O, Cannabis! Pro-pot and Proud, Extravaganja in Northampton

DAN LITTLEThousands gathered at the Town Common on for last year’s  Extravaganja held in Amherst center. This year the pot-fest will be held in Northampton at the Three County Fair.
DAN LITTLEThousands gathered at the Town Common on for last year’s Extravaganja held in Amherst center. This year the pot-fest will be held in Northampton at the Three County Fair.

Governor Charlie Baker, Mayor Martin J. Walsh of Boston, and House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo, you’re wasting your time with your anti-marijuana legalization effort, the Campaign for a Safe and Healthy Massachusetts.

So far, the campaign, which launched in late April, has little more to say than, “Won’t Somebody Please Think of the Children!” The campaign’s site is literally a link to a Boston Globe editorial, a “donate” button, and a page that lays out — in six overwrought bullet points — how damaging marijuana is for teens. The site also warns that while money may make its way into the public coffers via marijuana sales, the revenue will be quickly overshadowed by all the crime, disease, and misery that marijuana legalization will nourish.

Because I have looked at the factoids thrown up by the anti-weed campaign and buried my head in a pile of medical research, I, like many people living in Massachusetts, am pro-pot and proud.

Bay Staters don’t take their marijuana tips from politicians. We didn’t when we voted to decriminalize marijuana, despite protests from public safety and political officials, and again when we voted to legalize medical marijuana, again against the advice of that same bunch.

The problem is, the anti-pot forces have a hard time justifying any ban on marijuana. The strongest arguments they’ve come up with, and these are the ones cited by Campaign for a Safe and Healthy Massachusetts, are “children!” and saying the revenue raised through taxing weed won’t cover the costs associated with marijuana addiction.

These would be good arguments if they didn’t come with craven irony.

Politicians cannot start a credible campaign to protect children and citizens from drugs by going after the least harmful high-time available. It’s like cracking down on environmental pollution by outlawing littering while allowing factories to belch smoke into the air. Sure, it’ll help, sort of, but why not start with a large problem people recognize and impose stricter air emission requirements upon industrial manufacturers?

You can’t cry about how legalizing will hurt teens when the far more damaging and addictive alcohol is everywhere. Also, tobacco is legal. And doctors prescribe Oxycontin.

Alcohol use accounts for about 37,000 deaths in the U.S. a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC does not have data for marijuana overdoses because they are so rare. And the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence reports alcohol is a factor in 40 percent of all violent crimes in the U.S., whereas there is no such association with weed.

The anti-pot camp is right, however, that marijuana isn’t harmless. About 9 percent of marijuana smokers become addicted. And studies have linked regular marijuana use during teen years to lower IQs. I don’t completely buy the IQ studies, by the way. They often fail to take into account the factors that have pushed a teen to smoke pot regularly — like an unstable family or financial situation.

And I’ll give this to Baker and Company: Legalizing marijuana will increase demand on some public health, safety, and monitoring services. But, these will be covered by the taxes that marijuana sales raise — an estimated $50 million a year, half of which is earmarked for weed services.

Considering all this, marijuana is one of the safer options available when a recreational buzz is desired. There’s something wrong with advocating against mellow marijuana while laughing off a six-pack of macho in a can.

Unless Baker and Co. are planning to take us back to the days of Prohibition, being pro-pot is the logical and rational position for voters to take at the polls Nov. 8.

Extravaganjanomore? The UMass Amherst Cannabis Reform Coalition’s annual pro-pot anti-prohibition fest, Extravaganja, is in its 25th and possibly last year. With an initiative that could make recreational use of marijuana legal on the November ballot, the need for a campaign rally could be moot. (But the desire among some to chill with like-minded stoners is unlikely to dissipate; maybe there will be Extravaganjas, but no one will call them that. It’ll just be known as Saturday.) Whatever. For this year, Extravaganja is on and it’s going down at the Three County FairGrounds in Northampton, Saturday, April 30, noon to 6 p.m. Because the smoke-fest isn’t being held at its usual spot, the Amherst Commons, UMass student organizers are trying to raise funds to pay for the venue and security. They started a crowd-funding campaign atminutefund.umass.edu/project/1994/updates/1 to raise $5,000, but they’ve only secured about half of that.

High on weed: According to a new CBS News poll, 56 percent of Americans support pot legalization, up three points from 53 percent, at this time last year. The tide started to turn for pot approval in the U.S. in 2010, statisticians note, and is largely driven by young pot-loving people.

Kristin’s not here, man, but you can contact her at editor@valleyadvcoate.com.

Author: By Kristin Palpini

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