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Columnist Bill Colley

Columnist Bill Colley has his portrait taken Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2016, at the Times-News in downtown Twin Falls.

For liberals and libertarians, marijuana is a sacrament. For everyone else it’s a nuisance or worse. When I was a young reporter and very libertarian I often would tell a lieutenant friend on the local police force I didn’t think gambling, prostitution and marijuana use should be crimes.

I didn’t condemn and he didn’t endorse. “We’ll enforce the laws as long as the majority is opposed,” he would reply. Somehow in the last couple of weeks there appear to be some people who believe opposition of the majority has subsided in Idaho when it comes to the use of marijuana. I first noticed the change in a story I found from something known as Weed News. There was a time when magazines were mailed the old fashioned way, and I imagine most people didn’t want the postman or the neighbors to know they were on the receiving end of Weed News. The Internet makes subscriptions a lot less embarrassing but in a time when most people don’t shy away from admitting they smoke dope if they do smoke the ganja.

The noise they make about their proclivity reminds me of a couple of pot heads in my old high school. Our history teacher was a retired Army colonel and tough as a man comes. He opened the floor to debate one day about legalization. Remember, this was 40 years ago! The usually listless dope smokers got so animated he broke into laughter. “You guys get higher talking about it than I do off a six-pack!” he said. The guys who smoked a lot of weed in high school often ended up dropping out and taking up lives of petty crime. I’m told there is a “better” class of pot-puffer who works in pressed shirts, ties and wing-tips and only needs a couple of joints to wind down after work.

The story was the same for a dean at a community college I often visited as a guest speaker. One day I connected his last name to a very nice young woman who was a college classmate of mine. His daughter. She was nice, but her life was a confused mess, and one evening in the dining hall she explained her parents used to insist she toke with them when she was just 13 years old. A decade after graduation I was working in a large city and covering a story in a dilapidated neighborhood when I came across her living in a crumbling house with a guy of questionable mores. He seemed to be a drug dealer, but, hey, it’s harmless, right?

The fellow writing at Weed News explains he’s from Oregon and smokes freely there but can’t when he visits Idaho. He has a couple of choices. Stay smoke free or don’t visit. No. 1 would be simple if the drug as argued isn’t addictive, and No. 2 would benefit the good people of our state. I remind you when I first moved to Twin Falls I was amazed to see people legally jumping off a bridge. Within a few months I learned from a few news stories how dangerous it can be to go a-leaping. As my parents used to say when I would argue a friend got away with things they wouldn’t allow, If Timmy went and jumped off a bridge would you? The bridge in my neighborhood was made of wood and the slats slapped and groaned when cars and trucks crossed over the top and the trains running below could cut me to ribbons. I took the admonition to heart. If a dope in Oregon smokes marijuana, does it mean we should be lighting up? I guess we could all be dopes!

I’m old enough to remember when most states didn’t have lotteries. For full disclosure: I buy three tickets a week and take part in a dollar-a-week pool with friends. If it interfered with paying my monthly bills I would go cold turkey. Lotteries are as old as the Republic, but it doesn’t mean people with gambling addictions are off the hook now. As we’ve seen the spread of casinos across the land social norms about gambling have collapsed and addictions are skyrocketing. In Great Britain there is so much alarm the government is looking to curb state-sponsored games of chance and limit all gambling (one European move the liberals don’t want to emulate). I remember the voice of an evangelical pastor telling me several years ago about the casino billboard he saw along a highway. A mile down the same road was a billboard for a taxpayer-supported gambling-addiction program. I looked at him and suggested government would soon look to legalization of drugs and whorehouses to meet the promises it makes and can’t keep. He responded without emotion. “I don’t see why not,” he deadpanned. “We crossed the moral line with the state lottery.”

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Judging by the comments I read when I see stories about drug legalization, I don’t believe marijuana is harmless. The vitriol is of a nature beyond all reason. You get, Don’t knock it until you try it, as if somehow it’s going to make you happier, prettier and wealthier. The nastiness is of a variety I’d expect to see from a heroin addict three days into withdrawal. You could also point out if it’s harmless then why spend your hard-earned cash on something that goes up in smoke? While it may not have the empty calories of alcohol, it’s transitory. It requires you to reach for your wallet again the next day. Unlike a bowl of salad or a juicy steak, you also don’t need marijuana for survival. As for the medical argument, I’ve been told Marinol is a substitute, and has anyone offered definitive research it alleviates fits in children? Or do mom and dad get so stoned out of their gourds they don’t notice the generalized tonic-clonic seizure?

Another set of online respondents whine about Mormons/Zoroastrians/Republicans not letting anyone else have any fun. Can we gather these are the responses from folks who want all drugs legalized for recreational use? As I’m a Republican and also understand the Mormon view, I’m a little concerned. Desperate addicts knock down doors and old ladies and knock over banks to pay for their desires. You know, if a heroin user stayed in his own home and lived alone and didn’t drive and didn’t thieve to feed the addiction, maybe we wouldn’t have any reason to lock them away. The trouble is the addicts interfere with the lives of their neighbors and sometimes the interactions are deadly. And don’t start yapping about marijuana not being in any way a gateway drug. I simply can’t believe all the cops who tell me otherwise are liars. I grew up in a law enforcement neighborhood. You could throw a rock in any direction and likely it would bounce off a policeman’s house. I’ve spent my adult life at crime scenes and in diners and speaking with deputies and troopers and police officers and just once has one advocated legalization. He had retired to a small country home far away from all other human contact. None, I mean, none of his old colleagues wanted to associate with the man.

Lastly, of those old potheads from school many graduated to more dangerous drugs. One is doing life for cooking meth inside an old gas station. His sentence would’ve been lighter, but he had already done time for running down a 2-year-old when he was higher than the moon, sun and stars. Keep your filth in Oregon!

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Bill Colley is the host of Top Story at News Radio 1310 AM.

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