OpEd

Story published: 04-22-2014 • Print ArticleE-mail Story to a Friend

Maybe Joe Camel needs to modernize


Where is Joe Camel when you need him? 

Yes, I remember Joe. He rode on a package of cigarettes. He was so influential that he could force you to want to smoke just by looking at him. So dangerous was Joe that he had to be removed from our culture.

He not only affected people who smoked, his secondhand smoke was so dangerous that if you even walked by a smoker on a windy day you might be affected. Yes, Joe was a dangerous guy.  

Then we said, “Goodbye, Joe.”  

That was then. This is now. Already legal in Colorado and Washington, and endorsed by the President and Attorney General as “not that bad,” pressure is mounting to make marijuana smoking legally and socially acceptable.  

This, of course, provides politicians what they need — tax revenue and votes. And it makes everybody “happy,” except, of course, Joe, who is now retired in the Bahamas.  

When the marijuana lobby kicked in, the message was clear — “Hey, this is nothing different than smoking cigarettes. You just feel better, more cool.” 

While cigarettes affect our lungs, studies show that marijuana affects and even alters our minds and our ability to think for the rest of our lives. 

The most recent study by Northwestern University found, “The interaction of marijuana with brain development could be a significant problem.”  

They noted “abnormalities in the working memory.” The study noted, “When you make judgments or decisions, plan things, do mathematics — anything you do always involves working memory.” Altering or damaging this memory impacts a person’s ability to think and work.  

The study used brain MRIs to determine the impact, and found that the shape, density, and volume of the brain were “quite abnormal in marijuana users compared to normal controls.”  

This supports the theory that marijuana use leads to users being “less oriented towards their goals and purposes in life and less focused in general” and less able to contribute fully to society, and that smoking marijuana could lead, and most probably will lead, to substantial negative effects on brain development and behavior, especially for younger folks.  

Secondhand cigarette smoke was a worry when Joe was around. Yes, it could give you cancer just catching a whiff. 

So, if marijuana smoke can affect a user in the way studies are showing, can secondhand marijuana smoke affect a bystander? A family member? Oddly, secondhand marijuana smoke is never discussed. 

And we hear the old saw that this is nothing more than one of many studies, which is true. In fact, many of these studies show marijuana use will create a future national health and safety crises, with a growing number of the population having severe mental problems. Do we really want that? Finally, California’s Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown summed it up in an interview on “Meet the Press.”

When asked about his opposition to marijuana legalization he noted: “if there’s advertising and legitimacy, how many people can get stoned and still have a great state or a great nation? The world’s pretty dangerous, very competitive.” Amen.