Unwatched Pot: Do we know enough about marijuana?

Image courtesy of WBUR, a Boston NPR Station

I’ve been thinking about marijuana since my home state of Michigan legalized its use in November. I read Malcolm Gladwell’s piece in the January 14, 2019 issue of New Yorker.

I am ambivalent about legalizing it. The state criminal justice system spends a lot of money prosecuting marijuana crimes, mostly for possession arrests. The majority of people arrested are poor African Americans. After listening to Season 3 of Serial on the impact of the criminal justice system on the poor of Cleveland, Ohio, I feel it is a good idea to eliminate marijuana as a crime, especially with the poor. I think it is good that this is no longer the case and hopefully the government will treat it as a health issue and not a crime.

I am concerned, however, that with the legalization, that more people will be using marijuana. 10 US states have legalized recreational use and there are only three states that prohibit any use. I think that is the last thing Michigan, and America needs. A drug that anecdotally encourages people to be less active, eat more and decrease motivation, will not be good for a country already suffering from this.

Gladwell points out that there are not any long-term, large studies on the effects of marijuana use. Some studies show marijuana use increases incidents of mental illness, especially schizophrenia and perhaps even violent behavior. I know this sounds like the 1936 documentary, Reefer Madness, but I don’t think we know enough about it. As it becomes more mainstream, like cigarettes and alcohol, I believe we will see more research findings.

Gladwell mentions e-cigarettes and how they are being handled by governments as a comparison to marijuana. He wrote that e-cigarettes are 95% less harmful than regular cigarettes, but in many ways, it is more difficult to buy them. Educators are seeing increased use of e-cigarettes by teenagers and this is a concern.

I will be curious to see how we view marijuana use over time. We are embarking on a large-scale experiment on the effects on our society. I wonder how we will feel 20 years from now.

Outliers: The Story of Success

The Administrative Team of the International School of Belgrade is reading and discussing the book, “Outliers: The Story of Success” by Malcolm Gladwell. We annually select a book to discuss throughout the year. Last year Last year we read the management book, Influencer: The Power To Change Anything.   Click on the link to see my notes on it. 

This post will be notes from my reading of Outliers and discussions with my colleagues. I want to focus on the implications for our students, teachers, and parents of our learning community.

The best introduction to the book is the interview below by PBS journalist, Charlie Rose. He talked with Gladwell in December of 2008 about his latest book, Outliers.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “A conversation with Malcolm Gladwell“, posted with vodpod

Kosovo Part I

Kosovo has been in the Serbian news a lot lately so I wanted to get a bit of historical background on the place. In February they declared independence and that caused protests in Serbia. It is a place of conflict and violence.

Kosovo was the southern part of Serbia. It held 20% of the Serbian population and composed about 12% of its land mass. The area is small compared to the USA, with Kosovo only being ¼ the size of my home of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It is actually only a bit bigger than Iron county. The majority (> 90%) of the population is Albanian but many Serbs consider it the “cultural heartland” of the nation and the scene of Serbian Orthodox monasteries, historic battlefields, and other historic sites.

It was my goal in reading Kosovo: A Short History by Noel Malcolm, to learn more about why some Serbs feel so strongly about the place, considering it is now mostly Albanian. The question of Kosovo independence is a touchy subject with Serbs and this particular book caused many ill-feelings with the Serbs. It is not my place to form an opinion this question and I will read more on Kosovo.  I can say it is sad to have had so much death and hate in the breakup of Yugoslavia. This is the last bit of it. The topic of Kosovo will come up in conversation with my future Serb friends and I do want to visit the place to see it for myself, so some background on the area will not hurt.

In general, I disagree with the former US president Woodrow Wilson regarding his view on independence movements. When the great powers were deciding the fate of nations and peoples after World War I, he had the philosophy that if an area was mostly homogeneous in regards to ethnicity, that they should have self-determination. That sounds nice, but the world is more complex than that. I see that a strength of the USA is the union of many different kinds of people to form one unified government and more importantly, one economy. Personally, I believe that standard of living takes precedence over everything and it is nicer to live in a bigger economy. There are more opportunities to earn a living and have a better home and lifestyle for individual families. I am not sure that this movement of smaller and smaller nations is beneficial in this regard.

I am mix of Slovak and Polish descent. I am a “pan-Slavist” and wish that the Slavs would have banded together from the beginning to form one country. They would have had a better standard of living and wielded more power in defending themselves against larger outside powers like the Ottomans and the Nazis. According to Wikipedia there are 320 million Slavs. Imagine if Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia along with the Slavs of  former Yugoslavia and Bulgaria formed one country. It would also be more powerful than current European heavyweights, Germany and France.

As I move through the book, I’ll blog more about what I am learning.