How To Kill Cape Cod for Kids

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Someday soon on Cape Cod it may be legal to buy an edible gummy bear laced with marijuana but illegal to buy a helium balloon.

Something has gone wrong.

Yes, it’s true:  The two are not directly related. But the comparison is illuminating nonetheless, because it points to where we are going.

That place, alas, is not upward.

While recreational marijuana shops are springing up in Massachusetts, and will soon find a home in at least some Cape towns, animal-conscious environmentalists on the Cape are busy trying to ban balloons filled with lighter-than-air gas.

The theory is that helium balloons have a tendency to go up, up and away, either accidentally or on purpose, and wherever they land they might be ingested by an animal on land or sea and damage the animal’s digestive system. (Possibly fatally.)

The balloon industry has a comeback for that argument – if you release properly inflated latex balloons (not Mylar) without strings or ribbons attached, the balloons will eventually shatter high above the earth and return in small biodegradable pieces unlikely to harm animals, the industry says.

But let’s say for the sake of argument that the environmentalists are right:  helium-filled balloons hurt at least some animals if they are released.

If that’s the case, then our new policy goals seem to include trying to minimize harm to the digestive systems of sea turtles from human activity but allowing harm to the brains of human beings from human activity.

For there’s no debate about what marijuana does to the human brain:  It damages it. In the case of children and adolescents, it does even more damage than it does to adults.

And while selling or giving marijuana to children is still illegal in Massachusetts, surely marijuana-laced gummy bears will end up in the digestive systems of some minors – just as helium balloon particles will end up in the digestive systems of some sea turtles.

Now, to be fair, banning marijuana and banning helium balloons are both restrictions on human freedom. But if you acknowledge that some activities are so bad they ought to be banned, which one is more pressing?

Helium balloons cause no harm to human beings. Marijuana does.

If you value human beings over turtles, you necessarily worry more about what’s good for the human being – and particularly the human being’s offspring. A possible harm to a sea creature is outweighed by a definite harm to a human being – particularly if the human being is young.

Cape Cod is a wonderland for children, especially in the summer. Beauty and fun beckon almost everywhere.

Yet we seem bent on taking away some of children’s fun (helium balloons) while increasing their danger (marijuana gummy bears).

For those who like progress:  This isn’t it.