Not everyone recognizes the smell of cannabis, but many if not most people in America do. That’s thanks to the 70’s where what was being done by a very visible minority of mostly well to do kids “experimenting” in the 60’s, became almost obligatory in many social events in the decades that followed. And if the current trend continues, then marijuana and it’s invasive odor will become even more familiar as more states, and perhaps the federal government, decriminalize, and even allow it’s recreational use in some cases. The battle between liberals and libertarians vs. institutions like the DEA and conservatives opposed to the drug will continue in the courts and in the jails as users get caught in the crossfire, and police and the courts continue to prosecute in many jurisdictions. The hypocrisy between the accepted progressive view that tobacco is evil, (a view supported by science), and that cannabis is perversely wholesome and somehow natural and beneficial, will increase and continue until science increasingly starts testing cannabis users to determine what diseases and other effects the drug produces.

Someday a Surgeon General’s report will outline the dangers and little by little bylaws and in its wake, perhaps a new moral condemnation will marginalize the drug once again. But that’s likely years away at this point. Imagine in Alaska, say, a mother going to pick up her 4 year old from daycare and noticing the smell of cannabis on the breath of one of the women charged with caring for the toddlers entrusted to her. Perhaps she will even have a medical reason for using the substance. The horrified mother will launch a complaint which will wind it’s way through the courts and perhaps the FDA and various departments of health and workplace safety will weigh in. A whole host of regulations, themselves to be challenged perhaps at a future date, will be crafted and BBC World reporters will rush to Anchorage or Juneau or wherever to gleefully report on the conflict. Between the science, and the regulations, and the ethics and morality, we still have a drug. How we classify it, and how we accept or reject it’s use will depend on changing social mores and the battle between the DEA and State governments that decriminalize cannabis. Let us keep in mind that, like tobacco, like alcohol, and yes like cocaine, cannabis is a drug. And that driver coming the other way on a 2 lane in winter who may have smoked some, will not be as good a driver. Nor will a nurse, nor will a social worker, or teacher, or your accountant getting your taxes right, display the same control and competence. If cannabis is to become recreational, and as the federal government considers decriminalizing it, the limits on it’s use must be severely clear to all. Because, as with alcohol, tobacco, cocaine, and other drugs, it is much more than a question of individual liberties. As cannabis is reclassified from schedule II to schedule I, we should remember that we don’t have the freedom to put anything we want into our bodies whenever and wheresoever we want, and for a good reason: we can harm others and ourselves in the process. The road to decriminalization and possible recreational use should be a long and winding one.