In the End, Pot is Safer Than Spice or the Next Synthetic Drug
Spurred by a series of recent incidents involving the synthetic marijuana known as Spice and K2, the Michigan state legislature will likely take up the new war on fake drugs with a statewide ban, similar to what several communities have already crafted, including Macomb County and West Bloomfield Township.
(West Bloomfield Township Clerk Catherine) Shaughnessy said police could begin to enforce the new ordinance as early as Thursday; it is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $500 and 90 days in jail.
She said officers are eager to rid the community of the synthetic marijuana.
"They just see too many bad things happening with kids, and they want it off the street," Shaughnessy said.
As I mentioned earlier in the week, I applaud the desire to safeguard kids from themselves. And I'm definitely impressed by the coordinated responses from local governments and businesses.
But is prohibition really the best answer to the problem? Is it ever?
As it stands now, the ingredients in K2 are all legal. And it says on the packaging that the potpourri is not for human consumption. Still, that hasn't stopped teenagers from trying to catch and buzz--and hurting themselves badly along the way.
Some kids have been hospitalized. Some have died. It's a helluva price to pay for a buzz. And frankly, it's also the price we pay when we make real weed—which I don't think teenagers should smoke either, but is still far less harmful than stepped-on incense—illegal to obtain.
K2 has become popular precisely because of our senseless prohibition on something much safer. Banning the substance won't stop kids from ingesting it or dealers from selling it. It just moves it from the shelves to the black market and forces up the price. (Already, cops are busting back-room K2 hustlers.) Or worse, just as the ban on marijuana opened the market for synthetic alternatives, this prohibition opens the door for the possibility of an over-the-counter substitute that's even more dangerous.
Let's keep it real. There will always be teenagers and young adults who'll want to experiment with drugs and alcohol. As parents, we don't want them to, but their sense of immortality really doesn't care much about the old fogies' fears. At 17, or 22, you tend to think you'll live forever. And you certainly don't think a hit of some fake weed will kill you.
Given that we know now that that's the wrong answer, if I'm forced to choose, I'd much rather that today's kids get down like their parents did and and try good-old Mary Jane.
Thirty years into the War on Drugs, we can all say with certainty that prohibitions don't work. Andrew Volstead, a Congressman affiliated with the Prohibition Act, couldn't stop illegal alcohol, and Reagan, two Bushes, Clinton and Obama haven't stopped the flow of cocaine or heroin. Meanwhile, marijuana is more popular than ever.
Bans don't do anything but inflate the market, enrich dangerous dealers and perpetuate this false belief that law enforcement should be handling what is, in truth, a public-health issue. Our priority should be on fighting drug abuse, not the drug market.
It always amazes me that, as a nation, we have been unable to apply the lessons of the Volstead Act to the drug game. Mobbed-up bootleggers no longer terrify innocents and turn streets red with Tommy gun justice. Backwoods stills are no longer the rage. And nobody's going blind anymore from bad bathtub gin, the Capone-era equivalent of K2, so nobody has to fret over enforcing some ban on it.
Instead, we have PSAs, alcohol-abuse prevention programs and a whole slew of organizations and efforts aimed at curbing dependency and discouraging young people from drinking. We have liquor taxes that pour millions into our coffers. We have laws designed to punish drunk driving and selling to minors. We have distilleries and party stores that are supervised and regulated.
It's well past time we took this same approach to narcotics.
Like I said, I don't think teenagers should smoke weed. And I'm all for laws that say they have to wait until they're 18 or 21. But if they break those laws, at least I know they won't be sucking in a shitload of dangerous chemicals prepped in some shady lab by even shadier trailer-park chemists. I know the risks of serious illness or death drop dramatically.
I'd rather see a kid high off kush than dead off Spice. And banning the two won't stop either.