There’s No Hope With Dope

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By Phil La Duke
Author
I Know My Shoes Are Untied Mind Your Own Business and
Lone Gunman Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence

Full Disclosure: My ex-wife died of a heroin overdose three years ago leaving two daughters to pick up the pieces so I don’t have a ton sympathy for drug enthusiasts.

Before there was “Just Say No” public service announcements had the tagline “there’s no hope with dope.  My friends and I used to say it each other as we sparked one up, or when someone said something stupid, or…well we used the line in much the same way as Sick Boy and Mark Renton did in Trainspotting.  Personally, I wasn’t so much a drug abuser more of an alcohol abuser, but more on that later. More and more States are legalizing marijuana and given its effects (according to the National Institute On Drug Abuse the effects of cannabis (people like to pretty up the image and marketing by calling it cannabis) aren’t exactly what we would like to see in our workers “Marijuana overactivates (sic) parts of the brain that contain the highest number of these receptors. This causes the “high” that people feel. Other effects include:

  • altered senses (for example, seeing brighter colors)
  • altered sense of time
  • changes in mood
  • impaired body movement
  • difficulty with thinking and problem-solving
  • impaired memory
  • hallucinations (when taken in high doses)
  • delusions (when taken in high doses)
  • psychosis (when taken in high doses)”

With number of remote workers, drivers, and contractors and no reliable method to test whether or not someone is currently high it makes for difficult enforcement. It’s difficult to keep workers who AREN’T high safe when someone is suffering from paranoid delusions and psychosis.  Since this is new territory, most States that have legalized cannabis don’t have laws against spiking the pot with other substances, legal limits for driving (or a way to test for it), or just about any criteria that the FDA would use to determine if pot is safe to use. Hell I don’t even know of a law that defines what cannabis is and what it is not.

Recreational Marijuana users listen up: I am sick to death of cannabis. I’m tired of party guests sneaking off to a corner of my garage to smoke a joint.  I’m tired of the sickly sweet smell of ganja wafting past me as I pass the band of reprobates huddled around the dumpster behind the American Legion Hall during breaks from BINGO. But mostly I am sick to death of people looking at me through pink, blood-stained eyes smugly thinking that they are so much cooler than I am for not partaking

In case you haven’t guessed I am not a pot enthusiast, but I don’t begrudge those who, in the privacy of their own homes, decide to ingest pot.  I don’t buy much of the bullshit about how much medical use there is for the drugs, that’s right drugs. My opthamologist tells me that their are at least 70 psychotropic drugs in marijuana the effects of many of which have never been studied.

And for the record I have smoked pot. I was first introduced to it at the age of 9 when I woke up high as a kite owing to the fact that my older brother used to smoke it in copious amounts in our shared bedroom while grooving to the Moody Blues.  It was a memory I won’t forget, a bit like the scene from the made for TV movie Go Ask Alice without the histrionics. I didn’t like what as happening but just went back to sleep.  Later, when I was 13 I smoked my first joint with my sister after she picked me up from my power position as the clean up boy at the Dairy Queen. I was done with work and figured there was no harm in relaxing with what I was assured was a safe and enjoyable drug.  

Later at highschool, I remember the terror of smoking a joint with my friends in the back seat of my buddy’s sister’s hand me down Cadillac.  For me, smoking dope at school was a dumb move and a line that once crossed forever change me. I was officially a burn out. I had changed schools after my freshman year of high school and  was trying to fit in. I had no such compunction about downing the better part of a fifth of whiskey and three beers on the school bus before school later that year, almost dying and receiving a merciful three day suspension.  The faculty council decided I was a good kid who had made a mistake, and I am grateful that they did although to a person they all regretted the decision.

Since then I’ve had a puff here or a puff there mainly to be sociable until giving it up since college. I never enjoyed pot and never understood the allure. For one it triggers my anxiety disorder, makes me paranoid, quiet and withdrawn; in short, for me cannabis is not the social lubricant that alcohol is.

On a recent trip to San Francisco the pedestrians all seemed to be stoned, most begged for money to get something to eat.  In Venice Beach a group of high panhandlers were stoned to get up and ask for a hand out, choosing instead to lie on ground and shout at me across the street.  Here’s a tip: don’t ask me to feed you when you have money for dope.

On to brass tacks. I am not some anti drug crusader but let’s face it cannabis is not harmless. Of course it is not as dangerous as cocaine or heroin which it is currently classified the same as such. Should it be legalized? I think that ship has sailed. But should we put the same rigors on it that we do alcohol? Certainly.  Cannabis impairs judgement slows reaction time, and generally makes you act like an emotionally stunted child. In Michigan, where I live, the laws have not quite caught up with the legalization of cannabis. There is much ado about the fact that there are no good indicators for determining if an individual has gotten high while driving or the day before, because cannabis stays in the system so long, and it is impossible to say whether or not the person is high, or just smoked pot several weeks before, or even if he or she is just an imbecile.

But there is something in the law in Michigan akin to the General Duty Clause.  Michiganders have a legal responsibility to operate a motor vehicle as safely as possible and we are actually required by law to violate a law that would cause a threat to ourselves or others.

Just as we can be ticketed for driving too fast for the weather/road conditions, we can also be ticketed for abruptly stopping at a yellow traffic light and causing an accident.  There is still a law on the books in Michigan called Operating a Vehicle While Visibly Impaired. The charge is typically imposed for people driving like a fool after consuming alcohol, but not enough to blow a .08 on the breathalyzer (incidentally one of the coolest names for something) but can also be imposed for someone driving while fatigued, sick, under the influence of Px or over the counter drugs, and now cannabis.

There are also laws on the books against loitering, public intoxication, and disturbing the peace, so if you’re doing your Cheech and Chong schtick in a public place you can be ticketed, fined, or my personal preference have a nightstick whacked upside your head.

So what can we do in the workplace? I would again invoke the General Duty Clause and stick to behaviors  and fitness for work. If someone is unfit for work because of intoxication—whether from cannabis or from drinking alcohol or even drinking cleaning products (don’t judge me) we still have a duty to protect our workers and a stoned worker is not a safe worker.  I know some of you may be thinking that a couple of puffs before work has no effect on your ability to work safely (and yes, there are plenty of people working in safety who use cannabis, I’ve met a couple) I would answer that argument the same way a person who asserts that he or she drives better drunk.

Legalization of cannabis has happened hastily, and without consideration for the many situations where smoking, eating, or vaping pot could constitute a threat to workplace or public safety. After all, there’s not hope with dope.

There’s No Hope With Dope