Why does the government give our children the impression that alcohol is a safer choice than marijuana when clearly it is not?
Three years ago my son was arrested for possession and distribution of marijuana. He served time in federal prison. He deserved it, I figured, because he broke the law, and the law is always right. Or so I thought.
At that time I knew very little about the criminalization and demonization of marijuana. But I began reading books and reports and listening to law enforcement agents and health professionals, and I have come to believe that marijuana should be legalized, controlled, and taxed the same way alcohol is.
Six million Americans are in prison or under probation! More than half were convicted of nonviolent drug-related offenses. In most cases the drug is marijuana, and most of the inmates are young black men. (See The New Jim Crow, by Michelle Alexander.) The prison industry is booming and state budgets are breaking.
According to the Bible (Psalm 104), God gives us bread to make us strong and wine to make our hearts glad. For thousands of years, wine and cannabis—which is the proper name for marijuana—have relaxed many a body and made many a heart glad. Cannabis, like wine, also has many well-known therapeutic effects. But that’s a different argument for legalization.
Take a little wine for the stomach’s sake, the Apostle Paul advised his young friend Timothy. That’s in the Bible. But so is this: Do not be drunk with wine.
Certain people should never ever again take a sip of alcohol. They are alcoholics, and the consequences of their drinking are dire.
Certain people should never ever again take a hit of pot. They are hooked, and their continual use of pot will do them great cognitive and emotional harm.
Millions partake of both of those drugs, and about 10 percent will become addicted. They are sick and need help. It’s a serious health issue but it isn’t a crime.
Still, there are many people who can drink alcohol or smoke pot with little negative effect; they do good work and never do harm to children or others. At least 200 million Americans use these drugs regularly and safely.
The three most popular nonprescription drugs are alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana. Each is harmful to the body and each creates social problems. Of the three, alcohol and tobacco are proven killers. Of those two, tobacco kills only its user (although secondhand smoke is no minor health hazard to others).
Tobacco does not fuel violence toward others.
Nor does pot.
Only alcohol does.
Two popular relaxants—alcohol and pot. You might wish that they weren’t available or that neither was ever used, but prohibition of alcohol is not coming back! Nor is universal abstinence likely to break out.
Ask almost any law enforcement agent or health professional which drug creates the most mayhem in society, which destroys more brains, more lives, and more families, which turns people violent, crazy, out of control, and guess which drug will be named?
It’s hardly a secret!
Those who abuse alcohol die by the thousands, including many young people. Why? Because with millions of dollars for propaganda and billions to be made, the beer industry has romanticized and glorified alcohol consumption, especially for college students. It’s a virtual patriotic rite of passage to get drunk as a skunk!
On many campuses if you get caught drunk, your wrist will be slapped. Get caught stoned, and you could lose your scholarship or student loan, be kicked off the football team, or go to prison. And good luck finding a job after that.
Every year thousands of adults and hundreds of students die from overdosing on alcohol.
No one has ever died from an overdose of pot.
No one. Ever.
Still, pot is not entirely safe. Children and youth should never use it, just as they should never use tobacco or alcohol. The American Psychological Association and the American Medical Association have published warnings that cognitive and neurological damage from early pot use is comparable to that from early alcohol use.
Both pot and alcohol can be harmful if misused or abused. And yet only one is illegal.
Pot isn’t illegal because it’s more dangerous than alcohol. It’s dangerous because it’s illegal. Drug dealers never ask to see an ID. And many drug dealers have more than pot in their pocket. Even so, alcohol, as it turns out, is a far busier gateway to other drugs than pot is. And yet alcohol is still legal!
Soon after Prohibition was repealed in 1933 and Americans could legally buy the “devil’s brew” again, something happened. Harry Anslinger, chief of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, proclaimed—without any medical or scientific support—that pot was the “devil’s weed,” a drug that drove users to rape and kill. He made it clear that this was a scourge mostly among Hispanics and blacks.
Instead of “cannabis,” the drug was now officially referred to as “marijuana” to associate it with Mexican farm workers in Texas. At that time William Randolph Hearst allegedly had financial and racist reasons to vilify Mexicans and cannabis. His nationwide chain of newspapers published lurid stories of murder and rape fueled by pot. It created national hysteria inflamed, in part, by the propaganda film Reefer Madness. Each state rushed to criminalize marijuana.
In 1972 the National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse, headed by Republican Gov. Raymond Shafer of Pennsylvania, studied all the available evidence on marijuana and concluded: Looking only at the effects on the individual, there is little proven danger of physical or psychological harm from the experimental or intermittent use of the natural preparations of cannabis.
That report was rejected by President Richard Nixon, who was convinced that Vietnam War protesters were crazed by pot supplied by communists. He wanted hippies sent to jail. And thus began the “War on Drugs,” the militarization of police forces, the packing of prisons, and the terrorizing of otherwise law-abiding Americans.
During this “war,” 40 to 50 million Americans have continued to smoke pot. Why? Because they see through the government’s lies.
Since 1965 more than 20 million citizens have been arrested for possession. Not all went to prison, of course. But nearly all of them had their lives ruined in one way or another, and nearly all live under constant dread of rearrest and imprisonment.
We are a nation of laws. I do not advocate breaking this law. I advocate changing it so that our children and our grandchildren will have a chance, a realchance to know the truth, the real truth, about the real dangers of both alcohol and cannabis, and so that adults in our nation can have the legal right to choose—as they once did—the one that is really far safer.
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