Favorite

A mom who inhaled 

click to enlarge Mara Leveritt image
  • Mara Leveritt

Family Council president Jerry Cox opposes the ballot measure to legalize medical marijuana. "It's a family values issue," he said. So, let's talk medicine, marijuana — and, especially, family values.

I began suffering undiagnosed leg pain in childhood. At 17, my doctor's best advice was to take aspirin until my ears started ringing. I married, had two children, and started smoking marijuana when I returned to college in my 20s. To my surprise, the leg pain abated.

I continued to smoke for almost 25 years, roughly a joint a day. As I never smoked in secret, I'm betting I've got a perspective on marijuana and family values that Mr. Cox does not.

In our family, marijuana was treated as something like wine. I appreciated it as a spiritual, medicinal and occasional social blessing. It was not for children. It was to be used in moderation, not abused. From an early age, my daughter and son understood that there was risk in smoking marijuana, but that the risk arose not from the plant, but from the laws that made it illegal.

I even grew a few plants and admired them all the more. But in 1996, when I began writing my first book about the criminal justice system, I decided the legal risks were too great. I quit marijuana. Cold turkey. No problem. Well, almost ...

As a consequence of quitting, my old leg pain came back. I now take three prescription drugs at a cost, after insurance, of more than $300 per month. But hey! They're legal.

So that's my criminal saga. What kind of example did it set for my children? I'll say an honest one. It was not hypocritical, as our "war on drugs" has been.

In our house, there was truth about drugs. We were serious but not hysterical. We used no broad brushes. Drugs, like everything from mushrooms to motorcycles, can range from safe to deadly. It depends how they are used. I felt I could protect my children more with candor than by serving them more of the rubbish our state and federal drug czars have been dishing out for years.

My children saw me in many lights — some critical, I am sure. But they never saw me gripped by "reefer madness." We ate meals together, read, worked hard and laughed often. They saw me pay bills, care for pets and pick up litter. They knew I was a criminal, but not much of one.

And they turned out just fine. My daughter majored in philosophy and became a teacher. My son's a linguist and a lieutenant colonel. We remain very close. Neither of them smokes.

Sixteen years ago, when I gave up marijuana, I acknowledged my law-breaking past in a column for the Arkansas Times. I pointed out that I'd been working as a reporter the whole time I'd smoked. Whatever my deficiencies, my brain was not obviously fried. Just from a taxpayer point of view, I asked, wasn't it better that I was working and not prosecuted, imprisoned and then monitored on parole?

All the same, I knew that I'd been lucky. In my years as a reporter, I'd come across many, many others, no more wicked than I, who were languishing behind bars. And I'd heard all the arguments. It was not so much the users, but that shady world of the growers and dealers that made marijuana so dangerous.

OK. I agree. But who makes that world so shady? It's our era's Prohibitionists, sure as Capone shot up Chicago. The well-meaning people who criminalized marijuana created a needless but lucrative black market. By banning marijuana, the Prohibitionists made it dangerous.

Worse, they assaulted our most fundamental "family values." Because marijuana is illegal, thousands of moms and dads have been yanked out of families and sent to prison. Kids have been sent to foster homes. Parents — released, but with a record — have had to struggle to find work to support their fractured families.

These are the "values" we've been practicing for decades — with heartbreaking results. Our laws are not working. They are not keeping marijuana out of communities. They can't even keep it out of prisons. What our laws are doing instead is making communities more crime-ridden, families more broken, children poorer and more cynical of government.

Nobody believes the weary lies anymore about how dangerous this ever-newer, "more potent" marijuana is. To the contrary, many believe that marijuana may, in fact, be beneficial in ways that other medicines are not. Count me among those.

Demonizing marijuana is like demonizing beer. I'm sure that, like beer, marijuana will someday be legal. Meantime, why deny its comfort to those it might relieve? Where's the value in that?

Favorite

Tags:

Comments (27)

Showing 1-25 of 27

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-25 of 27

Add a comment

More by Mara Leveritt

  • Illustrating the governor's message

    Our prisons burst with disparities. Eliminating them will take courage. Let's see if the Arkansas Parole Board can heed the governor's message with one matter currently before it.
    • Dec 3, 2015
  • Mara Leveritt offers governor a symbol for sentencing reform

    Gov. Asa Hutchinson said the state needs to get serious about sentencing reform if it is to cope with its exploding prison population.
    • Dec 1, 2015
  • Parole board hears arguments on parole for Tim Howard

    The hard-fought battle over the fate of former death-row inmate Tim Howard intensified on Thursday when John Felts, chairman of the Arkansas Parole Board, held a hearing at Cummins prison to consider Howard’s eligibility for parole.
    • Oct 9, 2015
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Arkansas condones child abuse?

    If Harrises and Duggars go unpunished, yes.
    • Jun 4, 2015
  • Must address racial inequities

    We mourn for the families of the dead at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. As we grieve it's time to rekindle a conversation about race in America and press for the changes that the Emanuel congregation championed for centuries — changes that also made it a target.
    • Jun 25, 2015
  • Racism is systemic

    In a speech on Sunday at Bethel A.M.E. Church, Gov. Asa Hutchinson played directly into the narrative of respectability politics, where white people tell people of color how they should respond to a situation and condemn responses from others in the community experiencing anger, rage and other expressions of grief.
    • Jun 25, 2015

Most Shared

Latest in Guest Writer

  • Don't blame trigger warnings

    "Trigger warnings" have recently resurfaced in the news because of a letter from a University of Chicago dean of students that warned incoming freshmen to not expect advance notice of potentially upsetting material in the classroom
    • Sep 22, 2016
  • Schlafly's influence

    Phyllis Schlafly, mother, attorney and longtime antifeminist, died recently. What Schlafly promoted was not novel or new. Men had been saying that men and women were not equal for years. However, anti-feminism, anti-women language had much more power coming from a woman who professed to be looking out for the good of all women and families.
    • Sep 15, 2016
  • Global health is local health

    First with the 2014 Ebola outbreak and now with the Zika virus, Americans are becoming reacquainted with the fear of infectious disease. But although Ebola and Zika are both serious public health threats, they pale in comparison to three other diseases in terms of inflicting suffering and loss of life around the world — tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and malaria.
    • Sep 15, 2016
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »

September

S M T W T F S
  1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30  

Most Viewed

  • State university secrets

    Today's subject: lack of accountability at state universities.
  • EpiPen lesson

    Congressional Republicans and Democrats staged a rousing display of rage against the CEO whose company gouged a fortune from families whose kids and sometimes grownups need the lifesaving properties of the drug EpiPen.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Don't blame trigger warnings

    • I have experienced 2 on the list of worst things I feel a woman could…

    • on September 27, 2016
  • Re: Medical marijuana? Yes.

    • I have epilepsy seizures . My mama said I have had them since six mths.old…

    • on September 25, 2016
 

© 2016 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation