As We Move Inevitably to Legalizing Pot for the Fun of It, All I Can Say Is 'Wow'

Friday, November 21, 2014

I wish I could take a mulligan on my vote to legalize medicinal marijuana in Massachusetts.  If I could vote a second time, I’d be a definite no.

In November, 2012, I didn’t give it hardly any thought when I walked into the booth and put a black check mark in the yes box next to a ballot question on eliminating state criminal and civil penalties related to the use of marijuana for therapeutic purposes.  Clueless is as clueless does.
I didn’t think there were a lot of people who could actually benefit from smoking weed or from taking it in pill form.  I thought demand for this new “medicine” would be so negligible as to require only the busiest of existing pharmacies to have it in stock.

I did not foresee that Massachusetts would have to license 20 new Registered Marijuana Dispensaries, as our state government is now doing, to take care of all the sick and hurting persons who want relief via cannabis. 
Nor did I anticipate that numerous companies would invest millions and millions of dollars in the pursuit of marijuana dispensary licenses, the design and construction of dispensaries, and the creation of very elaborate and secure indoor “farms” for the cultivation of the products to be sold in those dispensaries.

On no point were my powers of discernment more ineffectual as on what legalization of medicinal marijuana actually signifies: a phase in a cycle that will likely end in the legalization of recreational marijuana.  
If I didn’t see the big money coming to chase those dispensary licenses, why would I have seen the big money betting on the eventual legalization of recreational pot and getting in position to become the Weed-Marts of the future?

Persons are already out there planning a signature drive to put a question on the November, 2016, ballot eliminating penalties for using marijuana just for the fun of it.  If you want to light up a single, small joint after a hard day of work or smoke your brains out every Saturday night, you’ll want to vote yes on that baby.

This is likely to be a hot-button issue in the 2016 race for governor.  Witness Charlie Baker, during an interview with a Republican / reporter less than a week after he was elected governor, promising to “vigorously oppose” legalization of recreational marijuana.
“There’s a ton of research out there at this point that says, especially for young people, it’s just plain bad,” Baker said on Nov. 10.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse states unequivocally that marijuana “…affects brain development, and when it is used heavily by young people, its effects on thinking and memory may last a long time or even be permanent.”

The Institute reports that “A recent study of marijuana users who began using in adolescence revealed substantially reduced connectivity among brain areas responsible for learning and memory.  And a large long-term study in New Zealand showed that people who began smoking marijuana heavily in their teens lost an average of 8 points in IQ between age 13 and age 38.  Importantly, the lost cognitive abilities were not fully restored in those who quit smoking marijuana as adults.  (Bold facing added.) Those who started smoking marijuana in adulthood did not show significant IQ declines.”
If a kid wants to be a lobbyist when he grows up, he probably won’t miss those 8 points much.  In most lines of work, however, a lower IQ does not correlate with greater success.

Alas, had I been smarter, I would have heeded the Massachusetts Medical Society, which, back in May, 2012, adopted a resolution opposing medicinal marijuana.

We Ought Not Overlook a Hard Truth at Core of Menino's Fabulous Record

Friday, November 14, 2014

After Tom Menino died on Thursday, Oct. 30, he was justly lionized for his leadership abilities and his accomplishments as Mayor of Boston for 20 years.  It’s hard to see how anyone will ever be able to do as good a job as mayor as Menino did, never mind better, for as long as he did it, never mind longer.

I especially admired the way Menino built his power from the bottom up, meeting with and listening to as many Bostonians as he could, from as many walks of life and as many life situations as possible.  By always spending time with average Bostonians and by always listening, truly listening, Menino built an incredibly large and durable foundation of trust among the electorate.   With that trust, he was able to take the city where he thought it should go.  That’s leadership.
Now Menino has undergone a kind of secular canonization.  He’s become our new Saint Thomas, the patron of aspiring urban mechanics. 
Those who hope to follow in his footsteps, here and elsewhere, should remember one thing:  Every day, Tom Menino was purposely trying to scare the daylights out of city employees and political opponents alike even as he was trying with equal foresight and fervor to wrap every Bostonian he met in the cocoon of his care and concern.
“Fear is power.  I owed it to my city to keep fear alive,” Menino wrote in his recently published memoir, “Mayor for a New America.”

It’s one of the oldest maxims of governance, but you’ll never see it on a candidate’s bumper sticker or lawn sign --  although I for one would follow anywhere the would-be office holder or incumbent who blithely declared in public, “I owe it to my city to keep fear alive.”
Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527), perhaps the greatest political strategist of all time, had this to say about fear in his classic work “The Prince":
“It is much safer to be feared than loved because…love is preserved by the link of obligation which, owing to the baseness of men, is broken at every opportunity for their advantage; but fear preserves you by a dread of punishment which never fails.”

Despite what many of his foes believed, Menino was highly intelligent.  I suspect that he was quite familiar with “The Prince.”  I also suspect that he grasped the value of fear naturally, and viscerally.  The man had impeccable political instincts.
Because of fear, Menino was good at a difficult job: running a big city.  Due to his managerial skills and fundamental decency, he earned the love of the people, accomplishing what Machiavelli said was almost impossible: to make love and fear flourish in the same fief.

“And here comes the question, whether it is better to be loved rather than feared, or feared rather than loved,” Machiavelli wrote.  “It might be answered that we should wish to be both; but since love and fear can hardly exist together, if we must choose between them, it is far safer to be feared than loved.”
…Speaking of love, there’s a school of thought that Charlie Baker will always keep the memory of Tom Menino in a special place in his heart. 
I keep hearing people say that Menino’s  wake and funeral in the days just before the Nov. 4 election  kept the electorate distracted from the burgeoning controversy over the truthfulness of Baker’s encounter with a fisherman who told him he’d ruined his sons’ lives by forcing them to be fishermen, and how that tale of bitter disappointment made Baker cry during his last debate with Martha Coakley on Oct. 28.
By exploiting doubts about the truthfulness of Baker’s fisherman story and the genuineness of Baker’s emotional response to it, Coakley was gaining ground on him in the final days of the campaign, this theory goes, and would have been able to overtake Baker if voters were not preoccupied with Menino’s passing; thus, Baker owes his governorship to Menino, or, more precisely, to the death of Menino.

In support of this argument, some political observers are saying:

Baker was ahead of Coakley by seven points in the last Boston Globe poll, published Friday, Oct. 31, and he ends up winning by less than two points.  What was the major event in the campaign, the only event that could have swung the numbers that much in a few days? The controversy over the fisherman is the obvious answer.  Coakley was suddenly on the move.  If she'd had the voters’ undivided attention or another week to campaign, she could have squeaked by.

Interesting hypothesis, but I'm not ready to buy.  It seems too facile, too flip.  And it conveniently ignores every other serious poll in the final days of the campaign, which had the race a dead heat.