Publisher's Note: Another boomer failure?

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By Tom McDonald

One of the greatest accomplishments of the baby boomers is not that we turned race and color into non-issues on the American landscape, but that we raised the generation that might just do it.

Case in point: The election of Barack Obama, our first African-American president. He was elected with the overwhelming support of young voters — more so than he had with voters over age 50.

I’m proud that succeeding generations see character content over skin color, but as a bonafide boomer I admit that we failed miserably in other areas. I can think of three in particular.

We gave birth to the modern environmental movement, but we can’t seem to muster the political and economic wherewithal to reverse climate change. It appears that we’ll be passing that global crisis on to our kids and grandkids.

And we forgot the lessons we learned from the Vietnam War. We know that our government is perfectly willing to manipulate the truth, but then we let ourselves get duped into thinking that we had to attack Iraq. As a result,  our second baby boomer president took us into yet another unnecessary war.

Now, if that’s not enough to make you want to bop our collective boomer forehead to say, “Didn’t we learn anything?” here’s another colossal failure for our generation: the so-called “war on drugs.” And now I’m starting to wonder if we’re about to start making it worse.

Recently, the magazine Bloomberg Businessweek included a cover story about a new industry of producing synthetic marijuana and other drug substitutes. The magazine reported that synthetic cannabinoids, the most common of these products out there, is generating billions of dollars in sales. The “incense” alone, according to an official with the North American Herbal Incense Trade Association, is generating about $5 billion a year.

And, yes, it’s legal.

So here comes the Drug Enforcement Administration, riding to the rescue as if it’s an expert at winning the drug war. The DEA is helping states come up with ways to make synthetic drugs illegal, working diligently on our behalf to ban certain chemical formulas being used to create their new highs. Only, it’s not so easy, since the labs that manufacture these products as incense, potpourri and even bath salts have become adept at changing their formulas and staying ahead of the legalities. Plus, the fact that many of them label these items “not for consumption” further clouds the issue, even though everyone knows that consumption is exactly what’s happening.

So now states, and Congress, are moving toward “class-based synthetic cannabinoid bans” in an effort to outlaw this growing industry. Whether these latest efforts will actually succeed is questionable, but by golly our lawmakers and law enforcement officers will give it a good fight, just as they have for decades upon decades upon decades ...

Here’s my question: When are we going to approach America’s drug problem for what it is? First and foremost, it’s a health issue. Yet we keep attacking it as a law-enforcement issue, as if we can stop it with more laws and prison bars.

We baby boomers — after losing such great artists as Elvis Presley, Jimi Hendricks and Janice Joplin to drug abuse — should know better than to consider this a matter for the police. Was Elvis a criminal in need of jail time for the pills he popped? Or was he in need of treatment?

The reason drug abusers turn to crime is to pay for their addictions, not because they were thugs all along. And the reason we should be concerned about synthetic drugs is because of the health problems they are bound to create.

Any chance we boomers can learn from our past and get this one right? If not, maybe our accomplishment will, again, be that we created a generation that knows better.

Tom McDonald is the Optic’s editor and publisher. He may be reached at 505-425-6796, ext. 237, or tmcdonald@lasvegasoptic.com.