Among Latinos smoking marijuana is associated with dirty uneducated people. That’s why November’s ballot initiative to legalize marijuana will not be an easy sell, especially among Latino immigrants who have become citizens.
I was not surprised when I was invited to participate in a news show from Miami about marijuana legalization and three radio listeners called in to express their total opposition. The radio hostess even said that if Californians voted in favor for this measure, the entire nation will come to live in California.
When I immigrated here, I was surprised to see how common smoking marijuana was. People were not shocked by the issue, which is what normally happens in Mexico.
One day, my son came to me and asked, “What would you think if I tried pot?”
I started to panic. My heart started drumming. Immediately I thought of a dear friend of mine who died young due to a drug overdose. He could have been a top physician, but he lost everything including his own life to drugs. Marijuana was his gateway drug. I have seen addiction transform strong ambitious people into unmotivated lethargic people.
My biggest fear with my own children was that they were not strong enough to say No to drugs when someone would inevitably offer.
When I was talking to my son, he said: “But Governor Schwarzenegger used to smoke marijuana and look where he is now — he is the governor of California.”
“Yes,” I said, “He and President Obama smoked pot, but not everybody has the willpower to try drugs and not become addicted.”
My son told me that some young people use it to relax. I replied that there are many other ways to relax. Going out for a twenty minute walk is relaxing.
Statewide, the main argument for legalizing marijuana is to bring in $1.34 billion per year in sales taxes to the failing California budget. But we should mention that those who are behind the push for legalization are in that business and want more profits through legal sales. They do not care about the public’s health or the ill effects of drug abuse.
I have seen first hand the devastation of drugs: death, suicide and the destruction of families. In this country, drug use is as epidemic as obesity. Both need to be addressed.
I do not see how legalization could help the drug war in Mexico where thousands of people kill each other in a fight to control the giant US market.
I do not understand why tobacco use is becoming less popular and less “cool”, while pot use is becoming more socially accepted.
So far, I have not heard any Latino voices speaking out in favor of legalization, and I have looked for them.
Months later, I asked my son if he was smoking pot, and he said, “No. I just drink one or three drinks once in a while.” I replied, “Be very careful with alcohol. It kills slower than drugs but it is a killer too.” After that, peace returned to my heart, and I resumed sleeping like a baby.
I really wish that Californians would think very seriously about the consequences of legalizing pot before making a decision. And if marijuana is legalized, it is my biggest desire that it comes with more education for our children about the consequences of drug addiction.
Editor: Maria Ginsbourg
Araceli Martínez Ortega is a Mexican journalist who has lived in California in the last nine years. This collaboration is about her personal journey through Las Americas and wherever she goes.