Elevate Difference

Marijuana is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink?

Cutting to the chase: The three authors of Marijuana is Safer—all active politically in pro-marijuana organizations—argue in favour of a regulated system for the distribution and sale of marijuana in America to allow its responsible use by adults. The evidence they accumulate to support their position is based on health, logic, science, and money.

A couple of chapters sum up the history of how, after U.S. alcohol prohibition ended (1933), the government demonized and racialized weed through anti-pot propaganda that distorted and exaggerated marijuana’s dangers. Reefer Madness (1936) is the best-known example of this propaganda, but dissing reefer was everywhere in the era’s media. Weed was the devil. In 1937, Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the first anti-pot bill, a bill that the American Medical Association, for goodness sake, spoke against.

In the sixties, challenges to demonizing pot occurred en masse when longhairs puffed joints openly. In 1972, a U.S. Congressional report concluded “there is little proven danger of physical or psychological harm from the experimental or intermittent use of the natural preparations of cannabis.” Thirty years later, a Canadian Senate report (2002) came to the same conclusions and recommended pot’s legalization. President Richard Nixon quashed the U.S. report; the Canadian report was ignored when Stephen Harper and his minority Conservatives assumed power in Canada.

Despite legal proscription and the risks that go with it, millions of people smoke pot. Millions more have tried. Yet you can still go to jail and have your life ruined by current pot laws. Marijuana is Safer points out in its rational way that this is a waste of billions of taxpayers’ dollars. The flip side is if weed were legalized, licensed, and taxed, billions would flow into government coffers rather than out.

Additional reasons the book marshals in marijuana’s favour are equally compelling. Experience has taught the pro-weed movement that addressing pot vs. alcohol health issues changes minds re: legalization. So pro-marijuana groups now emphasize health factors. Every year in the U.S 12,000 people die from alcohol-related illnesses; 35,000 die in drunk-driving accidents. Thousands upon thousands more are physically or sexually abused by drunken assailants. Three hundred people a year in the U.S. die from alcohol overdose. Apart from the human tragedy, it takes billions to finance the hospitals and courts this booze-created mess needs.

Marijuana, however, tends to make people peaceful; violent behaviour is hardly associated with its use. And no one dies from a marijuana overdose. Alcohol affects the lower brain stem, which regulates automatic functions. Drink too much alcohol and you could stop breathing. Or suffocate in your vomit during a blackout. Weed effects upper brain functions. Smoke too much and the worst that’s likely to happen is you’ll eat a whole key lime pie by yourself and fall asleep watching 2001: A Space Odyssey again.

Beer, wine, and hard liquor manufacturers have a huge stake in the legal status quo. The National Beer Wholesalers Association has a lobbyist in every state. Alcohol invests a billion dollars a year in advertising. Should marijuana play on a level field with alcohol, the booze industry could be very hard hit financially as recreational users shift to the safer alternative. Do those lawmakers who take alcohol industry money support the current draconian ganja laws because Big Booze money pays them to vote that way?

It’s a good question. This book faces it squarely. As it does other questions in the pot/alcohol debate, including use of pot by minors, who shouldn’t smoke pot, possibly salutary effect on U.S.-Mexican border drug wars if Mary Jane is legalized, health dangers of cannabis, and how weed could be regulated.

So stop bogarting that joint, my friend, and get loquacious with your amigos about this calm, well written and researched tome on why adult humans everywhere should be able to spark up responsibly, if they so choose, without fear of legal consequences.

Written by: Neil Flowers, January 5th 2010

mmmm... key lime pie.