessible to all on a daily basis and pretend that it's fine because not everyone who uses them has a "problem." I also have known a few alcoholics who claimed to be functioning quite well, until they get pulled over for a DUI or killed someone drunk driving or get pulled in for domestic violence.

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