Drug use is demonized, and the “evil” of drugs is propagandized in the corporate media. This helps to sustain the long-running, selective “drug war” in the United States and elsewhere.
One logical and ethical solution to the prodigious resources devoted to the “drug war” is the recognition of each person’s sovereignty over his own body. Consumption of drugs and whatever else is the decision of adult individuals in reasonable command of their mental faculties. Society (as it is presently constituted, the state) should monopolize drug sales. The state will save money fighting illegal drug sales and assure that unadulterated, untainted drugs are sold. The drugs can be sold with necessary information and warnings (ideally factually accurate information — neither disinformation nor propaganda) about the drugs, so that the individual is fully informed of the potentialities from drug consumption.
Others, however, choose to live by different principles or rules. In most societies, the ruling class arrogates the right to decide what is best for others and enforce this decision. This is the case in the US for drug use – even for the comparatively harmless marijuana plant.
Steve Fox, Paul Armentano, and Mason Tvert approached the right to use marijuana from a different tangent. They argue, in the book Marijuana Is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink?, that because it is far safer than alcohol, marijuana for personal use should be legalized.
Marijuana Is Safer
So Why Are We Driving People to Drink?
By Steve Fox, Paul Armentano, and Mason Tvert
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Chelsea Green Publishing (2009)
Study after study shows that alcohol is linked with violence: acts of aggression, assaults, rapes, and murders. Alcohol is toxic; marijuana is not toxic. In fact, marijuana is therapeutic for certain disorders – perhaps even having anti-cancer properties (as the writers note, the US government holds the anti-cancer patent). Alcohol may have some benefits for blood-thinning properties in moderated daily doses, but it is not a prescribed treatment. The writers, therefore, question why marijuana use, which does not promote violence, is so harshly punished and alcohol use is not.
Fox et al. cite the 1997 World Health Organization final report that held: “On existing patterns of use, cannabis [the psychoactive component in marijuana] poses a much less serious public health problem than is currently posed by alcohol and tobacco in Western societies.”
Therefore, to treat drugs fairly (and alcohol is a drug) based upon “facts” established through unbiased and sound scientific studies, either alcohol must be prohibited or marijuana legalized. Marijuana Is Safer does not advocate a return to alcohol prohibition.
Alcohol consumption is largely accepted in society; marijuana use though widespread is usually done discreetly lest one risk being arrested.
The penalties that marijuana users face are many and severe. Fox et al. write, “Believe it or not, virtually no other criminal offenses – including violent crimes like rape or murder – trigger the same plethora of sanctions.”
Indeed, when US president Richard Nixon launched the official government war on drugs, “public enemy number one” was marijuana.
The Outcome of Marijuana Prohibition
The authors hold that the harsh legal enforcement of marijuana has artificially lowered marijuana use and led to increased alcohol consumption.
They identify at least one cause of marijuana prohibition as being racially motivated, an example being crazy Mexicans. This is a part of the onslaught of disinformation that surrounds the use of marijuana.
For this reason, the book includes a chapter tackling the myths and facts surrounding marijuana use, such as it leads to “harder” drug use, that marijuana is highly addictive, that it causes many traffic accidents (the writers do not recommend driving after toking), that it causes brain damage, etc.
There is probably a likelier cause for the maintenance of the prohibition against marijuana that the authors touched on: the alcohol industry has a hand in maintaining marijuana prohibition – protecting its profit margins from competition. Marijuana — “weed” — would be tough competition for alcohol.
Why Legalize Marijuana?
Society would benefit not just in increased safety but also economically. As one example, the book notes that “annual alcohol-related health care costs were forty-five times greater than marijuana-related health care costs!”
The authors contend that “modern marijuana prohibition is a ‘cure’ that is much worse than the disease”
“Why should we add another vice?”The authors argue, “The fact that alcohol causes so many problems in society is not a reason to keep pot illegal; rather it is the reason we must make it legal.” Marijuana is not adding a vice, but rather providing a “less harmful recreational alternative.”
The authors attempt to steer an honest assessment of marijuana compared to alcohol. While Marijuana Is Safer debunks many of the myths existing about marijuana use, it does not insist that driving under the influence of marijuana is safe; it does not insist that marijuana has no addictive properties. It cautions against young people “who lack the maturity” from using mind-altering drugs. It seems here that Fox et al. in, perhaps, a bid to appear impartial, strayed from evidential analysis.
Marijuana Is Safer does not posit foreknowledge of what changes will come about with the legalization of marijuana other than society will, assuredly, be safer. It seems this assurity is premised on people switching from alcohol to safer marijuana and neophyte recreational drug users choosing marijuana over alcohol.
Evidence does exist to support the premise that knowledge of the risks of drug taking does influence taking of the drug. There is a huge advertising industry based on the notion that how information is packaged and presented influences people. Nowadays, cigarette packages clearly indicate that smoking may cause lung cancer and other terrible diseases. Despite this some people continue to smoke. Yet, the numbers of smokers have declined and this is attributed to the increased knowledge of the dangers of smoking. The Canadian Cancer Society stated in 2002: “It’s clear that the advertisements work [to discourage smoking].” The CBC reported that the province of Nova Scotia had a youth (15-19 years) smoking rate of 31 percent in 2000 – when the warning ads on cigarette packages were introduced – and in 2007 the youth smoking rate had dropped to 12 percent.
The reasoned logic of Marijuana is Safer is something all members of society should take time to question and consider. Who stands to benefit from the present policy against marijuana use? What are the benefits and costs to society from the present policy? Marijuana is Safer compellingly reveals the irrationality behind the selective drug prohibition policy, a policy which puts people in comparative danger.