I’ve got to reach Mount ZION!” –Bob Marley,

This is probably my favorite moment in all of Bob Marley’s discography, from the song “Duppy Conqueror”.

He shouts it! He really means it. It’s a beautiful sentiment. Bob felt the need to climb spiritually higher and find his way out of Babylon. 

Ever since I started writing for Hemplucid’s blog, I’ve had a monkey on my back, and it’s time to talk about it. There is a broken place in me that needs healing. I hope you’ll forgive the kind of overly personal and long story, but I’ve got to reach Mount ZION! 

My family is fairly tight-knit– involved with each other’s lives– so I’ve known this little girl since day 1. She’s my oldest niece. She’s hilarious! She’s beautiful. She’s sweet and has such a loving heart, and she always has. I love her like crazy.

At 14, she fell in with a tough crowd and began using heroin. Yes, 14.

We haven’t really seen her since. I mean, we have, but not really. If you’ve lived through having a loved one who suffers from addiction, you know what I mean by that. She’s been sick for 8 years because of a dumb decision she made when she was just a kid. She’s still just a kid, but now she’s seen some stuff. From the first time she tried it, heroin became just about 100% of her lifestyle.

The decision to use heroin gives rise to a number of natural consequences, and my niece has run the full-range of predictable experiences. After several frustrating and traumatic years, she graduated from high-school in a locked-down, rehab high school. She was a few months graduated, then relapsed. This begins a new norm, a new life cycle for a heroin addict. It goes like this: hope– relapse– jail– rehab. Hope– relapse– jail– rehab. Hope– relapse– jail– rehab– ad nauseum. In the past few years, she’s lived a transient life on both sides of the country.

Eventually, you’ve said everything that can be said, and they’ve already heard all the words. What else can you say? You hope and pray that something will cure the disease, but hope starts to wear out after a while. Sorrow is just worn-down hope. 

Her parents are exemplary people, loving, kind, and longsuffering. They bent over backward to try and solve this from day one. They’ve been through a lot: this was the death, for all intents and purposes, of a precious child.

Besides this never-healing absence, they have a very happy family. Her siblings are spectacular kids, very well-adjusted, and some of my very favorite humans. But there was one who got away: a sacrificial lamb. 

It’s grim, but we fear that someday we might get the phone call.

Cried a lot of heartbroken tears over that kid. I can cry on demand just thinking about her, and so can any other member of my family. I love her. She is missed. She will always be missed. 

On the flipside, I tried smoking pot for the first time when I was 14, which is very young. I used cannabis once or twice that year, then again once or twice when I was 15, and once or twice when I was 16. It did not become an overwhelming influence on the life of my mind. 

 I was too young to make the decision to smoke, but I did, and the results have been considerably different than my niece. I wasn’t an angel, but I still turned out okay. These days, I don’t smoke pot at all. It’s been quite a long time. It’s not a thing. It’s never been a thing. 

Heroin is objectively worse than cannabis, and I have proof. It seems pretty damn doubtful that anybody could be so consumed by pot that they sacrifice everything.

Federal dollars and resources ought to be spent wisely and effectively in eradicating the opiate epidemic, in all of its manifestations. Spending a dime, or even a moment on cannabis enforcement, when there is a literal monster stalking the quiet countryside, is a shameful insult to the taxpayers of this great country.

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