WASHINGTON – The tragic death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman seems to have muted for the moment the giddy talk about making medical marijuana routinely available across New York State, as though it were a logical next step to recreational use.
Yes, Hoffman died from heroin, pending release of official forensics, not the dangerous drug, marijuana. But the two are linked in back-alley culture. Marijuana is a gateway for hard drugs, and plenty hazardous by itself.
Credit Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo with the best of intentions for moving to ease the suffering of cancer patients and others who can benefit from this treatment. It is inevitable that New York will join the nearly 20 other states that have made this humanitarian move. But is New York on course to join Colorado and Washington state to sanction marijuana for recreational use?
The New York Times on Jan. 14 quoted Gabriel Sayegh, the state director of the Drug Policy Alliance – described as a lobby for liberalized drug use – as responding to Cuomo’s initiative: “It’s great if they want to move something forward that gets the ball rolling – cool, do it.”
Something is in the air. It is not the understandable grief over the loss of Hoffman. It is the absence of criticism in most of the entertainment community’s responses to how Hoffman wound up in the grave. Not censure of Hoffman’s behavior necessarily, but of the chic environment that makes calamities like Hoffman’s and Chris Farley’s and John Belushi’s inevitable. The urge to be cool, to be hip, to seem progressive, to censor out all censure in the cause of correct speech.
In that collapsed vein, President Obama is sending out grievously bad signals to America’s young people and us young at heart about recreational drug use. Noting that he used marijuana as a young man, he said recently he saw no difference between marijuana and alcohol. The Associated Press reported on Feb. 4 that Obama feels it’s “important” the recreational programs in Colorado and Washington go forward.
Why “important”? Obama told CNN’s Jake Tapper, “We’re going to see what happens in the experiments in Colorado and Washington.”
The legalization of recreational pot in those states is not an “experiment.” The toothpaste is out of the tube. Obama noted that what the states are doing is against federal laws, but that he decided not to enforce them.
The president seems oblivious to the fact that marijuana sales are epidemic, and that federal studies show that a third of the nation’s eighth-graders had used marijuana and that a fifth of the country’s eighth-graders were still using it. That out-of-control car headed across the median for a head-on crash with your vehicle may have a driver who is high on pot. The drug was found to be involved in 12 percent of fatal auto collisions.
Some words about Hoffman and heroin: Many addicts socialize with it. The grip heroin attains is much firmer than marijuana gets, certainly. It’s a death grip. An opiate, heroin takes over your body. You need more and more to reach last week’s high. Eventually, the heroin user surrenders his body to it – he loses weight, his digestive system shrinks, his veins collapse. He surrenders his family. Hoffman’s three small children and their mother will now fend without the Academy Award winner.
Sad history shows that despite the differences in the degree to which heroin and marijuana grab hold of the soul, the process toward addiction is little different. And nobody ought to be endorsing recreational use of marijuana. Fortunately, Cuomo said that is a “non-starter” for him. But he is known to change his mind.