Where There's Smoke...

Letters from the week of November 14, 2002

Where There's Smoke . . .

Heart of grass:About a decade ago, a famous Republican operative, Lee Atwater, passed away from cancer. Atwater was known for his extremely hard-hitting, below-the-belt tactics (Willie Horton). To many he was a hated figure. He enjoyed tearing people down. But on his deathbed, he contacted many of those he had tarnished with character assassination and apologized. He wanted to pass away with a clean conscience.

In this context, I found Michael Lacey's "Marijuana and Mortality" column fascinating (Lacey, October 31). Lacey, like Atwater, is often a mean-spirited, holier-than-thou, rip 'em and damn the evidence type who addressed his life's disappointments by inflicting pain on others. Don't take my word for it; he admits to kicking his own dog.

But the many deaths and battles with cancer that have found their way to Lacey's life were painful -- even moving -- to read. One almost detects the faint murmur of a heart connected to that pen.

In his final days, Atwater was asked if he had any regrets. He allegedly said, "Only one. I'm sorry it took cancer to change me."

Fred DuVal
Flagstaff

Michael Lacey responds: As Samuel Jackson once said: Allow me to retort. I kicked the dog, Fred, because you weren't available. I am sure that I will have as many deathbed regrets as the next man, but certainly not regarding what I wrote about your recent congressional campaign. You were an unqualified carpetbagger, unfamiliar with the rural district's issues, and your miserable fourth-place finish stole votes from the man who should have gone to Washington, Steve Udall. For you to elevate my criticism of your political shortcomings to the level of pain from the death of my friends, family and dog only reinforces my view of you. And, for the record, while Lee Atwater exploited Willie Horton, it was your political godfather, Al Gore, the man whose presidential campaign you ran in Colorado, the man whose wife, Tipper, campaigned across Arizona on your behalf, who first brought Willie Horton to the public's attention in 1988. Other than all of the above, it was wonderful to hear from you.

Pipe dreams:Amy Silverman's article "Reefer Mainstream" was interesting(October 31). It's clear that pot smoking is not as bad as, say, heroin or cocaine. But judging from the people featured in Silverman's article, I would say there is a real problem with what pot smoking has come to represent.

Hippies had beliefs that were centered on a few things (peace, love, dope). A toking lawyer, Republican suburbanite or Scottsdale teenager, just because he/she smokes dope, is not a hippie. In fact, he/she is probably just a person with a bad habit. But worse than that, he/she is part of an American upper middle class that uses far more than their fair share of the world's resources. And by smoking dope, they are sending the absolutely disgusting message to the rest of the world that they have nothing more important to do with their time than to get high.

I found the people in the article, quite frankly, to be despicable. But this doesn't mean that pot smoking needs to be a despicable habit. I hereby propose that pot smokers around the Valley assess how much money they spend per month on their habit, and donate an equivalent amount to a charity of their choice. Maybe then they could call themselves hippies, and maybe then we could have a little more acceptance for what is a pretty harmless practice.

Andrew Kittelson
Phoenix

Puff piece:Your article about marijuana was interesting. Even though it seemed open-ended, you were hinting to one side. You were able to prove that you can be a responsible adult and smoke marijuana. But not everybody in this world is a responsible 30-year-old with a job. You forgot to interview the 16-year-old high schooler who does not have a job and ditches class to go under the bleachers for a few puffs, or even the average college student who is at school just for the parties and the bong get-togethers.

If we legalize marijuana, the moral standards of teenagers may drop even lower; it would just go to pot (and I mean that both literally and humorously). The person driving next to you in his car could be lighting up while he is driving. Why not? It's legal. It will just be an excuse to get high more often, wherever you like.

Look how bad secondhand smoke from a normal cigarette is to a nonsmoker. Imagine the effects of secondhand marijuana smoke on a pregnant lady. That just takes away the freedom of others who choose not to get high.

The point I am trying to make is that, yes, everyone is worried about the moral and health issues. What about the safety and rights of the people around you? Not everybody wants clouds of smelly burning plants in their face. And what will the effect be if they are exposed to it for long periods of time?

Come on, didn't your mom always say just because everybody else does it, that doesn't make it right? If everybody jumped off a cliff, would we legalize that too?

Justin Leavitt
Gilbert

 
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