Public Comment

Marijuana, Bipolar, and the Governor

by Jack Bragen
Wednesday March 10, 2010 - 06:35:00 PM

The Governor's wish to legalize pot has some problems that people ought to think about. While the illegality of marijuana resembles an unnecessary restriction like that of Prohibition, making it legal could cause unforeseen problems.  

Smoking pot contributed to the poor mental condition of John Patrick Bedell which led to his shooting at The Pentagon in which he tragically lost his life. Had he not had access to both weapons and marijuana, this tragedy could have been avoided. It is a known medical fact that pot is bad for people with mental illness, including those with bipolar and schizophrenia.  

In 1982, when I fist became mentally ill, my doctor advised me not to smoke pot, saying that it "doesn't mix well," with antipsychotic medication. I have followed this advice nearly 100 percent. By heeding this warning to stay away from pot, I have benefited immeasurably: I have retained my full level of mental faculties in spite of having a major mental illness. Numerous people with mental illness smoke pot, and this causes them a lot of damage; they appear to become grossly mentally impaired.  

I am not here to give people a puritan lesson in right and wrong. As far as I am concerned, there is no immorality connected to smoking pot, or not. I am simply saying that for some people, especially those with a history of mental illness, smoking pot is a very bad idea. My objections to legalization of pot are pragmatic ones and are not based on antiquated ideas of morality.  

The governor would like to legalize marijuana, citing that it could bring in billions in tax revenue. However this scheme has problems. For one thing, if the price of a joint becomes too high, people will have the option of growing their own. It is much easier for people to produce their own pot compared to booze and tobacco.  

Secondly, look at the continuous mess we have with regulating alcohol, and of dealing with drunk drivers. Legalization of pot would only add another dimension to this mess.  

People are going to drink alcohol and smoke pot, no matter what. When alcohol was illegal in the times of Prohibition, at the end of the Victorian era, alcohol and pot were both forced into the underworld, and into the domain of organized crime. Alcohol today is legal, and this has caused massive numbers of Americans to consume it. While legalizing pot might take some of the profit away from organized crime, it would also cause millions of Californians to use it who now wouldn't consider smoking pot. And this includes many users who are mentally ill.  

Legalization of pot could multiply the number of tragedies like that of Bedell. And if you look at it in terms of getting our state on its feet, it would impair the motivation of the general public, since pot seems to impair people's motivation. Another impaired population, legal users of pot, will be bad for our economy.  

People who I have met even without a preexisting mental condition who say they smoke a lot of pot, some of whom have been friends, often seem to suffer from a cognitive impairment. One friend like this apparently has become senile, and sometimes would speak in a way that makes no sense.  

An extremely occasional joint smoked by those who do not have a preexisting mental condition is probably harmless. Legalizing pot in theory seems like a fine idea. Yet in practice, legalizing pot would burden the state with a greater population of impaired people. And it will be hard to get much tax money from it, also, because it grows so easily.  

As of now, pot has been approved for medicinal purposes, and I agree with this. Rather than simply making pot legal, we need legislation to halt the unnecessary and extreme activities of law enforcement in which the punishment for pot is out of proportion with the nature of the violation.