Warning: This blog post is about the recent death of a local man, my opinion about the legalization of marijuana and the possible connection between the two. If you are anti-marajuana or if you feel in any way emotionally vulnerable about the tragic incident that occurred on August 11th, you may not wish to continue reading. I have not been graphic in my depiction of the incident involved, but I am aware that the man who died had many friends in Houston. It is not my intention to upset or offend anyone. These are my thoughts and opinions only.
Right off the top I’m going to put it out there that I have indeed smoked pot. And, yes, I did inhale!
I am not a chronic smoker. I share the very occasional joint with friends. I haven’t purchased any marijuana for a very long time. (I can’t afford it!)
Since my first experience with pot, I have been quite unable to understand its prohibition. Personally, I’d rather see people smoke a doobie than get plastered on alcohol. I have never heard of anyone smoking up and then crashing their car into an innocent bystander and killing them. I’m not saying that it hasn’t happened or that it couldn’t happen; I’m just saying that I am not aware of any specific incidents of it. There must be a reason why there is so much more hype about driving drunk than driving stoned on pot. I don’t advocate for either one. I’m merely pointing out the huge gap in attention that is given to both.
Like any substance, marijuana can be and is abused. I do think that chronic use does have detrimental effects on the mind and body. There is documented evidence, for example, that chronic pot use leads to loss of short-term memory. But then so does menopause and if they make that illegal, I will be at the very front of the lobbyists with the biggest loudest bullhorn, demanding the law be repealed!
Now where was I …?
I am a member of Sensible BC, the coalition to reform marijuana laws in BC. Since Washington and Oregon states have decriminalized marijuana, Sensible BC has stepped up its push to do the same in this province, and, potentially, lead the way for the rest of Canada. While I am not actively lobbying, I am closely following the progress of the coalition and intend to vote for the decriminalization of marijuana if they are successful in getting a referendum next year.
I do not wish to comment on the benefits of the decriminalization of marijuana or its potential impact on the economy and crime. Nor do I care to make the case for medical marijuana. I do wish to share a very sad story about the possible impact of its current legal state on the life of one pot smoker.
On Sunday afternoon, a dear friend knocked on my door. It was shortly after noon and she just popped in for a quick visit to say hi. I poured us each a glass of water and we sat down at my dining room table to chat.
A few minutes later we heard sirens approaching and a fire truck sped past my house. My friend commented that she had heard some popping sounds just as she had arrived coming from the area behind my house. We got up to go and see.
Sure enough there was a fire two streets over. It looked like a large spruce tree was burning.
Then the ambulance screamed by. Then a police cruiser. Then another fire truck.
The ambulance was not there long before it screamed back, sirens blaring. Obviously someone got hurt.
It didn’t take long for the fire to be put out.
At that point I didn’t think much of it. I did hope that no one was badly injured. My friend left to do other things and I carried on with my day.
Later, though, I found out that the home-owner of the place where the fire happened had died. News reports stated that an explosion caused his shed to catch fire and that he sustained severe burns, to which he later succumbed, trying to put the fire out himself. Apparently there was a small grow-op in the shed. I know no other details.
Was he in the shed when the explosion initially occurred? Did fear of prosecution force him to try to fight the fire alone? Would it have made a difference if pot was legal? Did he die trying to protect himself from being arrested for a few pot plants? Was it worth it?
I have no idea. But I do suspect that if marijuana wasn’t illegal things may have turned out very differently and Houston would not now be mourning the loss of one of our own or contemplating his sad and horrific death.
JM was 64 years old. Originally from Newfoundland, he had been living in Houston for many years and worked, I believe, at one of the mills. He was a quiet man, still handsome for his age and much liked in the community. I first met him more than twenty years ago when he lived with a friend of ours. I never did know him well, but I do remember his deep, slightly accented voice and his friendly smile.
I know that many will not agree with me that the legalization of marijuana is a good thing. So ingrained in the eyes of society is the perception that pot is bad, that it leads to the use of stronger drugs and it should remain strictly prohibited. I know that some will read this story and think that if he hadn’t been doing something illegal it wouldn’t have happened in the first place. There are those, no doubt, who will think that there needs to be harsher consequences for the use of marijuana and that that will prevent something like this from ever happening again. I’m not going to argue any of these points, nor am I going to ask anyone to agree with me.
But if we blindly accept laws just because they exist and don’t ever examine their validity, aren’t we just puppets? Play things? Pawns? Marijuana prohibition is but one example of what I see as useless laws. It just does not make sense to me that it is illegal and alcohol, a much more dangerous drug, is sold to us by our own government. That’s just bizarre. But I would never advocate for the prohibition of alcohol at this point. We all know how well that turned out in the 30’s, right?
As of this morning, crime scene tape still encircled JM’s property – the deceptively cheerful yellow a warning to all that something bad happened there. I can see JM’s clean white pickup sitting in the driveway and his little gray bungalow sits dark and empty in the centre of a lush green lawn. Police vehicles come and go as officers continue to investigate... the crime? Eventually the tape will be taken down and his possessions redistributed into the world. New people will occupy the house and life will go on for the rest of us. For the time being.
We may never make sense of what happened, but maybe we can start working toward a more Sensible BC, where a couple of pot plants can’t become the nucleus of such a tragedy.