Recently, a crafting friend took a trip to Oregon to attend a show selling her products. She hadn’t been to the Beaver State in several years and was looking forward to the show. Afterward, she came back shaking her head. “They’ve all become lotus-eaters,” she remarked in wonder.

If you recall your Greek mythology, lotus-eaters were “a race of people living on an island dominated by lotus plants. The lotus fruits and flowers were the primary food of the island and were a narcotic, causing the inhabitants to sleep in peaceful apathy.” Homer mentions in “The Odyssey” that the lotus-eaters gave his men “… to eat of the lotus, which was so delicious that those who ate of it left off caring about home, and did not even want to go back and say what had happened to them, but were for staying and munching lotus with the Lotus-eaters without thinking further of their return.”

Oregon, in case you didn’t know, recently legalized recreational marijuana. It seems a tremendous number of people at the craft show – both visitors and vendors – were stoned. Mellow. Still capable of rational thought, but not inclined to make it a priority. Laid back, man. I wonder if the ancient Greeks were familiar with marijuana as the basis for the lotus-eaters?

Marijuana has undisputed medical benefits, but those applications are not the subject of this column. My concern is how legalizing a common drug will impact ordinary citizens.

The reasons for legalizing marijuana are numerous. “Everyone uses it anyway,” say some. “May as well let the government tax it,” say others. Early reports seem to indicate those with no inclination to indulge in marijuana still abstain, despite its legality. Those who were already consuming pot are now able to do so openly, more frequently and without fear of arrest.

Whether these proportions will gradually shift – whether non-users will give in and start using pot – is anyone’s guess. It’s worth noting that what turns many people off – the smell and taste – is no longer an issue as cannabis is now available in a variety of highly concentrated formats (liquid, food, crystallized, etc.), many with no “pot” taste or odor.

As usual when approving unprecedented laws, the unintended consequences take some time to manifest themselves. Such is the case with legalizing marijuana.

I live in the Idaho panhandle, just a few miles from the eastern Washington border. When I travel to Spokane (the biggest city in the region), commercial avenues are now lined with enormous billboards directing drivers to the nearest fluorescent-green storefront selling “the best” weed in a variety of forms. Dozens of establishments have sprung up catering to the new freedom to indulge, often adjacent to residential homes.

Now it’s nothing unusual to see people on sidewalks, in stores, on public transportation, or anywhere else, smiling vaguely, looking mellow and reeking of reefer. God only knows how many of these people get behind the wheel of a vehicle or otherwise perform tasks that depend on sharp attention.

Statistics are now coming out of Colorado (which legalized recreational pot in 2012) that paint a grim picture of a stoned society: increased emergency room visits, crime, DUIIs, etc. But it’s not just stoners who are affected. Pot also affects those who want nothing to do with it.

When Oregon legalized recreational marijuana in 2014, within months the landscape – the literal landscape – altered aggressively. Pot growers moved into quiet communities. They planted their crops, erected huge security fences, installed bright lights, trained mean dogs and cultivated a nasty attitude. This is taking place in both rural and suburban neighborhoods.

“Increasingly since 2014,” notes this article, “when pot was legalized for recreational use in Oregon, a palpable sense of fear has descended on the tree-shaded streets of most of the small cities and the storied rural roads of sleepy southern Oregon’s Rogue River Valley. … Flush from its legalization victories here and in Colorado and Washington, the marijuana steamroller is using its criminal heritage to crush opposition to the drug as it rolls into the community. … It’s not just [elderly families] cowering in their homes after being menaced by lawless neighbors cultivating an illegal amount of pot in their backyards. Sinister late-night phone calls have been received by a Medford city councilor opposed to soft regulations on the sales of medical and recreational pot in the city. Citizens who express their unhappiness over the changes new marijuana laws are bringing to their once quiet lives find themselves bullied. Veteran cops in rural areas are worried that Mexican cartels will use violence against the marijuana farms of locals.”

We lived in the Rogue Valley of southwest Oregon for 10 years and have a great fondness for the region. I’m told I wouldn’t recognize it any more. The famous pear orchards that used to be the valley’s agricultural mainstay are being chopped down to make room for far more profitable plants. People who lived quietly in their homes for decades suddenly find themselves facing systematic harassment from pot growers who routinely intimidate and threaten. Police can’t or won’t do anything, partially because pot is now legal, and partially – I suspect – because the problem is growing far too big for them to handle. And police aren’t immune to harassment, violence, intimidation and threats either.

For those who think legalizing marijuana is harmless, go read this article. Read every word, from top to bottom. Then read it again. This, folks, is our future.

There are nasty drug cartels moving into the Rogue Valley that had never been there before, busy trucking marijuana to parts of the country where “pot sales are illegal and demand is strong.” In the past, the “war on drugs” too often turned into little more than an excuse for police seizure of property. But is legalizing a recreational drug the answer?

The genie has been let out of the bottle, and it will be impossible to stuff it back in. To reverse these laws, when such an aggressive contingency has grown and thrived and bullied and taken over, would be tantamount to reproducing the effects of Prohibition. It would tear our country apart and give rise to massive, massive crime.

When I drive to Spokane through rural peaceful farmland, mere yards over the state line is a compound on a hill surrounded by a tall and intimidating fence. Everyone knows what’s behind that fence. That farmland, cultivated by generations of hardworking farmers, is being occupied by a new type of “farmer,” one whose livelihood often is built on threats, violence, intimidation, a shady clientele and nefarious activities. Those whose property abuts this new type of farm are doubtless walking on tenterhooks, keeping careful watch on children and locking doors that never needed locking before.

Marijuana is not just a harmless weed, and the fallout from legalizing it is just beginning.

Thanks to our public education system, we’re already a nation of idiots. God forbid we should become a nation of lotus-eaters too.

Media wishing to interview Patrice Lewis, please contact [email protected].

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