In response to "Marijuana sanity" (December, Guest opinion): I also strongly support marijuana legalization. I believe marijuana can be a medical, emotional and spiritual ally for many people.
I also feel marijuana is not utterly harmless. In his book, "Staying Healthy with Nutrition," Dr. Elson Haas presents a view on this issue that I find quite balanced. He states that occasional marijuana use is not problematic for most people and that marijuana has benefits as a pain reliever, a tranquilizer, for treating glaucoma and for increasing sensory awareness.
Haas also writes that there are problems associated with long-term, regular use. Marijuana can cause bronchitis, increased lung infections and contribute to development of lung cancer. It can also adversely affect fertility, reducing testosterone and sperm count in men; in women it can cause menstrual difficulties. Regular use can drain the adrenal system and contribute to hypoglycemia and cause fatigue and diminished capacity to deal with stress. Marijuana also acts an immune suppressant. And many people do find it addictive.
I don't want our struggle for freedom of choice regarding marijuana to put us into denial about its shadow side. Remember that absolutely anything can be abused. In fact, Manijuana Anonymous groups have sprouted up all over the U.S.
Marijuana can heal and it can harm. We need complete information in order to make good choices.
Nancy Lainen-Keussen, Redway
The column, "A matter of attitude" by Ron Ross (January, Fiscal Fitness), left me exasperated even though I agree with his basic premise, "Optimism is more logical than pessimism."
I'm certainly not smart enough to know that the future will be awful. Furthermore, optimism is useful, as it's more likely than pessimism to produce the kinds of lives the world needs from us.
Unfortunately, I find Ross' optimism shallow. It's easy for some in our affluent culture to gloss over the problems and maintain a head-in-the-sand hopefulness. For example, Ross criticizes Paul Erlich, who predicted in 1968 that hundreds of millions of people would starve to death. According to Ross, "Erlich's predictions have failed to materialize."
Perhaps I'm mistaken, but I believe it's an undisputed fact that tens of millions of people die every year from starvation and malnutrition-related disease, including a high percentage of children. I wonder how deeply Ross empathizes with the pain of their slow death?
It's true that serious problems have always existed, but never before have humans had the power to eliminate species and destroy the very life-support system we all depend on. Ross does not understand this qualitative difference in some of our current problems.
I respect an optimist who can look problems in the face, feel the suffering of our earth and our fellow (humans), and yet find -- somewhere deep within -- the courage, faith and humility to remain hopeful and live a life of joy and service. This is ... the kind of life I aspire to. I haven't been finding it easy, but I certainly believe it's worth the effort.
Brian Julian, Blue Lake
Please convey to Wally Graves my sincere "well done" on his article on Morris Graves, Wally's brother and my uncle (December cover story).
Lois Graves Coalwell, Placerville
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