Major League Baseball peaks, the National Football League season begins, and NCAA basketball beckons. If you’re like me, this is one of your favorite times of year. That said, now I want to make sport of a different kind. Buckle your seat belts, and away we go….

Besides following NCAA basketball, I have another favorite sport: trying to understand all sides of an argument. Our elected officials have tough jobs having to consider all sides of complex, business-related issues—at least the ones trying have tough jobs—before casting votes that will affect how you and I do business. Often times, after considering a bill’s many pros and cons and neutrals, they end up voting for the lesser of two evils. It’s not an easy job to have. For illustrative purposes, let’s use marijuana—not literally, of course….

Last October, and for the first time since Gallup began polling it in 1984, a majority of Americans—50 percent—supported marijuana legalization, including 62 percent of Americans age 18-29. A June 2012 Rasmussen poll had it at 56 percent. Now compare that to a 2006 Zogby poll showing more than 50 percent of 18-29 year olds—the same age group desiring legal marijuana—wanting to make tobacco cigarettes illegal.

Do you see an inconsistency? A rather convincing argument could be made for marijuana being far more destructive than tobacco to individual users. For example, The Partnership for a Drug Free America publishes a fact sheet on the effects of marijuana and it claims, in part, that using one joint causes the same lung damage and potential cancer risk as smoking five tobacco cigarettes; marijuana use causes an attention, memory, and learning impairment of greater than 24 hours; in one study, 45 percent of reckless drivers without alcohol in their blood streams tested positive for marijuana; heavy use affects male and female hormonal levels; marijuana use can cause intense anxiety, panic attacks, and/or paranoia; it influences the immune system and affects the body’s ability to resist viruses, bacteria, fungi, and protozoa, and decreases the body’s anti-tumor activities; and, a marijuana joint contains 50 percent more of a certain lung cancer-causing chemical than a tobacco cigarette.

I could go on—and on. The Partnership for a Drug Free America lists sixteen adverse effects and omits a seventeenth: the effect of second-hand marijuana smoke. In sum, legalization could create a heavy weight for a generation of Americans trying to lower healthcare costs and with more usage from legalization could set the stage for your business having less productive, sicker, and more error-prone employees. This also could make your company more legally vulnerable to an increasing number of pot-induced employee miscues. Imagine what happens to quality control the day your employees begin legally smoking marijuana during work breaks.

As a drug, marijuana’s long-term effects are right up there with tobacco, which, according to a Centers for Disease Control website, “harms nearly every organ of the body.”….

Another burning issue involves marijuana’s half-sister, industrial hemp, which looks and smells like the real deal, but doesn’t have nearly enough THC (the active ingredient in marijuana) to get anyone buzzed. In other words, you would get only a headache smoking hemp and yet the growing of industrial hemp in the U.S. is illegal.

Though growing is illegal, other aspects aren’t. For example, U.S. soap makers can legally import hemp seed oil, retailers can import hemp clothing, and consumers can import Omega-3 fatty acids-rich hemp seed cooking oil. In another legal U.S. application, imported hemp is being employed to build homes using a construction material called “hempcrete.” If hemp were legal again—it was legal not that long ago—southern Minnesota farmers could grow it as a cash crop like many did during World War II.

A July article reported that Dr. David Bronner, who owns U.S.-based Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps and each year has to import more than 20 tons of Canadian hemp seed oil, was arrested for trying to manufacture his own hemp seed oil from industrial hemp and spreading that oil on a slice of bread outside the White House. He was trying to raise awareness. Technically speaking, off the top of my head, I can think of a half dozen margarine brands more dangerous to your health than hemp seed oil…..

Lastly, the U.S. government in 1919, through the 18th Amendment and Volstead Act, made illegal the manufacture, sale and transportation of intoxicating liquors. The Amendment and Act had noble intent—like many federal laws—and failed miserably. Organized crime over time ruled the liquor trade and prohibition made gangster Al Capone into a national hero. Eventually, public opinion turned against prohibition, which led to its repeal in 1933 with the 21st Amendment.

In comparison, the United States has a 150-year history of making illegal the use and possession of marijuana. There has never been a “21st Amendment” for pot, even though present-day gangsters like Capone rule our southern border with Mexico, many inner-city neighborhoods, and small parts of Minnesota. It’s your business taxes that must pay for an army of local, state, and federal law enforcement personnel to monitor, prosecute, and imprison these gangsters.

Marijuana is illegal and alcohol isn’t, and yet the latter has done far more to tear apart our social fabric. Consider the millions of Americans permanently disabled by and/or imprisoned due to actions caused by fetal alcohol syndrome, the untold thousands killed or maimed by drunk drivers, and perhaps trillions of dollars permanently lost in business productivity….

For the record, I don’t have a pat answer for what Minnesotans ought to do with marijuana legalization or most other complex issues that affect your business. Rather, through my vote, I do my best to hire competent state and federal legislators who weigh all sides before voting their conscience. They deserve our special thanks.

And thanks to you for reading southern Minnesota’s first and only locally owned business magazine, the one founded in 1994 that reaches 8,500 business decision makers in nine southern Minnesota counties. Again, if so inclined, be sure to nominate a friend or colleague for our Connect Business Magazine/KEYC-TV Business Person of the Year (see page 2). See you next issue.

Daniel Vance

A former Editor of Connect Business Magazine