The recent town meeting and a subsequent letter to the editor have me wanting to share some thoughts on, among other things, fact and emotion.
As was recently reported, the March 10 town meeting about marijuana consisted almost solely of folks like me voicing their desire not to see recreational marijuana for sale here in Enumclaw. When it seemed everyone interested in doing so had made their pilgrimage to the podium one last person stepped up. He prefaced his comment with a claim of being unbiased which, in spite of seeming quite unlikely, isn’t what I’d like to take up. It was his imploring of the council to leave emotion out of their decision and instead focus on the facts that I would like to speak to.
First, it seems fairly obvious that if they were seeking fact the city council would have sought experts. It was public opinion they were after since it cannot be assumed that just because Enumclaw voters helped legalize marijuana, they want to see it for sale on their own main street. That being said, I would like to challenge the notion that fact and emotion are or should be mutually exclusive.
No matter what the issue or where it is being debated, from our living room sofa to our highest law-making institution, personal account makes its way into the conversation and rightly so. We long ago learned that human issues cannot be decided solely by looking at numbers on a sheet of paper. Human experience is deeply relevant and appropriately considered. When we get too far away from our humanity we find ourselves in places like Nazi Germany where people were treated as numbers. So, to our council I would say, please do consider the passionate views and stories of those who took the time and had the backbone to share. I found it offensive and short-sighted for Mr. Damazio to stand up after all those who came before him and dismiss their thoughtful comments as somehow irrelevant. Opinions aside, personal experience is no less a fact than a statistic is, on the contrary, it is the beginning of one.
At the meeting, mine was a difficult trip to the podium, having lost my little brother just 13 days earlier to suicide. I shared my family’s pain, my brother’s story. He was 37 years old and had struggled with an addiction to marijuana for over 20 years, smoking just hours before he took his life. The years of watching the paranoia and mood swings that this drug caused him and his seemingly futile attempts at overcoming his addiction to it was painful and frustrating. We are devastated by the loss of his gentle spirit and saddened by the battle that was so much of his life.
Pot is not a harmless alternative to alcohol that is going to suddenly with its increased availability have heroin and other harder drug users discarding their pills and needles and drug dealers quietly accepting their diminished market share. It is addictive and comes with its own set of ills. I’ll never understand why some think that it is somehow less troubling to say that a drug is psychologically addictive versus physically. It is like saying cancer is worse than schizophrenia. The two can’t be compared. It is for good reason that we have an entire branch of medicine devoted to what ails our minds.
In spite of being a lifelong user, my brother voted against legalization. He was able to look past his next high and admit what so many others won’t. Pot, like alcohol, affects everyone differently and belongs in its appropriate place in a physician’s repertoire of prescriptions. It can be every bit as destructive and disruptive as alcohol. Proponents need to stop pretending that it is so harmless it should be in the supermarket next to the basil.
Sadly we have chosen to help another drug attain social acceptability, almost ensuring a rise in use and users, as has most certainly been the case with alcohol. Recent numbers out from the Washington State Patrol are already suggesting just that. In the first six months after legalization 745 drivers tested positive for THC compared to 1,000 for the entire year prior. It is no bombshell that marijuana is in Enumclaw, but making it easier to get will tempt more brothers, sisters, family members into trying it and I won’t watch quietly.