America has been undergoing a marijuana revolution of sorts. Marijuana is legal for medical use in 20 states and the District of Columbia, and now it’s sold in Colorado and Washington, with around a dozen more states likely to follow. A recent study by the University of Texas at Dallas found that legalized medical marijuana actually lowered crime rates.
This is all good news for advocates for legalization, but author Tony Dokoupil warns of a coming backlash. What will be the impact once marijuana is mainstream and industrialized? Dokoupil, the author of The Last Pirate: A Father, His Son, and the Golden Age of Marijuana, raises important arguments that should be of concern to people on both sides of the issue.
Dokoupil, a journalist, has a personal connection to the great marijuana debate. His estranged father, Anthony Dokoupil ran a $6 million marijuana operation, one of the largest in the 20th century. His business would have survived the federal crack-down of Reagan’s “War on Drugs” in the 1980s if he hadn’t turned into an addict of his own product. Now his son, who leads a very different life from his father’s, warns that legalizing the drug may take a lot of the fun out of it.
“There was, some believed, connection between the illegality and the thrill of doing wrong,” he told Big Think in an interview. “It wasn’t only the THC. It was the idea that we’re flicking off Uncle Sam who doesn’t know. And when that’s gone, well, you have to create something else to make it work. And that something else is a lot of THC and more use than we currently see and potentially a problem.”
He also adds, “The joke in the 1970s when my father was big in the marijuana world was well, we don’t really want them to legalize it because if they legalize it, it won’t be fun and it won’t work anymore.”
Other concerns include GMOs and processed foods—two areas that personify poison for most on the side of marijuana legalization.
“I think legalization will continue to spread around the country and I think at a certain point there’ll be a very strong liberal backlash, because the pot market that is emerging is going to get bigger and more professionalized,” Dokoupil says, pointing out the issue of GMOs which are largely not being talked about in the marijuana debate. “It’s all genetically modified in Colorado. It’s hard to find what they call land raised strain of marijuana, something they grew naturally and has not been modified by man.”
The junk-food industry, which has been blamed for helping create an epidemic of obesity in the US, also seems positioned to want to jump on the legalization band-wagon. “I think there’s every reason to believe that the science of processed food delivery will overlap in the future with the science of marijuana,” he says. “It’s already in edibles. And that’s troubling. I mean that’s creating a potential monster.”
Watch Big Think’s interview with author Tony Dokoupil: