Let me start by saying that the purpose of this blog entry is not to make a statement about the legalization of marijuana either “for” or “against” or otherwise make any other kind of political statement. With that disclaimer out of the way, I wanted to introduce a scenario that has been on my mind as a substance abuse counselor in the Northeastern USA. As with most substance abuse counselors, I work with a lot of young people who smoke a lot of weed. In New Jersey, marijuana is still pretty expensive while jobs are currently still pretty scarce especially for young marijuana smokers, therefore many of the more avid pot smokers who I have worked with in treatment have had to resort to selling marijuana to support their own marijuana habit. I am not talking about big-time dealers (although I have worked with some of those too); Rather in this case, I am talking about the type of kid who sells just enough weed to have enough left for himself to smoke a gram or two, or even three each day as a part of his own habit with maybe a little cash left over for other expenses. Right now a gram of marijuana in this area I hear is still about $20 so I am talking about kids with a $20 to $50 dollar-a-day marijuana habit. I realize that not every kid smokes that much however, usually more of the kids that end up in treatment are the more regular “heads” with a bigger commitment to trying to get high on a daily basis than some of the more recreational users; (despite the fact that many of the daily weed smokers still consider themselves recreational users anyway, therefore “recreational” is a subjective term).
Where I am curious about is that once marijuana is fully legalized recreationally in this area, then what will the people who sell marijuana to support their habit end up doing in order to continue to fund their marijuana habit? In other words, if there is no longer a need for “self-employed” marijuana dealers due to the availability of legal marijuana for purchase then what choices do the current dealers have after legalization fully takes place? I imagine that some individuals will be forced to cut down on their personal use of marijuana without having the means to support themselves, while others instead will be moved to get jobs rather than cut down on their smoking. Still others, perhaps will keep up their current rate of marijuana use while instead changing to selling “harder” drugs such as cocaine, heroin and hallucinogens. It is this third scenario which is most concerning because the last thing we need is more hard drugs on the streets.
An additional factor to consider is that some individuals who get involved with dealing soon develop an affinity for the excitement and fast money associated with drug-dealing, sometimes even more so than using. I have had many conversations with drug dealers at all levels about how selling drugs can become an incredibly difficult to quit “addiction” in itself. There can be a “high” often associated with the easy money and sense of power and social status that can come with being “in demand” as a drug dealer that many dealers will openly admit can be quite difficult to let go of. Again, the question is what choices will these individuals make if and when it is no longer feasible for them just to sell pot?
BEFORE COMMENTING on this please understand the following. I am not predicting that any of this will or will not actually happen. I am also not trying to stir up debate, anger or contentions among either pro or anti marijuana legalization supporters; (Believe me I know from experience how strongly people feel about this issue and I respect people’s right to their various differences of opinion). I also realize the fact that there is already a lot to be learned from other regions of this country and this world (Colorado USA, for instance as well as Amsterdam, which has already re-adjusted its own drug laws in recent years.) This is just a “food for thought” type of scenario that has been on my mind in these ever-changing times in which we live for introspection and perhaps some intelligent and open discussion.