Driven to drink by marijuana laws?

By Bernd Debusmann
July 23, 2009

(Bernd DebusmannBernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own)

Tough marijuana laws are driving millions of Americans to a more dangerous mood-altering substance, alcohol. The unintended consequence: violence and thousands of unnecessary deaths. It’s time, therefore, for a serious public debate of the case for marijuana versus alcohol.

That’s the message groups advocating the legalization of marijuana are beginning to press, against a background of shifting attitudes which have already prompted 13 states to relax draconian laws dating back to the 1930s, when the government ended alcohol prohibition and began a determined but futile effort to stamp out marijuana.

How dismally that effort has failed is not in doubt. Marijuana is so easily available that around 100 million Americans have tried it at least once and some 15 million use it regularly, according to government estimates. The U.S. marijuana industry, in terms of annual retail sales, has been estimated to be almost as big as the alcohol industry — $113 billion and $130 billion respectively. On a global scale, marijuana is the world’s most widely used illicit drug.

Since the United States, and much of the rest of the world, plunged into a recession last year, the most frequently used argument in favour of legalizing marijuana has been economic: if it were taxed, the revenue would help stimulate economic recovery just as a gusher of dollars in fresh tax revenue from alcohol helped the United States pull out of the Great Depression after the 1933 repeal of prohibition.

That idea enrages some leading drug warriors, including the head of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Antonio Maria Costa. In the preface to the U.N.’s 2009 World Drug Report, he asks whether proponents of legalization and taxation also favour legalizing and taxing human trafficking and modern-day slavery “to rescue failed banks.”

Never mind that drug abusers hurt themselves and human traffickers hurt others. It’s the kind of topsy-turvy logic which has made sober discussion of national and international drug policies (largely driven by the United States) so difficult for so long.

The case for adding a compare-and-contrast dimension to the debate is laid out in a statistics-laden book to be published next month entitled “Marijuana is Safer, So why are we driving people to drink?” The authors are prominent legalization advocates – Steve Fox of the Marijuana Policy Project, Paul Armentano of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) and Mason Tvert, co-founder of SAFER (Safer Alternative for Enjoyable Recreation).

“The plain and simple truth is that alcohol fuels violent behaviour and marijuana does not,” Norm Stamper, a former Seattle police chief, writes in the foreword of the book. “Alcohol … contributes to literally millions of acts of violence in the United States each year. It is a major contributing factor to crimes like domestic violence, sexual assault and homicide. Marijuana use … is absent in that regard from both crime reports and the scientific literature. There is simply no causal link to be found.”


Violence committed by belligerent drunks apart, there is the question of which drug — marijuana or alcohol — is more harmful to your health. The authors cite government statistics and a long string of academic studies that show marijuana is less harmful.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, around 35,000 Americans die of alcohol-related diseases every year. That’s almost 100 a day. Add to this another 16,000 people killed in road accidents involving drunk drivers. There are no equivalent statistics for deaths linked to marijuana use.

Yet alcohol is legal, marijuana is not. The monumental lack of common sense in the attitudes of successive U.S. administrations towards marijuana is one of the explanations for a steady shift in public attitudes as reflected by opinion polls. In May, a Zogby poll found 52 percent support for treating marijuana as a legal, taxed and regulated substance.

Opposition to legalization, polls show, has been weakening over the past few years. Before 2005, no national poll showed support for legalization above 36 percent.

But surveys also show that there is a persistent perception that alcohol and marijuana are equally harmful and that legalization would merely add another vice.

“This perception is wrong,” says Tvert, “and it can’t be corrected overnight. What we aim for is legislation that would give adults the choice between alcohol and a less harmful alternative. Current laws steer people towards alcohol because they fear the consequences of being caught using marijuana. But I think we are nearing a tipping point.”

Perhaps. One of the biggest obstacles on the road to policy changes is a sprawling bureaucracy of drug warriors who have an obvious interest in keeping things as they are and have long practice in shrugging aside data and evidence. During the eight years of the Bush administration, they were led by a staunch, ideologically-driven proponent of prohibition at any cost, drug czar John Walters.

The man President Barack Obama chose as his top drug policy official, Gil Kerlikowske, is likely to be more open to rational argument. Kerlikowske succeeded Norm Stamper as Seattle police chief and during his tenure, possession of marijuana by an adult ranked as the city’s lowest law enforcement priority. Lower than running a red light.

(You can contact the author at

(Editing by Kieran Murray)


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The hemp commonly used for paper, fibre and other substitute products cannot be smoked, nor can it be processed into any form of psychoactive drug.

To suggest there is a link between the criminalisation of *Cannabis Indicia* (Marijuana) and *Cannabis Sativa* (Industrial Hemp) is a false argument.

Yet you would be surprised how many people still believe that the current criminalisation of Marijuana is based on a 1930 business campaign concerning an entirely different product.

Just shows that a little knowledge is a terrible thing.

As for your son? According to you, “The use of a substance doesn’t make a person mentally unstable”.

Many substances can affect the long term mental health of a person. And there is a strong data corralation that suggests marijuana is one of them.

In fact, cannibis users who already possess pre-existing mental illness can cause their illness to become even worse after long-term use.

Posted by Anon | Report as abusive

“My issues is that confronted with all the secondary effects related to marijuana (health, mental and social) most users will simply dismiss these issues offhand because of their singular desire to get high.”

As I said, there is no such substance as a perfectly harmless one. Given the benefits verses ills of using marijuana, it would be my opinion, which is based upon the reading of a lot of research pro and con, that there is a higher instance of benefits than ills.

As for correlation, yes there is a high correlation between CO2 and global warming. However no one can definitively answer the question is CO2 causing global warming or is CO2 a product of global warming. Is Marijuana causing the mental illness or is the use of marijuana a by-product of the mental illness? Many in the Psychology community lean toward the latter. Dare I say most do.

Marijuana is one of the most researched substances in history. Scientific America proved the Federal government was biased in handing out grant money for research to those researchers looking for the harms associated with its use. And the best they can deliver is correlations when there have been studies done of people who use MJ heavily their entire lives and no significant differences in physical or mental health were seen between them and their control group. This was not some limited study of mental patents who answered a few questions on a piece of paper. When your entire population is the mentally ill where is your control group? It might help if you were to read some of the peer reviews of the studies you are looking at. I see the headlines but, I look deeper into the research and read the peer reviews to understand what we can actually take from that research. Whenever there is money and politics involved you need to be very careful when reviewing any research.

Posted by B.Free | Report as abusive

Oh Anon!

“To suggest there is a link between the criminalisation of *Cannabis Indicia* (Marijuana) and *Cannabis Sativa* (Industrial Hemp) is a false argument.

Indicia and Sativa are both Marijuana. I am sorry but you ignorance is showing. It is not the sub-species but how it is grown that makes Hemp and Marijuana different. Marijuana is grown 1 per sqft. Hemp is grown 10 per sqft. If you do not believe me just look them up on the net.

Sativa: tiva

I am sure other will jump in this one. Sorry to see that you have gone off the deep end.

Sorry but enough is enough. Good day Anon.

Posted by B.Free | Report as abusive

I guess my biggest issue is how much money are we willing to spend without any results? I mean we’ve been trying for 40 years and spent well over a trillion dollars and it’s literally had no effect on drug use in this country.

How many times do you try the exact same thing with no results until you change policy?

Posted by Michael Ham | Report as abusive

The real debate is what could we do with all the money being spent on eradicating cannabis. If we legalise and tax cannabis we create an income for the USA, not Mexican crime organisations or street thugs. We can then take some of the money being spent on Prohibition and put it towards creating safe drinking water for areas that currently don’t have that. Wouldn’t that be something that would gain favor in the international community while upholding our beliefs? Prohibition #1 is a great example of what we are facing today.

Why wait until it’s to late to act? We can put dangerous criminals out of business(gangs that infiltrate our school and prey on our children, cartels forcing people to grow illegally or face violence to family or self), generate income for cash strapped states (like alcohol did in 1933 helping end the great depression), make cannabis HARDER to get for our kids by requiring ID to obtain cannabis, provide a safer substance then currently available on the black market(commercial growers only care about the money to be made, not the health issues, so they spray all sorts of chemical pesticides on the product), stop spending tax payers money on something that is getting no results(if you invest in a company, would you be happy with 95% of your money being wasted while still requiring more money be invested in order to clean up for the 5% that wasn’t wasted?).

It’s insane that people view Prohibition as a success. Anyone who has studied the first Prohibition can see this plain as day. And judging by allot of the comments on this subject it shows that many have not. Looks like we need to increase funding for our schools. Maybe that would be a good place to start putting the money saved/made from the end of prohibition…

Posted by Kevin | Report as abusive

Wait just a minute!! Did I just read that you said the new “Drug czar” (still called that BTW) said just last week at a news conference that quote”Marijuana is dangerous and has no medicinal qualities”. That’s what Kerlikowski said, he said nothing about relaxing the rules or anything else that I could construe as positive for patients.
So why do you think he will be more rational?

Posted by Gerald Reynolds | Report as abusive

I totally agree with B. free! Just about any substance can create what are perceived as psychological ills. To much caffeine in some children makes them violent, and abuse of some narcotic based pain killers can cause psychosis but this typically happens when abused, it can be toxic to drink to much water to fast yet it is essential to life go figure.. unfortunatly there are always going to be members of society that abuse substances legal or not and as a result become well a little eccentric, but this is a very small percentage of the population the majority would treat the drug with great respect just like a alcohol drinker has a glass of wine before bed. I’m pretty shure a nightly glass won’t make you crazy but a bottle a night might. Last note i don’t even smoke not since high school thats 10 years and six months ago i quite smoking cigs YEAH!! so I’m not making this comment to defend any addiction it just seems logical to me.

Posted by Jimmy | Report as abusive

It is not the government’s place to restrict what adults do to themselves. While it is unfortunate that some people willingly cause harm to themselves, that is as much their right as it is your right not to have to harm yourself. Regardless of the possible damage caused to an individual from marijuana it should be up to the individual whether or not to use it.

If marijuana does cause harm to people then the only permissable action by the government is to limit the age at which it can be pourchased. This is so that people, deemed by society to be too young to make decisions concerning their own health ie minors, are unable to aquire the substance without the aid of a consenting adult (preferably that minor’s parents).

How ‘bad’ marijuana is compared to another substance or how much money can be raised by the government by making it legal, both through new taxes and by not wasting money by persecuting it and people who use it, should not even be a part of this discussion. In the end what it should come down to is how much of a citizen’s personal life should the government be allowed to control, and is the goverment falling short or reaching beyond that point.

Posted by Daniel Fisher | Report as abusive


Indicia and Sativa are both Cannibis. But they are two different subspecies of the same plant. Your own reference actually states this, had you even bothered to read it.

Indicia is the subspecies used for illegal drugs. Sativa is the subspecies bred for industrial fibre production.

The difference is the amount of active THC in the plant. Indicia has 5-20% THC or more. Sativa used for industrial hemp production has 0.3% THC and is generally worthless as a drug.

So the current criminalisation of Indicia today is NOT because of a scare campaign about Sativa back in the 1930s.

I hate to say it, but you are the one who doesn’t know what you are talking about. By accusing me of ignorance, you have only shown your own.

Good day to you.

Posted by Anon | Report as abusive

Here is one of the saddest facts about drug laws in the United States, we have one of the largest, if not the largest, prison population in the world right now. Many of those people in there are in for being users, that is it, on top of all the other crap that of course disproportionately hit anyone who is not white.

We are up there with China, and Russia and some other really nasty places in terms of how many people per 1000 are imprisoned.

Posted by Ihaveadream | Report as abusive

Get real. I have done both. Both get you high and both result in a loss of inhibition. If you are predisposed to harmful actions, either will loose you to do it. We do not need another drug for Americans. We are covered up with them now.

Posted by arnold | Report as abusive

What everybody needs in the good ole USA is more vacation time, compulsory by law. The little amount of time off drives a lot of people to use drugs just to keep up, and keeps kids out of sight for too long. Remember that the current motto is: “Work Hard, Play Harder.”
Family needs time together, and any society is based on family. It’s for the common good to see your kids everyday, direct them to positive things and make sure they don’t go stray. As for adults, there are too many that are ruined and can’t and don’t see any other way, no matter what life throws at them.
There are two things that will turn anybody, young or old, into substance mis-use: abuse and indifference.
You can abuse yourself by working non-stop shifts of 18h days, deny yourself some time off.
I can’t see how successful this way of life is, that denies the population at large a good chunk of vacation time. To start with, it makes for a tired, depressed workforce that will easily turn to drugs because they have only a short period of time to enjoy themselves. Then they will seek drugs to maintain the horrendous hours and level of service. Then they feel guilty for wanting time off and not spending enough time with their family, so they want Escape from those feelings. When the family isn’t together, everybody goes their own way (indifference) and kids don’t have parental guidance worth a dime so they seek their peers to relate to, and in turn, it’s among them that they will experiment with drugs.
I’m not in any way forging excuses for drug use but it seems if you look at it from broad terms, that that is what the root cause of most of it.
Imagine if it was compulsory for all companies public and private to have 4/6 weeks vacation every year at the end of year one: The tourism-driven companies would love the extra income and employment would soar; hotels, casinos, zoos, aquariums, ice-cream stores, amusement parks, travel agencies – All would be looking for extra staff, which in turn means more tax revenue.

Posted by Dan No Drugs | Report as abusive

ANON…. Actualy Cannabis SATIVA can contain just as much THC or as INDICA. (not indicia) In the future before you jump up on that horse thats so high and ride it to your soap box you might want to do a little fact checking yourself.

No matter what the past reasons are for illegality the bottom line is we all know people who have used it for years and years, some could be called burnouts and some are at the top of their respective fields. It boils down to the individuals personality and genetics to determine their fate not a plant they consumed. Look at all the drugs that are advertised every day and the harm they cause, if they can be evaluated in just a few years and released only to kill, permanently damage or create serious dependency, why can’t a drug that has been very widely used since the dawn of man and causes very little to no harm to responsible users be allowed. It’s just insane.

Posted by Veteran and father | Report as abusive

From 6th to 12th grade I could’ve smoked weed every single day for free if I wanted to. I was constantly offered it from my classmates to just go hang out and do it.

Alcohol on the other hand was much harder to get, we’d be lucky to have one party a month in high school with alcohol at it.

So even for the people who are against it, I’m gonna again ask where your confidence in our government handling it comes from. We’ve been trying for 40 years and dumped trillions of our dollars down that well and literally have zero results to show for it.

Arnold i wonder what your opinion on the subject would be if you had got caught when you used it and it cost you admittance into a college or a spot in your career, oh how I wonder.

Posted by Michael Ham | Report as abusive

I lean towards having open debate.

“We do not need another drug for Americans. We are covered up with them now.”

Uh, its already there. This is about bringing the social implications and issues on usage out of the dark and black market and into the light and open market. If this is sold on the open or somewhat-open market, there will be that much less money flowing directly into the hands of criminals of all stripes. Will it wipe out the black market? Probably not. Especially if the taxes are prohibitive. And eventually criminals might find a way to get their hands into the legitimate operations, but at least there would be a fiscal benefit, a quality standard of some consistency in the marketplace and hopefully a means to tear down some of the social stigma allowing more people to openly share experiences so that we are basing our stance less and less on generalisms and narrowly-focused statistics. At least we should consider a limited de-criminalizaiton so that we don’t treat a person carrying a joint the same way you would a person robbing the store with using a gun.

Posted by B C | Report as abusive

The issue of drug use is as old as the human race. I is simply natural for human beings to alter their state of consciousness.Some people drink alcohol. Some smoke tobacco. Some run or work out. Others pray/meditate. But most do a combination of many of these things.

Human beings will continue to engage in this kind of behavior regardless of the laws passed by others. The solution is to offer services that help human beings to engage in responsible drug use. At one time, religion served this purpose and in many parts of the world it still does.

Why is it so difficult for people to consider the idea of responsible marijuana use? Drugs have never been the problem.
Our own lack of self control combined with an appalling lack of real knowledge concerning the proper use of such substances has been the real problem.

We refuse to acknowledge that we need to use self control and sound judgment when using drugs. Instead we vilify drugs as being a scourge and the people that use them as being weak or evil or somehow lacking in virtue.

Learn how to use cannabis responsibly. Make it legal. Encourage counseling, and other services that help the user learn how to appropriately use cannabis while avoiding the pitfalls. Our drug laws are backward and do not acknowledge the human need to move beyond logic and reason. This need is why we pray. It’s why we dream. It’s why we hope. And without it we cease to be human.

Where drugs are harmfull, PROHIBITION IS THE PROBLEM!!

Even users of opiates [heroin] can remain healthy and productive citizens, except for the problems that prohibition causes them. The high prices, the criminal element they have to deal with, and the stress of the threat of arrest are some of those problems that result in homelessness, bad diets, overdoses, etc.

Regulated sales of drugs, where the prices are closer to what it costs to produce them, would eliminate most of those problems that users of illegal drugs have now.

Organised Crime is kept afloat due to drug prohibition laws. Ending prohibition would reduce their impact on our society, and that impact is all negative. [By the way, the Republican party has had close ties to organised crime groups since the Nixon era... and that is not just a wild conspiracy theory].

Another ugly fact of prohibition is that 80% of low-level drug criminals in jail are black. Drug laws are keeping the minority populations subjugated.

Finally, if the USA is a democracy, prohibition is hypocracy, in that a strong majority favors ending it.

Posted by Karlin | Report as abusive

I hope everyone that feels it should be legalized because the government is limiting their choices is also against other choice limiting legislation like the tax on unhealthy food, bans on smoking tobacco in public places, a national healthcare plan that fines people for choosing not to participate, seatbelt laws, and charging companies that choose to emit over an arbitary amount of CO2.

Also, I saw at least one poster use the arguement that nonusers should try it before they comment. I don’t need to eat 40 hamburgers a day to know that would be bad for my stomach. I also don’t need to inhale any kind of smoke to know it would be bad for my lungs.

Kudos, Great article! Anyone that has done both knows that mary jane users aren’t apt to jump in their car and run down to the local bar to get in a fight and run over someone during the process. Beer makes you feel invencible, drive fast and want to fight. Pot makes you paranoid, drive 5 MPH and want to eat a box of cereal.

Could a tax on pot fund Healthcare?

Posted by Giaco | Report as abusive

First off, great article.

“In the preface to the U.N.’s 2009 World Drug Report, he asks whether proponents of legalization and taxation also favour legalizing and taxing human trafficking and modern-day slavery “to rescue failed banks.””

We have modern-day slavery, it’s called wage slavery and how many problems does this create. When a persons wage is tied to their ability to survive in this world how many people will remain silent on corruption and abuse just to keep a roof over their heads. If the vast majority of you didn’t have to do your jobs would you? It seems that in this era we have hit onto a fundamental human rights issue of the rights of an individual to earn billions even at the cost of other individuals ability to a decent quality of life, to education or medical care. We have also an issue on the governments right to legislate morality as the marijuana issue seems to have done and as the polygamy and prostitution issues have also done. Too bad your ‘change’ president just changed the face on the same old beast else wise we might be able to actually make some progress in these rights and freedoms repressing laws

Posted by Orgizmo | Report as abusive

Forget using the legalization taxes to pull us out of the current depression. Use those taxes to fund national health care instead! Mwahahahahah. It’s genius!

Posted by NoName | Report as abusive

Has anyone noticed that the above the influence commercials are finally going in the right direction? I just saw one today with a pot dealer on the street corner not actually selling any pot because his customers where to busy getting high on popping pills from their parents medicine cabinet. our government is finally realizing that marijuana is not the problem but pills and hard drugs are!

Posted by Dan | Report as abusive

False Arguments:

“Legitimate drugs can cause more harm then cannabis”

Legitimate drugs are subject to oversight, regulation and safeguards to ensure they are only used for medical purposes. If Cannabis is released subject to the same restrictions, it would still prevent recreational use.

“But Cannabis has legitimate medical purposes for use”

Perhaps. But the majority of Cannabis users do not have legitimate medical purposes for using it.

“It’s no different to alcohol”

Except for the fact that there seems to be a corralation with permanant mental illness, especially for those who possess pre-existing conditions. Alcohol does not do the same, unless you count poorly made absinthe.

“But I use Cannabis responsibly. Why should I be blamed for the actions of some burnouts?”

Because laws are primarily for the good of society as a whole, not you as an individual. The cost of those burnouts to society is greater then the benefit caused by you having a spliff.

“But arresting people for the offence costs money”

So what you mean is that we should stop punishing people for crimes. Which defeats the purpose of laws.

“No. I mean we should stop arresting people for using cannabis”

Why? Is it because you use cannabis? If so, it is a bit of a self-centered argument. Burglers probably feel the same about being arrested for burglary.

“You misunderstand. I don’t use. My friend does.”

Sure, buddy. Whatever you say.

Posted by JoeyJoeJoe | Report as abusive

I honestly don’t want to point fingers in this statement, but I must be a little blunt to get a point across.. To everyone that opposes the legalization of marijuana. I personally hold responsible for funding the Mexican drug cartels, and the gangs that have moved into my neighborhood, for exposing our children to easy access to marijuana if it where legal business owners should have to be required by law to check an I.D. believe me gangs don’t do this. For denying dying patients legal access to their medicine. For depriving our education system from funds that are instead spent on a senseless war against an herb. for turning our penal system into a sick and twisted profitable business, and for denying our rights to make decisions for ourselves. When the time comes to vote before you vote to keep marijuana illegal just sit back and think about how your decision is creating the problem not solving it. legalize don’t criticize….

Posted by Concerned Citizen | Report as abusive

In response to JoeyJoeJoe

“Legitimate drugs are subject to oversight, regulation and safeguards to ensure they are only used for medical purposes. If Cannabis is released subject to the same restrictions, it would still prevent recreational use.”

The “oversight” you speak of is carried out by the FDA which at present gets substantial subsidies from the pharmaceutical companies who’s drugs are being evaluated. Many times these FDA approved medications become the subject of class action law suits because of dangerous and often deadly effects. There is no such thing as a “side effect”.

NO ONE. I repeat NO ONE in the entire history of human record has ever died from a cannabis overdose. The same cannot be said for “regulated” and “safeguarded” FDA approved “medications” our government deems acceptable to make legal.

““It’s no different to alcohol”

Except for the fact that there seems to be a corralation with permanant mental illness, especially for those who possess pre-existing conditions. Alcohol does not do the same, unless you count poorly made absinthe.”

Actually alcohol addiction is one of the deadliest, if not THE deadliest addiction to have. An alcoholic that tries to quit cold turkey will most likely die, convulsing and drowning in their own body fluids. Alcoholics also have severely impaired cognitive function. They barely know what’s going on from one moment to the next. And if a drink is not involved then it’s not worth remembering.

The hint of a link to mental illness from cannabis fails to compare by any stretch of the imagination. Cannabis addiction results in withdrawal symptoms of mild headache, and irritability. Both of which fade after a day or five.

“Because laws are primarily for the good of society as a whole, not you as an individual. The cost of those burnouts to society is greater then the benefit caused by you having a spliff.”

Laws could be used for the “good” of society if they focused on behavior and the intent of such behaviors. A rule or law is meant to curb or encourage a type of behavior. But because the focus is on the rule itself, then one can make the argument that behavior which fall outside the scope of intent of the law can still be allowed under the law, if it adheres to the letter of the law. In this way law is circumvented. It is treated as a rule book and nothing more. Law has no meaning in our society as an instrument of “good”

Cannabis use in and of itself does not cause one to enter into violence. It does not cause one to steal. It does not cause one to detract from the quality of life of any other individual. These are the things that constitute “crime”. Since cannabis use does not lead to criminal behavior, it is not a criminal activity. And since it is not a criminal activity it must be removed from the law books as being a criminal activity.

Instead cannabis has been used since before human history was written. And in all that time it has occupied a place of honor in the human heart and mind.

Man makes mistakes. Law is man made. Law can be mistaken. In the case of the “drug war”, and America’s political attitudes concerning drug use, the law is deeply mistaken.

False Arguments continued:

“The FDA which at present gets substantial subsidies from the pharmaceutical companies…”

Don’t bother to imply corruption, unless you have proof. And even if you can prove it, it has nothing to do with decriminalising marijuana.

“Nobody in the entire history of human record has ever died from cannabis.”

Agreed. And nobody has ever argued that cannibis is illegal due to being lethal. So why raise it?

“The hint of a link to mental illness from cannabis fails to compare by any stretch of the imagination.”

A visable corralation between long-term use and mental illness, and the aggravation of pre-existing mental illness, is not what you call a ‘hint of a link’.

“One can make the argument that behavior which fall outside the scope of intent of the law can still be allowed under the law, if it adheres to the letter of the law.”

Absolutely. Any behaviour which is not defined as a crime by the law, and adheres to the letter of the law, is not a crime. Your point being?

“In this way law is circumvented.”

Oh. Well that is an argument for improving laws, not removing them.

“It is treated as a rule book and nothing more. Law has no meaning in our society as an instrument of “good””

That is because laws *are* rules. They are designed to control behaviour for the purposes of justice and order. Not subjective things such as ‘good’ or ‘bad’.

“Cannabis use in and of itself does not cause one to enter into violence. It does not cause one to steal. It does not cause one to detract from the quality of life of any other individual.”

If there is a link to long-term mental illness, then yes it most certainly does. Mental illness affects the sufferer, and their behaviour in turn affects other people and society.

“Since cannabis use does not lead to criminal behavior, it is not a criminal activity.”

When something breaks a criminal law, it is by definition a crime. Cannabis use is against the law, hence it is a criminal activity.

“Cannabis has been used since before human history was written”

So has theft, violence and murder.

“Man makes mistakes. Law is man made. Law can be mistaken.”

The legitimacy and correctness of a law depends on the fact it was legitimately made. Not your opinion on whether certain behaviour should be allowed.

Posted by JoeyJoeJoe | Report as abusive

I honestly don’t want to point fingers in this statement, but I must be a little blunt to get a point across.. To everyone that uses marijuana. I personally hold you responsible for funding the Mexican drug cartels, and the gangs that have moved into my neighborhood, for exposing our children to easy access to marijuana, for encouraging a habit that cause mental illness, suicide and suffering, for causing crime and robbery, for undermining the potential of countless youths, and STILL having the chutzpa to put the blame on everyone else all because of your selfish personal desire to get high.

Posted by ConcernedCitizen2 | Report as abusive

Hey ConcernedCitizen2

Show me proof, and cite sources, that prove your suicide and suffering claims. Also, Mexican drug cartels only exist because it’s illegal. Cartels would exist on things like chocolate if they were deemed illegal by the govt. Marijuana is not addicive, and causes minimal harm to society. Please tell me what you are afraid of about legalizing marijuana?

Posted by GREG | Report as abusive

Please…someone make a case for me as to why legal drugs such as valium, hydrocodene, etc. are legal and marijuana is not. Also, make a case for why alchol is legal and marijuana isn’t.

Posted by GREG | Report as abusive

Legalization is the way to go

Posted by Peter | Report as abusive

Professor David Nutt, who chairs the government’s Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD), told Newsbeat the risk to mental health from smoking cannabis is no greater than getting drunk

“When we look at the evidence, we have seen a huge increase in the use of cannabis but a fall in schizophrenia.”

“Alcohol is probably more likely to cause dependence than cannabis.

“Alcohol causes brain damage through vitamin deficiency and withdrawal can lead to psychosis. Overall the mental health risks of alcohol and cannabis are not dissimilar.”

Professor Nutt from the ACMD reckons the link between cannabis use and that kind of severe mental health problem is “probable but weak”.

The latest research suggests the government would have to stop 5,000 men and 12,000 women from smoking cannabis to prevent a single case of schizophrenia in both groups.

“Using cannabis will tip a few people over the edge but in terms of most of the population, there isn’t really a risk there,” he said.

That comes from a professor advising the British government. Now can anyone really tell me why it shouldn’t be legalised??

Posted by Kate | Report as abusive

Here’s an argument I’ve made so many times I’m getting bored with it:

By the time one reaches my age (I’ll be fifty-one in ten days) one has known – at the very least – fifty people who have died on lung cancer and another fifty who have died of cirrhosis of the liver. Now ask yourself the following question:

How many people have I personally known who have died as the result of consuming too much grass?

Not only have I never known anyone to die in that matter, I am not aware of it happening in all recorded human history.

I cannot believe that seventy-two years after pot was made illegal, we are still having this same stupid argument.

I need a drink….On second thought….

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


I apologize for being harsh, however…

Are you forgetting that there are other drugs out there too? Cocaine and Methamphetamine(sp?)would be two very big ones for example.
I mean heck, there’s Meth Labs being busted here in northeastern OHIO ran by none other than the afforementioned illegal immigrants from Mexico! Every month the U.S. Coast Gaurd is hunting down custom-made SUBMARINES coming from south of the border filled with up to 25 Kilos of cocaine.
So, you’re going to put all the blame on stinkin’ American potheads for the violence and danger these people bring? Did it ever cross your mind that they are going to do whatever it takes make a buck for themselves?

Harvard economist Jeffrey Mirron found that California alone spends $981 million a year enforcing the marijuana ban (that’s the policing, the courts, and jail time). Nationally, legalizing marijuana would save $7.7 BILLION
a year on drug-war spending. And government could raise $6.2 billion annually in tax revenues.
That’s almost 14 BILLION DOLLARS every year!!! How much do you think that would help with fighting the real drugs out there?

Open your eyes my friend, marijuana users are the LAST thing that will bring this country down.

Posted by SmokinSteve | Report as abusive

Here is an idea, legalize weed and take the profits from that and invest the money in port security to help stop weapons of mass destruction from entering our country.

Posted by Mike | Report as abusive

Alcohol kills brain cells, THC does not, it merely binds to receptors in your brain and prevents other chemicals (dopamine I think?) from bonding to those neurons, temporarily until the THC decays.

In other words, no long term brain damage from THC. Less brain cells with each drink.

Posted by Hal | Report as abusive

With more and more city and state governments outlawing smoking cigarettes in public places, the idea of legalizing a more dangerous smoked substance seems counter to the progressive nature of the American democracy. The short term economic benefits do not outweigh what the long-term effects will be. The cancer rate will shoot through the roof and all the progress made on decreasing the rate of cigarette smokers from state to state will be undermined. In the name of public health, it should not be done.

Posted by Jeremy | Report as abusive

Who really cares about marijuana? It is such an uninteresting drug, and its legalization would not add anything beneficial to society. Maybe some extra tax revenue even though income from its sale is currently taxable anyway. The idea that people would drink less with legal marijuana is pure speculation and almost certainly false. Why even waste your time arguing for it? It seems silly to me.

Make all the arguments you want, but at the end of the day, the majority of people don’t care about it all that much.

Posted by James | Report as abusive

Someone argues that legalizing marijuana would not add anything beneficial to society. Why should MY freedoms be framed by whether society gains? I should be free to behave as I please as long as it harms nobody else, not just when it adds something beneficial to society. A society strong enough to take away individual freedom on the grounds that such freedom doesn’t add anyting beneficial to society can take away much more than your freedom to peacefully enjoy yourself in the privacy of your own home.

Posted by David | Report as abusive

This is a very sad time for our country…which prayer do you think God listen too given the two choices?

Posted by Larry | Report as abusive

I firmly believe that alcohol is more harmful than pot. Drunks can be violent. The only thing I’ve seen a stoned person attack is a pizza!

Posted by Marla Taylor | Report as abusive

Of course pot should be legalized, but I doubt it will be. It is far too valuable a cash cow for law enforcement, prisons, and lawyers. And, it’s easy to grow your own, which means the government would have a hard time selling and taxing it. Should it be legalized, I know I’d have a couple plants in a grow room for personal consumption.

Posted by Marla Taylor | Report as abusive

Anyone who is claiming that legalizing cannabis would have no benefit to society are ignorant of the facts and wrong. Aside from the fact that they’ve recently discovered cannabanoids that aided in treating prostate cancer in the UK(we can’t research in the US due to cannabis being a schedule 1 narcotic-which is rediculous), there is no legal distinction from cannabis and hemp, so legalizing would allow for textile research, fuel, and innumerable other products that promote a more sustainable form of existence in this society. That sure sounds like a benefit to me. Educate yourselves, and maybe you’ll START caring.

Posted by Daniel | Report as abusive

Cannabis can also help with anger management issues, whereas alcohol only promotes violent behaviour(as mentioned countless times before). This is written from personal experience.

Posted by Christie | Report as abusive

Perhaps long over due term limits for our legislators would be helpful in moving necessary change forward. Campaign contributions need reform as well. What we have now is reprentation by benifaction rather than actual representation.

The manner in which the president came into the amazing dollars for his election was by recieving small numbers of dollars from large numbers of people via the internet. Hopefully this will be the model going forward placing special interests, who consider influencing legislators with campaign contributions standard operating proceedure, in a less advantaged position.

The problem for our legislators at the present time is that in order to legalize marijuana or for that matter all drugs, even if it could be shown to have a net benefit to society, is explaining to his or her benefactors why they would be contemplating changing anything at all. They made possible the election of their choosen legislators so that they might control the pace and direction of change. Legislators are not put in office by special interests to do any origional thinking unless instructed to do so.

If you want to nearly have a heart attack learning about the war on drugs and what a complete and total disaster it has been and continues to be – read: Judge James P. Gray’s book entitled “Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed and What We Can Do About It.”

Posted by Steve | Report as abusive

1. Check out tobackgo industry contributions to anti-cannabis candidates (especially, since the 1960′s, Republicans) and figure out who the enemy of legalization really is. Also bear in mind that for every dollar they contribute directly, the cigarette companies spend many dollars on hiring well dressed, well-groomed, well-spoken attractive young bodies to contact the legislators and schmooze with their staff, building up empathy and guilt over anything threatening to the hot burning overdose nicotine genocide profit margi

2. “Big Alcohol is the Running Dog of Big 2Wackgo.” Many nicotine addictions result from a bout or two of binge drinking, followed by a need to self-medicate off a hangover and study for the big test. Many youngsters after a party, realizing they need to sober up and drive the car home somehow, try “a cigarette or two”.

3. As Pres. Obama said when he quit cigarette smoking in 2007, he was one of over half the addicts who were already hooked before being of legal age to purchase the product. What would happen if cannabis were not only legal but just as cheap as tobacco for teenagers on a limited bodget? The high black market prices caused by illegality are the last prop holding up the tottering nicotine empire.

4. “Big pHARMa feeds of Big 2Wackgo and both fear cannabis.” If the wise practice of many cannabis users (vaporizer, long-stemmed one-hitters) spilled over into the nicotine addict population, many tobacco users might keep smoking but use 1/28 as much product the rest of their lives. This could cause a drastic decline in smoking-related illnesses which feed the demand for blood pressure meds, etc.

Posted by maxwood | Report as abusive

Alcohol is destructive, and very addictive. Marijuana is neither,,and could bring more revenue than keeping it illegal. The only problem is, that, the US government is a bunch of alcoholics. They would rather make money with DUI’s and busts than allow adults to choose a safer alternative to drinking,,and therfore causing no ill effects in public. Allow me to buy marijuana , and smoke it in my home. I am happy. While holding down a job and performing well. Make me an alcoholic,,and who knows what havoc I may cause,,including problems holding a job.

Posted by Mark | Report as abusive

Good afternoon fellow bloggers. Very interesting piece of info I’d like to share with you guys that I just learned from Now hear this approximately 98 percent of cannabis destroyed or taken by the D.E.A is actually ditch weed or what stoners refer to as headache weed, because the THC content is next to nothing and will never get you high. It’s absolutely hilarious to know that we the tax payers spend billions every year for overpaid landscapers. LOL

Posted by James | Report as abusive

Growing up in Los Alamos in the 70′s and 80′s, it was a rite-of-passage for high-schoolers to drive up into the mountains to get ripped at keg parties. That scared me a lot, since I also heard about the accidents and deaths. The pot-alcohol combination was clearly detrimental, too. I’m not sure I would agree that people would drink less if Pot were legal – perhaps – but with such societal vilification of the herb, and widespread acceptance of alcohol, I remember a lot of my peers who just opted for passing out, leaving the ‘stoners’ to run around nature getting a cardiovascular workout while pondering the meaning of things. Of course, it took real guts to seek out such an alternative to alcohol, because it meant one had to acquire pot by illegal means, rendering one paranoid and distracted. This illicit environment created it’s own set of problems, such as what I also witnessed, among them the behavior of those who used marijuana in excess, or were attracted in an anti-authoritarian way to the underground culture that arose (in large part, a consequence of pot’s prohibition). I admire folks like Bernd who are discussing this openly.  

Posted by macelf | Report as abusive