Decriminalizing marijuana bad for society

Published 9:34 am Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Column: My Point of View, by Nancy Overgaard

Alarmed by the viewpoint expressed Jan. 14 on decriminalizing marijuana being good for society? I distinctly recall a conversation I had in Amsterdam while picking my way along a quaint brick street with a friend, weaving between outdoor café tables where patrons sat smoking marijuana.

“Marijuana cafés,” she explained as I wondered aloud what impact legalizing marijuana had on that society. “I can tell you,” my hostess answered straightaway. “Petty crime, for one, went way up.”

Nancy Overgaard

Nancy Overgaard

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Where she got her facts, I do not know. What I do know is she, herself, was the victim of several bizarre crimes, and witness to more. For no apparent reason, while riding her bicycle along a similarly charming street, she was accosted by young men who pushed her off of her bicycle and taunted her. Related? It is hard to say, but that is not the polite behavior once typical in formerly conservative Holland.

I also distinctly remember, as a child, coloring the ends of my father’s cigarettes with white crayons to make them taste bad so he would stop smoking, just one tactic in our multifaceted plan. Another was placing cards in his clothes closet with slogans like, “Smoke, choke, croak.”

Ask him. It’s true. Why do such things? The American Cancer Society had engaged us in their all-out effort to persuade people to stop, not start, smoking, and thereby stop dying of lung cancer, by educating the public, including children, on the hazards of smoking and correlation between smoking and lung cancer.

Their efforts paid off, and so did ours, which is why the current zeal to sanction marijuana smoking is bewildering to me, given its own carcinogens and link to cancer. My dad stopped smoking cigarettes at 40 and as he approaches his 84th birthday he thanks me regularly for our efforts, grateful for whatever extra years and health it may have given him, though he did not appreciation our smoking cessation program at the time.

If you think it is irritating to breathe secondhand smoke from regular cigarettes, as I recently had to in a restaurant I will not return to in Wisconsin, it is even more vexing to be forced to involuntarily breathe secondhand smoke from marijuana, as I found in my visit to Amsterdam, when all I wanted was to walk down a picturesque public street.

I, personally, do not care what dueling studies ultimately conclude about how precisely harmful or harmless that smoke is, I do not want the risk or the irritation.

Aside from crime and cancer, what about the calamities that will be caused by those who will take their freedoms farther and drive under the influence? A friend whose daughter was killed by a drunken driver refuses to call such incidents accidents because they are preventable. She and others have made monumental efforts to spare others the same untold grief and suffering. Why now needlessly roll back their progress by increasing the likelihood more will drive under the influence of marijuana?

Proponents of legalizing marijuana discount the dangers and, as in the Jan. 19 guest column on hemp, diminish opponents as dopey. As for me, this is not a social experiment I want to be compelled to participate in, nor do I want to learn firsthand the adverse effects of legalizing marijuana. Colorado is close enough, and the suggestion that other states, as Minnesota, follow their example is disturbing.

That is but one of many reasons I plan to attend the Freeborn County Republican caucuses Feb. 4 at Southwest Middle School, to make my voice heard on this and other pressing political issues. I hope you will do the same.

Pot may not be an issue that concerns you, but there are plenty of others – health care, for instance! Join us to discuss issues, propose resolutions, meet candidates and elect delegates for upcoming conventions. Your views will be respected, your input valued. If you have never been to a caucus, conveners and facilitators will guide you through what to do.

As many I have talked to, you may be dismayed, disheartened, even disillusioned by the outcome of the 2012 elections, but I hope you will not let that dissuade you from coming. Your input and efforts are needed more than ever.

I heard, this week, on the radio, a timely reminder that George Washington lost many battles before winning the war that benefited us all. May that be your inspiration to continue championing causes for the benefit and betterment of future generations! We hope to see you there.


Albert Lea resident Nancy Overgaard is a member of the Freeborn County Republican Party. The “My Point of View” columns alternate weekly between local Democrats and Republicans.