Last weekend, I went back home to Kalamazoo. I was driving around with my friends trying to find a parking spot at Warehouse Records when all of a sudden, a black car with tinted windows pulled up alongside me.
The driver rolled down his window and motioned for me to do the same.
Not knowing what I had done, I rolled down my window and said, Whats up?
You guys want some hydro? the guy asked.
What? I said, not believing this person was serious.
You know, he said. Marijuana.
No thanks, I said, and continued looking for a space.
Im sure many people get offered drugs from random people on the streets - but that was the first time for me.
I laughed about it because I thought about how it had sounded exactly like something out of an anti-drug commercial or a DARE program re-enactment.
I was just another kid on the streets making a smart decision about drugs, right?
My instincts told me not to buy pot from some random guy in a parking lot. The real issue, though, is whether it was what I had learned in the DARE program in fifth grade, or just simple common sense.
I think Im going to go with the common sense answer on that one.
The weird thing is, the first time someone offered me drugs, I wasnt concerned about health risks or the illegality of them. Those thoughts never even entered my head. DARE was supposed to teach us to just say no and remember the consequences of drugs.
However, that was the farthest thing from my mind.
The only thing I was really worried about was what my parents would think if I gave in to peer pressure.
All of this has got me thinking about the reasons kids start using drugs. I think a huge part of it is the thrill of doing something youre not supposed to. The excitement of doing something bad and not getting caught is priceless.
My friend Aaron and I argued about this after seeing the movie Traffic, which deals with all aspects of the drug war - from drug cartels and dealers to the users below them.
He says the United States should legalize all drugs to add cash flow to the economy. However, I dont know if I can see this solving anything.
The only drug I can see being legalized is marijuana. Millions of Americans smoke it already, and it could be a very successful cash crop. Because many kids are smoking pot to try to be cool, it just wouldnt be the same. It would become like cigarettes and alcohol: Different types, different prices - some worse than others.
However, I dont think this can be justified for harder drugs like heroin and crack.
Putting highly addictive, destructive drugs within easier access to Americans would not have many benefits. I can only see more crack babies, addicts and kids in high school not only experimenting with tobacco and alcohol, but with harder, more addictive drugs as well.
Now, I know the same thing could be said about tobacco and alcohol. Both are destructive to your health, and alcohol is a huge factor in car accidents, domestic violence, homicides and numerous other crimes.
But both of these substances are legal.
Thats why I see so many kids who think nothing of taking a few shots or drinking a few too many beers and puking the whole night.
Most arent 21 yet, but because alcohol is legal to those of age, they have the feeling it must be safer than pot, right?
It isnt true. Both alcohol and marijuana are bad for you in different ways. People always seem to forget that just because something is legal doesnt mean its good for you.
If crack, for example, were made legal, I have a feeling many kids would get the same notion. They might think because its legal, it cant be that dangerous. We all know this isnt true. So it just doesnt make sense to me to make it that much more confusing to kids who are already using alcohol, marijuana, ecstasy and countless other drugs.
That brings me back to the whole common sense issue. Educate yourself about what you are putting into your body.
Maybe I had some common sense in not buying weed from people on the street. But that was easy. What if its my best friends trying to get me to shoot up?
Its doubtful Ill walk into a drug store someday and see cocaine on the shelf right next to Motrin and Vicks 44. But if I do, its still the same drug that could have been offered to me by a stranger in a black car with tinted windows.
It doesnt necessarily make it right.
So, next time you take six shots of tequila, snort some blow or even just smoke a cigarette, remember that.
Leslie Escobar, a State News intern, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.