Here we go again … the polarizing politics of prohibition begs our discussions, dialogues, debates, opinions and off-handed remarks culminating in a show of hands in voting booths coming to neighborhoods throughout Maine on the eighth of November.

The subject of the matter appears to be marijuana. The driving force feels more like freedom — the general population being at liberty to develop an unencumbered relationship with natural surroundings.

Nature is and has always been the great open air apothecary, offering up a bounty of plants and wildlife that have sustained people with food and remedies for time unknown.

And not without risk — there are dozens of deadly plants growing within walking distance of some backyards that behooves people to be vigilante, to educate and to guide newcomers, especially children, to the ways of nature. Those same backyards are not routinely patrolled by law enforcement officials, who would protect the children by yanking these deadly plants out of the earth.

So why this inordinacy and ruling passion over the pot plant?

While I was a part-time teacher in a small and intimate coastal village, the school principal approached me to develop a life-issues course for the eighth-grade boys. I agreed, with the provision that it be strictly confidential and that the curriculum — based on the Socratic method — be driven by the students. Students who were growing up in a world vastly different then in my youth. After mutual trust with the students was established, it became evident that these newly arrived teens were keen on experimenting with the world around them … prohibitions be damned.

When substance use came up for discussion, I inquired about whether the adults in their life, many of whom I knew and had personally witnessed some of their recreational activities, offered any guidance. The insights of the students were uncanny. They shared that they were aware that their parents, and other adults, sometimes smoked marijuana, yet were unwilling to broach the subject lest the parents be misconstrued as encouraging usage by the youth of the community.

Those same parents, when it came time for their sons and daughters to get behind the wheel of a car, would sit confidently next to their child and guide them through skills that experienced drivers can make look easy. They shared with the novice what to look out for and tell stories peppered with drama about near misses and dangerous driving conditions, with the intention that this young, inexperienced person next to them will be fully capable of handling a vehicle someday on their own … safely.

This referendum on the recreational use of marijuana once again puts the voter in the driver’s seat … or not.

This is where I feel that legalization would best serve the community by taking a back seat to normalization.

We need only to look down the road that prohibition has taken us before. Strewn all about are the mishaps, pile-ups and break-downs of the often unwieldy alcohol journey.

The journey of pot may follow a similar path: legalization, taxation (Sec. A-1. 36 MRSA c. 723), capitalization, marketization and glorification. Advertisements will appear overnight. The alcohol and tobacco industries already have patents on weed with appealing brand names and are poised to seduce people’s use into giant corporate profits and shepherd the whole show to their tent. Role models of youth will be tempted to sign contracts for a slice of the corporate pot pie, and jingles will echo through folks’ minds as the Pied Piper of Pot charms all that hear his song.

Now legalization may be a first step to a more sane and skillful approach; however, I have some serious and lingering doubts that legalization will effortlessly fall into the hands of diligent and concerned public servants — or parents.

Normalization simply means decriminalizing the plant and letting it return to a status of something like farmers’ market type produce, where we can have face to face discussions about the source and use of the plant. In 1930, Mahatma Gandhi and followers went on a 24-day march to the sea to produce salt in defiance of the government control, by way of taxation, of naturally occurring salt. Gandhi’s strategy of peaceful civil disobedience and employing his force-of-truth doctrine was hugely successful. This was all about independence — not salt.

Come Election Day, people should keep in mind that once their votes are cast and they turn their backs on the voting machines, they then face the duties of steering a community action that otherwise, unattended, may run over some innocent bystanders.

With this kind of freedom that we are working toward, we need more than a one-time vote. We may have to break into a sweat.

Legalization will likely alter the landscape of neighborhoods — dramatically — as alcohol and tobacco and their glorification did.

With patience and wisdom, normalization can be achieved in short order in the current political climate and take people out from under a central government control where we can gain true independence; where we, the people, not billboards and pop-up ads, will have the stronger influence and guidance with our children.

Glenn Stover is a registered Maine Guide with Seaspray Kayaking and has taught in the Lewiston and Brunswick school districts. He lives in Brunswick.

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