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Too often in life, we allow our preconceived notions of a person or a subject to blind us from fully considering the matter.

This may be the case for many when it comes to the idea of legalizing marijuana, which South Dakota voters have the opportunity to do on Nov. 3.

Proponents say the measure would generate needed tax revenue for South Dakota, while allowing law enforcement officials to focus on more significant crimes. However, those in opposition believe legalizing marijuana could send South Dakota’s culture and economy “Up In Smoke.”

At a still relatively young 42, I am old enough to remember when the mere concept of legalizing marijuana would have been laughable. It was the 1980s and then First Lady Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” campaign was all the rage. I remember that so many people had the buttons with the statement on them.

I was probably in second grade at my eastern Ohio elementary school when we got our first anti-drug poster for the wall of our classroom. There were probably eight to 10 drugs listed on the poster, along with descriptions of each. Sure enough, marijuana was listed right there with LSD, cocaine, heroin and several other illegal drugs.

Therefore, from the time I was pretty young, it was drilled into me that I had better not do drugs.

By the time I got to high school in the 1990s, culture had started to change a bit. I was still sure I wanted no part of drugs, but, then again, I was vulnerable to peer pressure.

So, early on during my junior year, a couple of kids at school talked me into buying a small bag of marijuana to try. They even gave me a so-called “bowl,” which is similar in nature to a pipe used for smoking tobacco, to enhance my experience.

At the time, I worked as a carrier for an afternoon newspaper, as I would walk through my route every day after school. Because of the nature of the route, I would cut through the woods once I got to the end of the subdivision, rather than pass the houses to which I had just delivered papers.

My PLAN on this day was to pack and light the bowl when I got into the woods.

However, I chickened out. I just knew that my foster parents would detect the scent of marijuana on me if I smoked it.

So, instead of packing and lighting the bowl, or lighting anything, I did what I found most logical at 16: I put the whole sandwich bag worth of marijuana, bud, stems and whatever else may have been in there, into my mouth.

I then chewed it up and swallowed.

I then started to make my way out of the woods toward the road to finish my paper route. Once I got back up to the road, I started to get a bit of a head rush. After walking about halfway up the hill, I realized the weed was kicking in.

Not entirely sure what to do, I managed to finish delivering my papers. I then made my way to the nearby house of an acquaintance, one who I knew regularly smoked pot. I remember going into his house to find that he and one of his buddies were, sure enough, smoking weed. I just stretched out on the floor and tried to relax for a while before making my way back home.

The good thing about this experience with marijuana for me was that I never wanted more of it. I mean, all it really seemed to do for me was give me a headache.

In the nearly 26 years that have passed since this experience, I still have never smoked marijuana. I suppose fear of repercussions has played some role in this, but it really didn’t seem like an experience I needed to have. I can remember going to concerts and such with friends who would do it, but I would always decline when they offered me a “hit.”

However, others decide marijuana is for them. While some do it simply for recreation, others choose it as a pain reliever, or a stress mitigator.

According to the federal government, marijuana is 100% illegal. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration classifies it under Schedule I, stating it has “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”

Schedule II drugs — meaning they are theoretically not as bad as those on Schedule I — include:

  • hydrocodone (Vicodin is one brand name)

  • cocaine

  • methamphetamine (more commonly known simply as “meth”)

  • oxycodone (OxyContin is one brand name)

  • fentanyl

  • Adderall

  • Ritalin

Other than cocaine and meth, what do all of these other drugs have in common? Pharmaceutical lobbyists to “encourage” members of Congress to ensure their legality.

And I don’t know about you, but I’ve never heard of anyone dying from a marijuana overdose.

On the contrary, fentanyl, which is rated up to 100 times more potent than once-feared morphine, is known to kill some of those who overdose.

I am not going to tell you how to vote on the Nov. 3 marijuana issue. I just encourage you to approach the issue with an open mind, while spending a bit of time to learn more about the matter.

One source of information with arguments on both sides of the issue is https://marijuana.procon.org. This is a service of the Britannica® Group, long famous for the traditional hardback Encyclopedia Britannica.

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