A long way from "Reefer Madness"

Mar. 12—Many of us recall a health class film we watched in high school similar to the "Reefer Madness" propaganda movie made in the late 1930s that warned of the hellish results when kids were exposed to marijuana.

Since then, Cheech & Chong movies made us laugh and kind of embrace the lovable pot heads.

Now, everyone knows it's no longer if but when marijuana for recreational use will be legal in Minnesota and eventually everywhere.

The term "recreational" is an interesting spin — makes you put it in the category of recreational vehicles and playing recreational yard games.

The term is used to differentiate from the already legal medical marijuana.

Still, a shot of bourbon or whiskey has long been touted as of medicinal value, but we don't talk about the recreational use of Jim Beam and pinot noir.

Most agree it doesn't make sense to potentially ruin people's lives because they were caught possessing pot for their own use but were often treated more like big-time drug dealers and sent to jail or prison.

It doesn't seem that people talk a lot about whether it would be good or bad to legalize pot use in Minnesota. I'm not sure most people really know what to think.

They understand smoking some marijuana is no more dangerous than drinking. But they also have a feeling that allowing any adult to smoke some reefer, as we called it in the old days, is going to lead to some problems.

There are already concerns about worker productivity in America, and pot for all might not help.

People I've known who had a pot habit tended to be laid back, often to the point they didn't have the ambition to do much of anything.

But their easygoing vibe was generally pleasant to be around, unlike the loud, belligerent drunks you sometimes encounter.

Employers are already fretting about the idea of legal marijuana. Sure they can say employees can't use it during work, but they know it will be impossible to prevent anyone from eating pot gummies or lighting up on their breaks.

And unlike with alcohol use, there is not an easy "impairment" test for marijuana. They also worry about liability if a high worker injures themselves or someone else.

But worries aside, Pew Research and other polls show the public's support or opposition to legal pot has shifted dramatically.

A Gallup poll shows more than two of three Americans, 68%, favor the legal use of marijuana. As recently as 2006, just 32% supported marijuana legalization, while nearly twice as many (60%) were opposed.

The shift to favoring legalization is led by millennials (those 18-34) who heavily favor legalization.

A poll at the Minnesota House of Representatives booth at the State Fair last summer showed support for legal pot continues to grow. More than 61% of people who responded to the annual opinion poll indicated they support legal marijuana while 30% oppose it and 8% are undecided.

Whatever people's apprehensions might be, society clearly wants to do away with making pot illegal. We will find out soon enough what the drawbacks will be.

Tim Krohn is at tkrohn@mankatofreepress.com or 507-720-1300.