Inventor Thomas A. Edison was quoted as saying, “What you are will show in what you do.”

Inventor Thomas A. Edison was quoted as saying, “What you are will show in what you do.” Most of us with a few years under our belt understand this about human nature.

Through this election, we will have gotten closer to showing what and who we are as Americans through the 2016 marijuana ballot initiatives. California and Massachusetts were among the states to vote for the legalization of recreational use of marijuana. Florida and North Dakota were among those voting for marijuana use for medical purposes.

Recreational or medicinal marijuana was already legal in Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington and the District of Columbia. And 22 states have laws decriminalizing or legalizing medical marijuana.

During a visit to Nogales, Arizona, and the U.S. Border Patrol several years ago, border control agents who risk their lives to control illegal immigration and limit the cross border transfer of illicit drugs told me they were in favor of legalizing pot. “Given our limited resources,” they said, “let’s focus on stopping the real, bad drugs vice relatively harmless pot.” Makes sense, right?

Maybe so, but legalizing it, as if to give it not only tacit approval but state endorsement and legal protection? Marijuana advocates are clearly winning the cultural debate in the United States, but is legalization in the long term a good idea? Are pot heads and stoners who we are or what we should strive to be? In the name of liberty, the speed of this societal change — the acceptance of marijuana — may be causing us to overlook the health and cultural dangers to our nation.

In an article written in the Boston Globe on Oct. 8, 2015, entitled “Can we please stop pretending marijuana is harmless?” by Dr. Sushrut Jangi, an internist and instructor in medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Jangi wrote, “An insistence on the banality of the drug is especially dangerous among younger smokers, a population with an epidemic level of pot use. According to the most recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the use of tobacco and alcohol among 12- to 17-year-olds has fallen in the past year, but habitual use of marijuana among those 12 and up is increasing.”

“‘People strongly defend marijuana because they don’t want legalization to be derailed,’ says Jodi Gilman, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School with the Center for Addiction Medicine. ‘If you go into a high school and ask the classroom, ‘Are cigarettes harmful? Is alcohol harmful?’ every kid raises their hands,’ Gilman says. ‘But if I ask, ‘Is marijuana harmful?’ not a hand goes up.’”

Dr. Jangi continued, “It’s to our detriment to blindly consider marijuana’s legalization a victory worthy of celebration.”

A coworker was recently commander of a detachment of Marine aircraft in the Horn of Africa. Here’s his story: The indigenous people were hired as workers aboard the military base from which missions were flown. In the morning, those people, hired to refuel aircraft, drive vehicles, direct flight operations, etc., were hard, capable workers. Afternoons, though, were a different story. After chewing khat, a plant native to the Horn of Africa that the World Health Organization has classified as a drug of abuse that can produce, like marijuana, euphoria and mild-to-moderate psychological dependence, the people were useless. Nothing got done after chewing khat, he told me. We should learn from their experiences.

Likewise, my brother, a well-traveled regional pharmaceutical sales representative and then sales manager who met and worked with thousands of people during his career, has this to say about marijuana use, “I never met a successful pot head.”

Some predict California’s legalization of marijuana will be the beginning of the end of federal laws making sale and use of pot illegal. If so, we may, as some in the U.S. Border Control believe, be able to focus our limited resources on controlling the illicit transport of real, bad drugs into America.

Or, we’ll further erode one of our best founding principles that made America great, the Protestant work ethic, which emphasizes not artificially-induced euphoria and the munchies, but instead hard work, discipline and frugality.

Either way, we will show what (and who) we are by what we do. Pot heads are the antithesis of the Protestant work ethic. Are we really willing to be blinded to our success (and health) by the blue fog of burning weed and being stoned?

Barry Fetzer is a columnist for the Havelock News. He can be reached at