Relative issues 

How to gently debate pot with your bigmouth brother-in-law

Your conservative in-laws are over for dinner and, as usual, your bigmouth brother-in-law has an opinion about everything and doesn't mind letting you know all about it. Then he spies a copy of the petition to legalize marijuana in Michigan sitting on a table. And, of course, he has to let you know what he thinks about it. He sounds like he just got all his information directly from the attorney general and is getting in your face as he attempts to throttle you with the "facts" about marijuana. Here are a few facts of your own that just might shut up the loud, opinionated bigmouth in your family.

He comes swaggering into the room reeking of bourbon and says, "I see you got one of those marijuana petitions. I always knew you were stupid, but now you're leaving no doubt."

Yeah, you want to slap him silly, but that won't solve anything, so you ask: "What's so stupid about exercising my democratic right to petition the government?"

"It's stupid because drugs are stupid, and we don't need to encourage a bunch of drug addicts and send the wrong message to the kids. We need to protect the kids."

"That's exactly my point. Legalizing marijuana will protect the kids. Drug dealers don't ask kids how old they are when they want to buy something. They just want to make a sale. There is no regulation. When I was in college it was easier for me to get a bag of weed than a beer. There was someone in the dormitory selling it. If I wanted beer I had to go off-campus to buy it and find someone who was over 21 to buy it for me. Legalizing and regulating marijuana will protect the kids. It's obvious that they know how to get their hands on it now. I bet you knew where to get marijuana when you were in high school."

"Well, ahem, that was a long time ago."

Sensing an opening you pounce. "I bet you toked a few numbers in your day."

"Well, I may have been at a few parties where there was some smoking going on in the back room, but that was never my thing. I didn't want to get dragged off to jail."

"That's another thing repealing marijuana prohibition will protect your kids from — jail. The way it's set up now, getting popped for marijuana can ruin your life. What happens when you and a couple of guys from the football team get caught with a couple of joints? You go to jail where you get to hang out with real criminals and learn all kinds of unsavory things. When you get out of jail you can't get a job because you have a record, you can't get government aid to go to school and you can't get government aid for housing. The few folks who might be willing to help you are the pals you made while incarcerated. And you know the kind of stuff they're into."

"That's why you shouldn't get involved in that stuff in the first place."

"Think about those parties you were at when there was a little toking going on. Where are those people now? What are they doing? I bet some of them are the pillars of the community. I know people who went on to become doctors and lawyers and judges, professionals of all kinds."

Your brother-in-law looks like he's actually starting to think about it now. He does know some pillars of the community from those parties way back when. Then his eyes light up with an a-ha moment. "What about the violence? Those drug users are always mugging somebody or killing them. We can't have that."

"Most of the violence associated with marijuana is because it is illegal. The drug cartels that bring it across our borders would be out of business if it were legal. Street dealers wouldn't have to fight turf wars with other dealers if their wares were legal, and people wouldn't have to protect themselves from paramilitary police raids. And believe me; I've heard this directly from a police officer. Marijuana users aren't out there mugging people so they can get their next fix. Maybe there are some crack heads or heroin addicts doing that, but not the pot smokers. As far as those other drugs are concerned, I think there are better ways to deal with the problem, but we're talking about marijuana now."

"Well, that's another reason I'm against it. Marijuana itself may not be that bad, but it's a gateway drug that leads to this other stuff." He thinks he's got you now and takes a triumphant swig of bourbon.

You take a deep breath and it seems to suck all the air out of the room. "It's true that most people who go on to other drugs first smoked marijuana. But most of them either smoked cigarettes or drank alcohol before they smoked pot. Are they actually the gateway drugs? Not to mention the fact that nobody is getting cancer from smoking pot."

"Wait a minute, I saw a report that smoking one joint is equivalent to smoking a whole pack of cigarettes. Those pot smokers inhale deeply and hold it in. All those tars and gunk get trapped in there."

"There is a recent study that discredits that. They found that moderate marijuana smoking does not does not impair the lung's capacity. It's the biggest study ever done, and they tracked smokers over 20 years. And to tell you the truth you don't have to smoke it to use it."

"Yeah, I know all about those brownies."

 "It's not just brownies. There are all kinds of edibles from candies to pasta sauce to pizza to salad dressings. Then there are tinctures and lotions. It's a wide world of pot uses out there."


Now you're starting to feel your oats. "So do you want to sign the petition and help to end the failed and costly prohibition."

"I don't think I'm ready to do that yet. But I'm going to think about it. At least I'm not going to call the cops on you."

"Like calling the cops would help something. If I did get busted and went to jail you would be breaking up the family, my kids would probably have to come live with you at your expense, and your tax dollars would be used to finance my incarceration."

"Maybe I will sign that just to keep you out of jail. It costs too much."

"You're damn right it costs too much. It costs about $32,000 a year to keep an inmate in a Michigan prison. I don't know how many people are imprisoned for marijuana in Michigan but it's got to add up to millions in costs. Do you really want to pay that bill?"

Well, maybe you can't override a lifetime of drug war propaganda in one conversation, but you can sow a few seeds of doubt. In the long run, that may be enough to blunt the opposition and make for a successful petition drive.


See the online version for a link to more on the lung-capacity research.

More by Larry Gabriel

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