Opinion | Tony Jones: We were all teenagers once | SummitDaily.com

Opinion | Tony Jones: We were all teenagers once

“We were all teenagers once.” So a loved one recently reminded my wife and I after we’d mentioned our concern for her teenaged daughter in regards to the recent wave of fentanyl related deaths sweeping Colorado. It’s not that the daughter in question is a heavy partier or even hanging out with the wrong crowd. Nowadays neither of those things needs to be the case for a person to be at risk for harm due to the spread of this deadly drug in our communities.

And that loved one was right, we were all teenagers once. And for many of us baby boomers, we remember those days with a touch of nostalgia as well as head shaking wonder that we survived. I came of age in South Florida in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, a time when cocaine and pot were rampant in high schools and bars and contending with the peer pressure to join in the hardcore partying was very difficult. Especially when the mantra of sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll, was a lifestyle espoused by and epitomized by many of the entertainers we idolized.

When I recently read Graham Nash’s interview with The Guardian and his memories of pot fueled days of music and love, it was enough to make one nostalgic for those times Then directly after reading that interview I saw Darius Johnson’s powerful story about deaths due to fentanyl on 9News. One segment of that story is a heartbreaking tale of how half an oxycodone pill laced with fentanyl killed a woman trying to ward off the pain from pancreatitis. The contrast of those stories, one glorying in the use of then-illegal narcotics, the other mourning the loss of life due to a half pill procured off the street, couldn’t paint in starker contrast the differences between now and then.

Due to the rise in fentanyl-related deaths and the Colorado legislature’s 2019 lowering of penalties for drug possession, including fentanyl, there’s been much debate lately over penalties for possession and how much is too much. Given the lethality of the drug, it’s hard not to side with the views of Summit County Sheriff Jaime FitzSimons’ recent commentary in the Summit Daily or with Denver Post columns from George Brauchler, both of whom call for imposing felony penalties for fentanyl possession of any amount.

But we need to be careful to not allow these calls for greater penalties for fentanyl possession to result in a re-escalation of the war on drugs generally. This issue is very specific to fentanyl, and we must take care not to backslide into the failed policies of intolerance and the persecution of the past. There was much hand wringing over the legalization of pot in Colorado, but despite that, the collapse of societal norms hasn’t occurred as some predicted it would, and we are seeing efforts to bring equity in justice for those who were jailed for peddling it when it was illegal. We also need to keep our research options open by, for instance, allowing for potential advancements in treating psychiatric issues through the application of psilocybin and other narcotics via microdosing. We need to be sure to not throw the potential for good out with the bad.

By now I think most would agree that past zero tolerance and mandatory sentencing policies for possession did little to stamp out drug usage. There is much to be said about the potential to force people battling addiction underground by being too severe with drug possession penalties. But for the public we’re trying to protect here, the addicted, our children, and the folks who need real pain relief, there’s also less opportunity for a second chance.

We were all teenagers once! True that, and those of us who survived our excesses need to appreciate that we are the lucky ones. Even back when, death by drugs through overdose certainly occurred, so let’s not whitewash those facts. But it does seem like back then there was less potential for the quick and deadly consequences of experimentation with drugs that we see today. So, let’s teach our children of the danger narcotics can pose. Let’s encourage them to make smart decisions and be survivors.

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