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FROM THE ARENA
Column for the Anchorage Times 4 November 1990
by Wayne Anthony Ross

Time has a way of changing everyone, and yet I was not prepared for what I saw when I ran into an old friend last month. We had not seen each other for a number of years. He had always been a chubby, jovial fellow, with a good head on his shoulders. He had seemed to be happily married, and had held a good job. My friend, however, had changed, and not for the better. I almost didn't recognize him.

He was now recently divorced. His face was lined, and the laughter that I remembered in his eyes was gone. He had lost almost 70 pounds. He was sporting a scruffy beard.

I learned that he was unemployed. He had quit his job of almost two decades, left his wife, and had gone prospecting "out West". Now he was thinking of traveling to the South Pacific. He seemed lost and confused.

What had happened to this once vibrant fellow to cause him to shuck everything that had seemed dear to him?

I really can't answer that question to any scientifically proven certainty, but I have my suspicions. So do other of my friends. "He started going downhill about the time he started smoking the weed" one old pal told me. "He never was the same after that. "

I had never seen my buddy smoke marijuana. He would have had too much respect for my feelings to do that. But other of my friends did see him smoke "that stuff" and he smoked it "quite regularly". And I believe my friend's use of marijuana was the cause of, or at least contributed to, his deterioration.

Advocates of keeping the private possession of marijuana in the home legal in Alaska will, no doubt, disagree with my opinion. But having seen a number of friends and acquaintances who have used that drug seemingly go downhill, as its use increased, I believe that marijuana's harmful physical and psychological effects are readily observable, in some users at least.

Under our present law, thanks to our Supreme Court's decision in the Ravin case, it is legal to possess small amounts of marijuana in the home, for private use. Proposition 2, which appears on the ballot this Tuesday, would re-criminalize such in- the-home possession. Opponents of Proposition 2 say that we don't need such a law, and that it invades our privacy. They argue that since it is illegal to have marijuana outside the home, we don't need another law to make it illegal inside the home. In making such an argument, however, marijuana proponents choose to ignore the obvious. Marijuana doesn't magically appear in a person's home, suddenly growing up through the floorboards to the delight of the pothead homeowner. Instead, it is obvious that for the marijuana to get into the home, where it presently enjoys a type of legal sanctuary, it first had to be purchased illegally, and then brought to that home. Even if the marijuana is home-grown. the seeds had to have been obtained outside the home in violation of the present law, and taken into the home to be planted. Thus, in allowing the legal possession of marijuana in the home, we are fostering the illegal drug trade in that substance outside the home.

I wonder what kind of message parents, who use marijuana at home, send to their children? Aren't they saying that it is OK to violate the law against buying drugs in the community, because once you get it home, it is legal to possess? No wonder many of our community's children seem confused over their duties to society.

We need to send the right message to our young people. We need to vote YES on Proposition 2.

Of course, the outcome of the Governor's race is also going to be of considerable interest this Tuesday. Having come to Alaska in the late 60's, during Walter Hickel's term as Governor, I saw a State that was, at that time, full of promise. During the ensuing years, however, like my friend who used marijuana, this State has deteriorated. Unlike my friend, our State's deterioration has not been from drug abuse, but from Federal abuse. And too long have we suffered under Governors who were too afraid to say NO to that abuse. After the Primary, until recently, it looked like our State's slow deterioration was going to continue. With Wally Hickel in the Governor's race, however, we have the opportunity to stop the decline of opportunities in our State. And we can stop the Federal abuse we have endured so long.

Unlike my pot smoking friend, Wally Hickel hasn't lost his principles, determination, and resolve over the years. He still retains his visions of a bright future for this State. And he still retains his abilities to help us regain that bright future. Wally Hickel is an old friend who I am glad to see again. And I intend to vote YES on Proposition 2, and YES for Wally Hickel.


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