Let’s start the week out with an issue that is not particularly Earth-shattering:

An article from The Olympian this weekend reveals that a bus driver and some riders of Intercity Transit in Olympia are complaining about an advertisement on the bus that features a picture of a marijuana leaf.  The advertisement is for an event occurring in Olympia on August 23 and 24 called Olympia Hempfest 2008.

The Olympia Hempfest ad accepted by Intercity Transit has an image of a marijuana leaf and the slogan, “Equal Rights are for Everybody.”  It seems that a number of people believe the ads will encourage people to smoke pot.  Others believe that the ad will be seen as a political statement for the legalization of marijuana.

Yes, the advertised event appears to be not only an opportunity for a weekend of summer entertainment, but also a forum for speakers who will discuss a variety of pro-hemp subjects.  No, there likely will not be a coalition of speakers present speaking on the subject of “saying no” to marijuana use.

This article is not really going to be on whether pot possession should be legal or not.  At the moment, it is not legal to possess, except possibly for certain medical uses in the Oregon province of Cascadia.  Marijuana may or may not be the “gateway to harder drugs” though I see how that argument could be made in either direction.  As to whether the substance is “bad” or not, there are certainly possible harmful effects that could come from it’s overuse.  Of course, there are also possible medical problems with overuse of alcohol or tobacco that are similar to those of pot, so there is certainly some inequity in the law.  I’ll leave all of that for another day, though.

No, there are certain people who have seen this advertisement and believe it to be an encouragement for adults and children to start using marijuana.  As if the presence of a picture of a leaf from the cannabis plant will miraculously convince some of our population to give it a try.  After all, if it is advertised on the side of a bus, it must be good!

Have we really become such a bunch of sheep that the mere presence of a picture of a cannabis leaf will convince us to take up pot smoking?  Sure, why not!  When McDonalds suggests that a couple of Big Mac Sandwiches constitutes a wholesome lunch, we believe that.  All it takes is an advertisement from the State Lottery on the same but to turn us into a community of problem gamblers.  Pity anyone who has seen a public-service poster encouraging children not to use drugs.  Certainly the photo of a syringe and an unidentified powder has done more to get these same kids to use the drugs than it has done to stop it.  If the marijuana leaf is causing this harm, so must be some of the other images that have appeared on the same bus over the years.

Many conservative families will be unsure of how to explain the presence of a picture of a leaf to their children.  As they have attempted to shield their children from the sight of these leaves, their children would never have known of their existence unless they were posted on the bus for all to see.  Certainly we could restrict our Freedom of Speech for such a noble cause.  I do have a suggestion, though.  Perhaps these parents could use this as a learning opportunity.  Perhaps they could alert their children to the existence of certain plants that they should not roll up, set on fire, and inhale the smoke thereof.  This could be done in the same matter-of-fact way that I hope they are instructing their children not to pick the poison oak and rub it’s oils over their body.

In fact, I would encourage these same parents to use these same techniques to encourage other, positive behaviors.  If a marijuana leaf will get folks using drugs, certainly a spiritual picture of two will convert most of the population to the religion of your choosing.  I would encourage these same people to utilize the same rights of Freedom of Speech.  Use it to encourage others to develop habits that you consider to be positive.  Who among us has not seen an ad from one or another of the large medical insurance providers encouraging us to lead healthy lives.   This seems proof to me that this powerful “Freedom of Speech” stuff could catch on for all of our region’s people.

The beauty of the system is that there is something for everyone out there.  The same weekend that Hempfest 2008 is in Olympia, Portland will be hosting Portland Cityfest, a Christian themed event at Waterfront Park.  There will be events all over Cascadia that same weekend and others that will cater to people with a variety of beliefs.

Rather than complain that someone is sending out a message that you don’t approve of, explain to your kids to distinguish right from wrong, as you see it.  Then use that same energy to send out your own message.  That is what the united States is all about!

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Example of the Advertisement as seen on Intercity Transit Buses.

Example of the Advertisement as seen on Intercity Transit Buses.