The United States can trace many of its ills to a lessening of standards

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When Elvis Presley twitched for his audience, J. Edgar Hoover went berserk.

When Miley Cyrus tweets about her love for marijuana, social media go ballistic.

When Beatlemania struck the United States in the 1960s, parents thought their teenage daughters would eventually come around.

Miley mania may not be so kind. The young singer seems bent on taking parents completely out of the equation. There may be no coming around when she’s finished. The other day, she was seen on stage lighting up – something.

We’ve reached a strange and perplexing intersection in our society today, and much of the congestion is through no one’s fault but our own.

Earlier this month, in Portland, Maine, voters decided to make possession of marijuana legal in the city. Voters overwhelmingtly approved an ordinance to legalize possession of up to 2.5 ounces.

Smoking the drug in public remains illegal in Maine, so the effect of the new ordinance will be minimal at best. Maine is one of 13 states to decriminalize marijuana, as it is a civil, not criminal offense.

It’s been sport for those on some sides of the political spectrum to equate marijuana use with the adaptation of a certain political philosophy and lifestyle.

No need to mince words. It’s all the fault of liberals, some believe. Ok, fine.

Maine seems to be a sort of ground zero for the growing of marijuana for medicinal purposes. Ok, fine again.

But how exactly did we get here, and what is there left for us to do as a society if we have any hope of halting the downward spiral many believe we seem to be headed toward?

A good start might be to ask ourselves whether the permissiveness we’ve allowed when it comes to drug use hasn’t infiltrated our overall quality of life as well. To be sure, American society is laced with examples of how the permissiveness of one sort of behavior led to the deterioration of previously established ground rules.

For years, we knew marijuana, both the possession and the use, was illegal. People went to jail. Careers were ruined. Lives and families were destroyed.Turf wars between rival gangs obliterated central cities. Today, another equally insidious drug, methamphetamine, has done similar damage to rural America.

The same thing happened with crack cocaine. That was an urban drug. But what about powdered cocaine? Why the disparity in drug sentencing laws? Can we all get along in the streets by being just a little bit higher on our coffee tables?

Some felt the crack cocaine sentences were punitive, and incredibly unfair. They were right. Prisons across the United States are saturated with urban youth who ran afoul of the drug laws, and never got back on track. Those “urban youth” often tended to be black males, many of them from economically challenged backgrounds, shades of hopelessness that found its origin in poor schools, run down neighborhoods and, all too often, fatherless environments. And of course, no jobs to be found.

Meanwhile, many of their white counterparts who indulged in powdered cocaine manage to get off with lighter sentences.

So where does that leave the debate?

In this newspaper today, Joan Churchill of Healthy Oxford Hills writes how she isn’t thrilled with these new developments regarding mariujuana use. Before anyone points the finger and suggests Ms. Churchill should come off her high horse, let us be aware that the horse is not the problem here.

It’s the slippage of just another notch on the buckle of permissiveness. It’s the tolerance of behavior onced considered deviant, and always demmed illegal. That is the problem.

If marijuana can be successfully used to treat certain diseases and ailments, then go for it. But make no mistake, the non-medical use of marijuana has had a deleterious impact on American society, and the legalization of the drug is not going to magically wave the wand of wisdom and well being.

This is not a kumbaya moment.

By all accounts, the marijuana debate is no longer about the drug. It is not even about the use of it for medicinal purposes. It is really about how we’ve allowed a quiet acceptance toward something we know to be bad for us to become part of our normalcy and, in the process, part of our accepted behavior.

Indeed, the focus has now shifted to how the use of marijuana and the altered states of consciousness it harbors have become so ingrained that a popular teenage idol can dominate the air waves and the Internet for exhibiting a behavior that once upon a time would have been unheard of, and universally condemmed.

So be it again. Our previous two presidents and the current one dabbled in the joint. One also dabbled in the bottle, another far more pervasive, albeit legal, drug. It worked for them, or at least they managed to overcome whatever demons their flirtation with weed and liquor brought upon them.

Still, maybe we as a society should aim for a higher standard. That means both setting a higher one for ourselves and holding our children and others close to us to the sameĀ  higher standard.

No one wishes for the return of the days of J. Edgar Hoover. But aren’t we capable of admitting that we can adapt, we can progress, without the aid of Miley Cyrus and her ilk allowing us to abandon those things in life that were once good and valuable?