Can you smoke a spud?

By Mike Murphy

Wouldn’t you know it, soon after the state of Oregon legalizes the recreational use of marijuana the Oregon Ducks football team loses three games. I’m not implying that there is a direct cause-and-effect relationship; however, there is talk that the university is considering tying the two momentous events together by changing the football mascot to the Oregon Daffy Ducks. To which I say, far out, dude!
Oregon recently joined Alaska, Washington and Colorado as states that have legalized the recreational use of pot. I figure that another thing the four states have in common is lots of natural beauty full of mountains and trees to roam around in, so those states’ residents can now experience a Rocky Mountain High in more ways than one.
When one spends some time in Oregon, it becomes clear that the switch to legalized recreational pot is not such a radical step. After all, Oregon already seems to have a craft-beer brewery in nearly every town and leads the nation in number of breweries per capita. Plus the state has well over 500 wineries. Throw hundreds of pot dispensaries into the mix, and it’s no wonder the speed limit on state highways is 55 and much of the interstate is 65. With all that beer, wine and pot floating around, the state won’t even allow drivers to pump their own gas when filling up!
Cannabis is one of the oldest domesticated crops. There is evidence that some ancient Greeks were totally into smoking hashish for medicinal reasons, and, no doubt, to help them understand just what the heck Aristotle meant when he said stuff like, “The worst form of inequality is to try to make unequal things equal.”
Later, 16th century farmers in England were required by law to grow hemp. And it’s certainly feasible that the Pilgrims brought along some cannabis seeds when they sailed for America, which most likely answers the question as to why the Pilgrims somehow managed to collide with the only rock in Plymouth harbor. On the bright side, the cannabis stash that accompanied them on the voyage probably explains all that pumpkin pie and whipped cream consumed at the first Thanksgiving.
During World War II, as part of the “Hemp for Victory” campaign, the U.S. government granted draft deferments to farmers who would stay home and plant hemp to be used for various military materials. Nearly 375,000 acres of hemp were harvested. Around this same time, there was an inexplicable spike in tractor crashes throughout rural America.
Personally, I have mixed feelings about the push by states to legalize pot for general use. There’s something about smoking a weed that strikes me as just basically weird. Sure, when I was a teenager some friends and I rolled up banana peels, cooked them, and smoked them, based on Donovan’s song “Mellow Yellow.” Nothing happened, but we had some really good banana splits later that day.
At the same time, no sense in passing up an economic opportunity, so with even more states considering cannabis legalization, I’m considering picking up some shares of Mars candy and Keebler cookie stock.
One has to admit there do appear to be some pretty impressive benefits to the legalization movement. After legalization, nearly every type of crime declined during the first four months of 2014 in Denver, Colorado. Although, I think we’d all have to admit that comes as no big surprise. Think about it: When was the last time you read in the newspaper about a guy high on pot starting a fight, or, for that matter, even an argument, other than wanting to know who ate the last slice of pepperoni pizza?
If there was going to be any uptick in crime after pot goes public, it would probably be limited to the robbery of Girl Scouts selling cookies, especially those yummy caramel and toasted coconut-covered ones.
It’s a safe bet that traffic accidents will decline as pot displaces alcohol consumption. Whereas drunk drivers are often guilty of being reckless and speeding, drivers under the influence of weed are notorious super-slow drivers and sometimes even have to be reminded to start the car.
Then there are the financial benefits for local governments. For example, during one four-month stretch, Colorado collected $16 million in taxes from the pot industry. And in Oregon, the first five days marijuana was legal, pot dispensaries had over $11 million in sales. With a 17 percent sales tax rate, that’s money the states would never collect from some drug dealer on a street corner.
Here in Idaho, of course, we have potatoes. You can bake them, boil them, fry them, roast them and mash them. You can even use them to make potato vodka. But you can’t smoke them to get a buzz. If you could, it might just give a whole new meaning to the term “hash” browns.

Mike Murphy of Pocatello is an award-winning columnist with accolades including an Associated Press first-place award in column writing and a first place award in a national writing contest sponsored by Nissan Corp. His articles are syndicated by Senior Wire.