SDN trivializes marijuana use
It’s surprising and alarming that only 5 weeks after you print an opinion letter that stated you are overly focused on marijuana use, yesterday you have a full banner headline “State releases rules on recreational pot.” Under that is a photo of attendees at the Dillon amphitheater at a recent concert with the headline “COMFORTABLY NUMB.” This not-so-clever journalistic artifice is a disservice to our county and likely not consistent with your own journalistic values. The previous letter you published from Bainbridge stated he was concerned about your front-page attention to marijuana use in a letter he entitled “Pot shots”: he believes that front page attention to this issue is not in our county’s best interest. Since that letter had no impact on your policies, allow me to provide additional food for thought.
I am a medical school faculty with 30 years of experience in substance abuse research. I also created a specialized substance abuse treatment facility, where we treated a number of individuals whose primary drug of choice was marijuana. Whether marijuana is “safer” than alcohol is not the real issue here. Polydrug use is the issue. Many marijuana users also drink alcohol at the same time. Drug potentiation, or the compounding of effects of drugs used together, impairs one’s thinking and actions much more than just “one plus one.” I have volunteered at the Dillon concerts, and I’ve seen firsthand the state some people are in at the end of an evening of drinking beer. In a county that has as much interest in microbreweries as Seattleites have in espresso, there may well be serious problems for us as marijuana use becomes more mainstream. Consider that our county already has a substantial per capita DUI rate, and the increase in concurrent alcohol and marijuana use will expand this problem, sometimes with tragic consequences.
Your newspaper reports on every tree hugging, puppy loving, and outdoor activity going on in the county. The focus on the positive is good, and it sets your publication apart from many media outlets in a very good way. But your trivialized and sustained attention to marijuana use as a form of recreation borders on sensationalism and is probably not in keeping with your own values of “do no harm.” Educate your staff and to quote your own article, “act responsibly.” This social experiment with marijuana legalization has a long way to go.