EDITOR: I enjoyed Dan's perspective in his article on marijuana ["Dope," Dan Savage, May 16]. I smoke pot occasionally, and it has had a positive effect on my life. As a college student who has just finished my first year at a major university, I feel that the culture of pot smoking neither promotes nor leads to further drug use any more than social drinking. I am absolutely certain that any effect of that sort which does occur is due to the classification given to marijuana by the government rather than the drug itself. I also know that if I drank alcohol as frequently as I have smoked marijuana, I would be considered an alcoholic and I certainly could not maintain the 4.0 GPA that I had last semester.
Dan Savage's work was professional and balanced. He presented a good point about empathy for pot dealers. They really do deserve more consideration as people instead of a stigma associated with pushers and pimps.
Please let Mr. Savage know that his frankness is appreciated by his readers and that there are others who feel his rage toward the mainstream press.
A Satisfied Reader, via e-mail
DEAR DAN: First of all, your article was great in the way that it broke down some of the negative characteristics of D.A.R.E. and pointed out the ridiculous bias propelled by our mainstream media. You're right: The kid was a little prick. Nothing was gained by his actions, and he was no hero.
However, you were only partially accurate in your depiction of marijuana and its health effects. As a former UN Drug Control Programme researcher, I found that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol, true enough, yet many studies show that chronic use does cause lung cancer more rapidly than cigarettes. It is also true that with stronger strains of weed, there are more cases of driving under the influence of marijuana than ever before. There are also cognitive effects for long- and short-term users. This should not be ignored.
Don't misunderstand. Marijuana should be decriminalized, but unless the facts are interpreted correctly with some perspective, the counter argument, backed with well-funded robust studies, will shoot you down every time.
R. Jamison, CJCJ, via e-mail
STRANGER: I just wanted to thank Dan Savage for pointing out that pot-smoking is not harming anyone, and is definitely not supporting terrorism (unless the single Seattle mom who I buy my pot from is a terrorist). That story hit too close to home. I have a child and I smoke pot, and I have friends who fear their children are being brainwashed by government propaganda.
Did you know that the average sentence for a marijuana grower is MORE than the average sentence for a MURDERER or a CHILD MOLESTOR?! That makes me sick, and I hope Trevor feels the same.
Rachel Hart, via e-mail
SAVAGE: One of the things that your article, which I enjoyed immensely, did not discuss was the statistics on drug use among teens, which has been getting a bit of coverage on TV in the last couple of days. What is amazing about those numbers is how inflated they actually are.
My son came home from school two weeks ago and told his mother and I that they had been "required" to fill out a survey about their use of drugs, tobacco, alcohol, sex, and violence during one of his classes. Although my son and his friends are pretty good kids, like most 14-year-olds, they filled out the surveys with all the honesty that middle schoolers are famous for when confronted with surveys--in other words, they lied their asses off. One of my son's friends reported that he used pot no less than 36 times per month, that he consumed booze at least three times per week, and had regular sex with five or more partners (needless to say, none of these things were remotely true).
In fact an informal survey conducted by my son in his honors math class showed that among boys, 80 percent were moderate to heavy drug users, with pot and cocaine being the most prevalent (most using daily), and 60 percent of the girls also fell into the moderate to heavy drug-use category. More than 50 percent of the boys and 45 percent of the girls regularly carried guns and/or bombs to school, 75 percent of all the students had regular sex with multiple partners, and surprisingly, only about 40 percent used tobacco products, but 65 percent were regular-to-heavy drinkers.
Just a random thought.
Erik, via e-mail
EDITOR: I want to personally thank Mr. Dan Savage for really speaking for us pot smokers and presenting a balanced and accurate portrayal of the U.S. war on drugs. Yes, Trevor really learned a hard life lesson. That is, ANY family is better than NO family. And the mainstream media dances along praising this war on drugs while it rips another family apart. How many more lives must be RUINED before people wake the hell up [and realize] that our government truly is hurting more people than it is helping?
Thank you, Dan, for being a balanced reporter, and coming out of the closet on ways that you like to alter your consciousness that does not involve alcohol or nicotine.
Michael Allison, via e-mail
MR. SAVAGE: You know, for someone who fancies himself as streetwise and cynical as you do, you sure allow yourself to be duped when you want to be (i.e., even if Trevor's dad had only 10 plants, it was a [maybe small] commercial op and you know it, and "knee pain" is a really lame excuse).
Also, you are correct when you say that smoking two joints a year is not being a bad father. Exposing your son to aberrated manners by which to express intimacy is far more damaging. Good job.
And don't blame Trev for "fucking his siblings out of a father." That's the dad's responsibility. He grows pot--this is bad. At worst, he should've talked to his son about the pot. A father-son relationship with good communication will not result in a son turning in his father to the cops--and bad communication is also the dad's fault.
I do, however, share your concern about "authority figures" brainwashing children to turn against their own family members so that the state can stay busy. Psychiatrists and school counselors are expert at this, and this is how social workers get most of their cash.
T. Kapelner, via e-mail
DOPE: A NOTE FROM CHICAGO
DEAR MR. SAVAGE: I just finished reading your article titled "Dope." It was powerful and refreshingly honest. I share your frustration with the mainstream media obfuscating and oversimplifying a complex situation, and demonizing a benign flower.
Earlier today I was at a marijuana legalization rally in Chicago. The crowd was 50 or 75 people at best, mostly the usual suspects who attend the local rallies. I think it is critically important that the casual smokers, the silent masses, make themselves known and raise a voice to end the nonsense. Thank you for doing exactly that.
Liam Downey, via e-mail
EDITOR: I read Dan Savage's article "Dope" with mingled fascination and horror, until I reached this point: "Guns were found in Palmer's home, as was widely reported, but they were locked in a safe and may yet prove to have been legally registered."
Unless we're talking about genuine fully automatic machine guns or something equally exotic, there is no such thing as having to register guns in Washington state. It's bad enough having the "mainstream" press trying to use the horrifying presence of guns to vilify someone, but your reporters ought to be a bit more sophisticated on this point--just as Savage was, ironically, decrying the lack of balance in the mainstream reporting on the basic drug issue.
Anonymous, via e-mail
DEPT. OF CORRECTIONS: Due to an unfortunate error in last week's issue, the subject of the documentary Concert of Wills was misidentified as architect Frank Gehry in Sean Nelson's review of Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones. The film's actual subject is architect Richard Meier. Richard Meier built the Getty Museum, not Frank Gehry. Mr. Nelson regrets the error and freely admits that he is an idiot. On a related note, in the same issue, Mr. Nelson characterized the new Elvis Costello album, When I Was Cruel, as "lugubrious." However, after seeing Costello perform songs from the record in Seattle on two separate occasions last week, Nelson begs to recharacterize the album as "fucking amazing."