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

From the ArkTimes store

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…

  • 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
  • Seven

    The controversy over the Ten Commandments monument on the Capitol lawn just won't go away.
    • Feb 9, 2017
  • Why a change of leadership at the LRSD now?

    Johnny Key's abrupt, unilateral decision to not renew Baker Kurrus' contract as superintendent strikes us as shortsighted, misguided and detrimental to the education of our children and the health of our community.
    • Apr 21, 2016

Most Shared

  • Lynchings hidden in the history of the Hot Springs Confederate monument

    Hot Springs twice erupted into the kind of violence that has its roots in the issues left unresolved by the Civil War, and both times, it happened right where that monument to Confederate soldiers stands today.
  • Take yourself there: Mavis Staples coming to LR for Central High performance

    Gospel and R&B singer and civil rights activist Mavis Staples, who has been inspiring fans with gospel-inflected freedom songs like "I'll Take You There" and "March Up Freedom's Highway" and the poignant "Oh What a Feeling" will come to Little Rock for the commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the desegregation of Central High.
  • Klan's president

    Everything that Donald Trump does — make that everything that he says — is calculated to thrill his lustiest disciples. But he is discovering that what was brilliant for a politician is a miscalculation for a president, because it deepens the chasm between him and most Americans.
  • On Charlottesville

    Watching the Charlottesville spectacle from halfway across the country, I confess that my first instinct was to raillery. Vanilla ISIS, somebody called this mob of would-be Nazis. A parade of love-deprived nerds marching bravely out of their parents' basements carrying tiki torches from Home Depot.

Latest in Guest Writer

  • Pay attention

    If anyone thinks that a crisis with the Power Ultra Lounge shooting, then he hasn't been paying attention to Little Rock.
    • Jul 20, 2017
  • War reporter

    Ray Moseley: Native Texan. Naturalized Arkansan. Reporter, world traveler, confidant of Queen Elizabeth II.
    • Jun 22, 2017
  • Vote no on school tax

    I have never voted against a school tax in my life, but I will be voting against the debt service millage extension for the Little Rock School District.
    • May 4, 2017
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »

August

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 31  

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: On Charlottesville

    • I've allowed myself "to educated". Cheap shot, I'll admit; but, proofreading might be a skill…

    • on August 19, 2017
  • Re: Charter secret

    • Max uses the words irony, logic etc. All the arguments and reasons he uses to…

    • on August 19, 2017
  • Re: On Charlottesville

    • Then allow your self to educated. Living as white, is not condescending a lot of…

    • on August 18, 2017
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation