If you want a docile, complacent population more likely to put up with growing societal ills and less likely to hold those in power to account, while also becoming more dependent upon them, you could hardly do better than to encourage more pot smoking and gambling.
Presumably increased complacency and dependency are not the state government’s actual goals in its push to legalize recreational marijuana and mobile sports betting. Increasing tax revenue to cover everything from essential services to outrageous public pensions and wasteful boondoggles is the driving force. New York is in deep trouble — it was long before the coronavirus delivered what feels like a knockout punch — and the powers that be would much rather fund both needed services and their ongoing follies than to rein in spending in any significant way.
At least they’re not running around shouting “Weed for Rails!” and claiming marijuana taxes would save the MTA like they did two years ago when this idea came up.
But the effect is harmful. Look, you don’t have to be an old buzz kill to know that marijuana damages the mind. What do you think is happening when you feel that euphoria, not to mention the confusion and spaciness? Duh. Data show that when you legalize weed, people use it more, including younger people whose minds are most affected by it. The effect on driving is a big concern: One study in Colorado found that marijuana-related traffic deaths jumped 151 percent after legalization, while overall traffic deaths went up 35 percent. Police do not have the ability to tell if someone is driving high the way they do if someone is driving drunk. The chemistry is cloudier.
And just as people can get addicted to drugs such as marijuana, they can get addicted to other problematic behavior like gambling. Mobile sports betting would make that all the more likely as people are so dependent upon their phones now. Although more research needs to be done, one study showed that people who gambled via mobile device as little as once a month were 13 times more likely than others to be at risk of problem gambling.
Not everyone who smokes marijuana or bets on a game online will develop a problem. But enough will so that our government should not be encouraging such behavior. Money isn’t everything, and the state shouldn’t address its shortfall in revenue by promoting vices. Let’s leave the laws on marijuana and sports gambling as they are.