This op-ed will not change anything concerning the voters legalizing marijuana. The best we can hope for is those with authority enact within their boundaries those necessary conditions, rules, laws, ordinances and health guidelines that will protect the general public.

We are not seeing anything new with marijuana that we haven't as a society seen with the legalizing of alcohol and tobacco. When self-gratification motivates and guides the masses then these things happen.

My background is in law enforcement and in that setting not only was enforcement a daily factor dealing with drugs in our community, but the public education programs on drug awareness was constant. A series of chiefs of police wanted the public to be made aware and kept informed on the drugs and their negative impact on not only the user but the public at large.

Marijuana is seen as a low level drug, when in fact it is more potent today then it was in the early days of use and abuse. Many are willing to treat it as a substance we can live with. The same was felt about alcohol and tobacco and it is very clear to us that those two substances have caused many to fall prey to their toxic characteristics and suffer in many ways the affects upon the body and living in general.

Don't think marijuana is going to give us a more sober person to deal with, because in truth they are going to be just as much a pain and as sick as other users of their favorite brew or smoke. The fact that marijuana stayed for a long time on the Controlled Substance list and had its legal repercussion for possession and use, this barrier alone kept many from becoming a user of the substance. Now with the barrier removed, more folks will most likely feel like trying or using marijuana.

Remember one user begets another and if you are too weak to say no and want to join the group, then you put aside common sense and become a user. Dope dealers by any definition chosen, don't care the avenue you take to become a user, just that you become one.

On the list of issues with marijuana is dealing with health and appearance, and impact on the brain and reproductive organs. You cannot judge how marijuana will affect your system based upon others telling you it won't harm you. Many tobacco users know that the same person who offered them their first smoke may no longer smoke but they can't kick the habit. The same holds true for alcohol and it will be the same for marijuana.

I never conducted a public talk on drugs but what the audience of any age well recognized the impact tobacco and alcohol had on their families, loved ones, and co-workers. Employers will continue to see issues with these substances and now with marijuana, how will its use impact quality of service, or quantity in productions? Will job-related injuries increase, or time off for other medical reasons be more evident? Will children living in a home where marijuana becomes a steady habit show evidence of second-hand smoke affecting their schooling and social life?

The trail that has been left by accepting alcohol and tobacco and now with marijuana leaves us with the question, what will the masses want legalized next? The self-gratifying voters who thought of themselves first now must accept the fact that a thread connects them to the woes associated with abuse and the cost to the community, and the deaths upon our highways caused by the THC driver.

THC , the intoxicant in marijuana, remains in the body and someone who smokes three times a week is never absent of its presence in their system. We have many people in our community who can give testimony to the reasons why this substance should never have been made legal, but they are a small voice when others see escape and joy through its use.

The alcohol, tobacco and now marijuana highways will have many on them and these highways have many exits to finding away to stop using, but too many will drive on past them. The roadways also have many curves and around one of them for the abuser stands the Grim Reaper with a sign that reads: Welcome to Death.

When self-gratification is the driver, reasoning and judgment are in the trunk with the rest of the junk.

Have a nice day, stay smart, don't start.

Ron Paddack is a Barstow resident.