I have never in my life written a rebuttal column, and I didn't think I ever would ... but I guess there's a first time for everything.
I was delighted, to say the very least, at the response to my column on the legalization of marijuana. I received several letters to the editor that painted me in a less-than-pleasant light ... which was fine by me. Everyone's entitled to their own opinion, and I applaud those with the integrity to express theirs.
I've always felt the primary goal of good journalism should be to spark debate and conversation – to encourage the formation and articulation of views regarding important issues of the day... regardless whether those views conform to my own.
Many of the responses we received, both on our site and to my personal email, were articulate, thoughtful, intelligent, factually rich ... and they made me re-think some of the positions I've taken myself on the legalization issue
I was thrilled, as I simply couldn't have hoped for a better outcome.
The only downside for me was the number of medicinal marijuana users who seemed determined to interpret my column as accusing them of stealing utilities, resorting to violence, etc. I thought I had made it clear that I was referring to those who choose the lifestyle of a career criminal – and who operate the grow-ups that produce crops valued in the tens of thousands, if not millions, of dollars.
Obviously, I need to be more careful in stating that sort of thing outright, rather than implying it.
I actually support a patient's right to access prescription marijuana – I've always felt that's a decision to be made between a patient and his/her doctors, not by me.
So, two bonuses – we sparked debate, and I learned something about the need for specifity and clarity in strongly-worded columns.
As the days have passed, though, I've been increasingly saddened and disappointed with the letters flooding in – I can handle being called idiotic, irresponsible, stupid, ill-informed, arrogant ... I've got broad shoulders, I can take it.
But the ones so rife with vulgar language that even a gross edit wouldn't make them suitable (or even permissible) to publish ... those were a crushing let down.
It seems to me that one would want to avoid discrediting oneself that way if one wanted to further an argument, if nothing else.
The issue of freedom has arisen in the context of this argument, and I think the vitriolic, hate-filled diatribes still darkening my inbox do little to further the cause of freedom. I question a person's commitment to “freedom” when they clearly have no regard for that most basic of freedoms – the freedom of expression.
And to have someone insist, “I'm not a criminal,” ... in the same sentence that they threaten me – I wonder how that writer defines the word “criminal”, as uttering threats is, in Canada, a crime.
I don't agree with legalization, and I'll say so firmly and passionately – but I'll also defend with my last breath the rights of the legalization advocate to express their own position.
And so, I find it very sad that the opposite is not always the case – that I've been treated to curses, threats, and very personal attacks for daring to express my own view of a controversial issue.
For those who wrote in considered, crafted responses rife with information and data supporting their claims – I can't thank you enough.
For those who attacked me and threatened me, I can only say this: please, oh please, would you step off the stage so those who actually have something to say can take the mic.
Hating me won't achieve your professed goal of legalizing marijuana – in fact, it discredits you, and by extension, your cause.