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  • Writer's pictureCherie Calletta

Legal marijuana in New Jersey: Keeping to the “Fair Use”

Like so many other things, it’s all in how it is used, and for what purposes that makes all the difference. (Courtesy Photo)

“O, mickle is the powerful grace that lies / In herbs, plants, stones, and their true qualities:

For nought so vile that on the earth doth live / But to the earth some special good doth give, / Nor aught so good but strain’d from that fair use/ Revolts from true birth, stumbling on abuse.”

— Romeo and Juliet, II.3

I am sure that in 1933, when Prohibition ended, the Temperance people clutched their pearls, threw up their hands in distress and despair, and issued dire predictions of impending calamity and declared the end of civilization as we knew it.

When the 21st Amendment canceling Prohibition was passed, civilization didn’t end, and the sky is still up there most of the time.

I do not think that legal marijuana will be the end of civilization as we know it, nor do I think it will be a wondrous panacea for the general public. I do believe that the law could have been a lot more judicious and cautious instead of granting such a broad-based legalization.

But since it is now legal in our state, we might as well take advantage of any ratables that might come our way. We could even designate a portion of the revenue to addiction rehab services.

Prohibitions don’t really stop the use of substances. “Bathtub gin” and speakeasies were the 1920s version of the nickel and dime bags of the ‘70s.

When this issue was first brought up for discussion a few years ago, I was dead set against it. I said, do we really need to become even more distracted and dumbed down?

I said things like “What we need to fix the problems we have in this country are people who are alert, aware, critical thinkers with a wide breadth of knowledge and experience, not a bunch of Dorito-scarfing, sleepy, doped-up people given to fits of hilarity over the design of a paper clip, who sit around and pompously intone things like ‘Hey, man, check out the shapes of those clouds!’ or ‘How many hours has that song been playing?’”

There are in fact several reports which point to the possibility of damage to the teenaged brain when it’s exposed to pot. It’s a “powerful grace” of an herb, but it’s a medicine. Not a recreational substance. Like so many other things, it’s all in how it is used, and for what purposes that makes all the difference.

What I’ve seen is that if a person becomes dependent on a substance… pot, alcohol, television, SMS chat, internet… there is already a problem. The substance abuse is the symptom, not the cause.

If people say pot is addictive, I would have to disagree. Psychologically addictive, maybe. But there are quite a few things with the potential for addiction, and most of them are entirely socially accepted. Healthy, happy people with motivation and goals don’t feel the need to self-medicate. They also don’t prefer the substance or the practice to the company of their friends and family.

If you want to see addiction in action, try confiscating an SMS-addicted preteen or teenager’s cell phone, and prepare for a meltdown. Telling them that this is a very recent technology, and that “in my day” phones were attached to the wall … well, you might as well be talking to the wall. How is that not an addiction?

There are people who are severely addicted to television. In some homes the TV set is never, ever off, not even when it’s time for meals, family time or sleep. How is that not an addiction?

Strongly against legalization at first, I did some of my usual rants against the idea. That’s when a few of my friends took me aside and began to share their stories with me.

I was amazed and humbled at what I learned from them. Several people I know very well shared with me that marijuana was keeping their cancer in check. “Some special good” indeed.

In one case the person’s doctors had tried everything there was to try, and she wasn’t getting better. She simply had no appetite. Her weight had gone way down to a terrifyingly low level.

We used to laugh about “the munchies,” but for someone who is fighting cancer and is wasting away, the munchies are exactly what the doctor ordered.

In one case I know of, a doctor did suggest it. Since at the time it was still illegal, he had to do it in a very sub rosa sort of way, but he did tell her to get some and to smoke it. Her appetite returned, and she beat the cancer. Had it not been for the pot, I doubt she’d still be with us today.

I know people who have debilitating, wasting, incurable diseases who do benefit from the appetite stimulation and the relaxation it provides. With an ailment like that, maybe laughing at paper clips is exactly the thing for you. Laughter increases serotonin which has a lot of beneficial effects on the body.

A much less restrictive access to medical marijuana would have been better, along with decriminalization. But given the way the law has been written, whether we keep to “that fair use” or whether we “stumble on abuse” is entirely up to us.

Nobody ever said that life in a democracy was going to be easy.

Cherie Calletta was born and raised in Hammonton. She graduated Saint Joseph high school in 1977, then graduated from Rutgers College in New Brunswick and went to Japan for four years to teach English as a foreign language. She later spent about five years in Germany outside of Frankfurt am Main. After several years in Charlotte, North Carolina, she returned to Hammonton in 2002, where she and her husband make their home.


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