Jan 13 2014

Paul Williams



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Action, Addictions




Actually, the headline should be “marijuana waffler.”  Even as I type this I’m not sure I want to share my thoughts on the subject of ‘Legalizing Marijuana”. I read Tracey’s powerful anti Legalization blog and found many of her arguments compelling.   I have the same concerns that she does.  Addiction is rampant around the world and I don’t want to see anything done that encourages or increases the probability of kids getting high.

That thought deserves a paragraph of it’s own.  I don’t want to do anything that contributes to the growing numbers of teen alcoholism and addiction. For many marijuana is in fact a gateway drug and I have seen the destruction of lives again and again when casual use gives way to dependence and addiction. Marijuana is more powerful than ever and it’s potential to become an obstacle in building a healthy and productive life is undeniable.

So, why am I reluctant to simply state that I’m against Legalization of Marijuana?  Because I’m not.  Not completely.  And there are a number of reasons why.

I’m a recovering alcoholic and an addict.  I’ve been sober for almost 24 years. March 15th, 1990 is my sobriety date.  I guard it with my life.  A life that recovery has given me.   But there’s a part of me that can’t enjoy my freedom knowing that there are people rotting in jail for recreational use of the same drugs that I used.  I was never a big pothead.  I’ve largely avoided substances that made me comatose or fascinated by my cuticles.  My addiction was to alcohol and cocaine.  It was a juggling act that wiped out a decade of my life and brought me to my knees.  I threw in the towel, put the plug in the jug, tossed the little bottles and straws out for good and began to heal.

I could be sitting in a jail right now.  I could be sewing and cleaning for somebody named Bubba and his friends.  No, I never sold drugs to be able to afford mine but it’s what many addicts do.  And there are some really fine people who, crippled by their disease made really stupid decisions that have cost them their freedom.

I’d like to see marijuana federally decriminalized.  I’d like to see the same drug laws from coast to coast.   I do NOT want to see Maui Wowie or Acapulco Gold sold in aisle three next to the yogurt.  Frankly, I’m not too thrilled to see tobacco and alcohol sold there either. I think selling or providing mind-altering substances to juveniles should be a punishable crime. And the idea that letting kids drink at home is the lesser of two evils doesn’t work for me either.

Time for a new paragraph. No I’m not anti-alcohol or a temperance fanatic. I keep booze in my home.  Many of my friends and family enjoy a drink.  It pleases me to pour one for them.  And I remind you I can have one any time I want one.  Any time I want to trade the life I have for the one I escaped.  I’m not an alcoholic who can’t drink.  I’m one who chooses not to.  I celebrate the glories of sobriety and will do anything I can to share that magical gift with anyone who NEEDS IT!  I don’t drink because it would cost me everything I’ve been given. Clear vision is the prize I celebrate and use every day.

But, there are people who drink responsibly and there are people who can light up once in a while and not chase the dragon round the clock.  For me to make a hard case for outlawing weed I need to get comfortable with imposing my will on other peoples lives. And that’s not who I am today.  And while I want nothing more for the world than safety, happiness and spiritual awakenings, I am loath to push for prohibition.

Let’s see what happens in Colorado.  It may not work.  The fact is in some states where pot has been made available legally the rise in high school students admitting to trying it has risen two percent.  That’s a small percentage but one life ruined by addiction is too many. That concerns me big time.

Waffler? Yes, I am.  I admit it.  We have to protect our children.  So roll out the task force and start popping people?  Maybe.  Maybe not. I think about the approximately ten percent of total man-hours on a police force used to enforce drug laws and I worry.  Couldn’t those men and women on the thin blue line have made better use of their time dealing with violent crime? Many cops agree.

Which brings up another point.  The only real measurable violent crime around marijuana is in the market place.  It’s the dealers, especially the large-scale cartels below the border who are wreaking havoc.  The average pot smoker generally is a couch potato.  Getting behind the wheel isn’t very appealing and stepping into the ring probably impossible.  Drunks tend to rage but stoners … not so much.

Mellow is the word that comes to mind.

I think I’ve found a solid ground that I can state my position on.  My wish is that marijuana use by an individual adult in privacy should not be a crime.  I’d like to see marijuana decriminalized.  Balance the softening of the laws for individual use by making the sale or availability of any mind-altering drug to a minor a serious offense.  Step up enforcement of child protective laws and change the way addicts are treated.  That’s huge to me.

Education and treatment are effective and less expensive than housing a prisoner.   Sending an addict to prison for giving in to his addiction is doubly wrong.   His illness, for addiction is a disease, is being ignored and he’s being sent to crime school.  There’s a better way.

Over the last decade or so Drug Courts have developed across the country.  Some states came to the technique before others.  But monitored, highly disciplined drug treatment programs offered to addicts has proven to be incredibly effective in turning potential criminals into sober, productive members of society.   New to the world of recovery is the creation of Veteran’s Drug Court.   Our service men and women, returning from duty suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder are especially susceptible to self-medicating drug use and addiction.  Their problems are unique and it’s magnificent to see those who were willing to sacrifice their very lives for this country being offered a chance to rebuild their own lives.

Am I for or against legalizing marijuana?  A little of both I fear.  If nothing else I hope sharing my thoughts will reinforce your perception of me as somebody eternally grateful for the life he’s been given and the chance to discuss such deeply important subjects in this open forum.  Grateful to share the cyber podium with my best friend, my co-writer and partner in this journey from miserable lost soul to seeker on the road to Gratitude and Trust.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject.



Paul Williams

Paul Williams is a singer, songwriter, actor, recovery advocate and has been a fixture on the American cultural scene since the seventies. His book Gratitude and Trust is now available.