The Great Debate

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 Debusmann@Reuters.com)

(Editing by Kieran Murray)

298 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

Making marijuana legal is going to happen. The issue to me is just when. My question is…When it becomes legal, What is to keep people from smoking marijuana in addition to drinking and driving? That is a scarry thought! Alcohol has become a problem for everyone including those who want a less harmful substance has helpful properties when used medicinally (and just dont like the taste of affects of alcohol).


what are you crazy , let the feds control pot look what they did to cigs a pack of smokes for $5.00 thats insane all for the tax money think what they will do to a pack of weeds.

Posted by steve | Report as abusive

“J” from 2:26pm: Please point me to a study (from which you have extracted ‘facts’ for your argument) which shows marijuana to be addictive and/or the comprehensive analysis which proves the ‘addiction’ to marijuana is “just as Bad” as alcoholism. I cannot wait to read this groundbreaking research!

However strange it is that I’ve not come across it before now…

Posted by Melissa | Report as abusive

Hear, hear, and reform needed more than ever in California. I have used as a medical patient for 5+ years, see no loss of cognitive functioning whatsoever, a definite increase in sexual pleasure and far from increasing anxiety, it helps me prioritize, enjoy life more. I am certainly a better driver for it.

Drink, drive and smoke? I wouldn’t know, but I assume do not pass go, go straight to jail for DUI. If you’re impaired, you don’t need to blame the impairment on pot. Inattention is the number #1 cause of accidents, not substances. We have tried and failed to outlaw driving while talking on phones in CA, we could try outlawing driving while eating or driving with a teenager, or driving while arguing with a spouse…really. Time to grow up, take responsibility for our own health choices (and fiscal ones).


i am an avid pot smoker, have been for the better part of the past 15 years, and low and behold, guess what? i just graduated from an ivy league school with a Ph.D. in engineering with a 3.9 gpa. so now tell me that pot destroys brain cells.

Posted by a. | Report as abusive

Reply to Jim.

I agree User does not Equal Abuser. So let’s discuss this in terms of your statistics. 10% of the population is addicted to something. The population of the US is roughly 300 million. 10% of 300 million is 30 million people.

Please read my comment again. “Addiction” is not something you should take lightly and ‘Sweep Under the Rug’. REGARDLESS of what category it falls under. And of course if this was a perfect world than Addiction would not exist. But seeing that it does we are compelled to eliminate it.

Posted by J | Report as abusive

I do believe Marijuana should be legalized.

Yet I also believe it needs some regulation.

Let’s not forget the derivation of the word assassin; it means hash user.

The point is drug use isn’t the problem; drug abuse is.

I don’t want a government committee of experts deciding where the line is. I would like to see community help for those who have wandered to far over the line to find their own way back.

Posted by felix | Report as abusive

Please just legalize it already. There is every reason to and not reason not to. It has been debated back and forth so much there is no point reiterating the very obvious facts any longer.

Please just legalize it for everyone’s benefit and that of the mankind and the planet.

Posted by Kostya | Report as abusive

“Prohibition goes beyond the bounds of reason in that it attempts to control a man’s appetite by legislation and makes a crime out of things that are not crimes. A prohibition law strikes a blow at the very principles upon which our government was founded.”
-Abraham Lincoln

“If people let government decide what foods they eat and what medicines they take, their bodies will soon be in as sorry a state as are the souls of those who live under tyranny.” – Thomas Jefferson

“The prestige of government has undoubtedly been lowered considerably by the prohibition law. For nothing is more destructive of respect for the government and the law of the land than passing laws which cannot be enforced. It is an open secret that the dangerous increase of crime in this country is closely connected with this.” -Albert Einstein, My First Impression of the U.S.A., 1921

Posted by Marshall | Report as abusive

Bob said: “Which of the 2 can be detected weeks down the road from a night of use? As a business owner our accident record follows the employees that have failed drug tests.
If it can be detected, it is still effecting you.”

Bob, from your statement it is obvious that you either don’t or have never smoked marijuana. It can be detected in your system up to 60 days after last use. But to say that “if it can be detected, it is still affecting you” is absolutely not true. If you smoked a joint 4 days ago, THC can still be detected in your body. Is the drug still affecting you? Absolutely not and you can get this answer from virtually anyone who has used the substance, rather than taking a statement from someone (yourself) with obviously no experience and a big, brainwashed prejudice against pot.

This is what those who support legalization are up against. Ill informed, hysterical people who have been whipped into a frenzy against pot by our government, law enforcement and ultra-conservatives to the detriment of everyone who would like to relax with the use of a mood altering substance but would really rather use something other than the debilitating and potentially deadly alcohol.

There can be no more argument against the FACT that pot is much less dangerous than alcohol. We’re not letting the propaganda machine continue to make it OK to put felony and misdemeanor arrests on people for the use of pot. The only other alternative is to once again outlaw all forms of consumable alcohol, and we know how that went the first time. We have also seen how this prohibition of pot has gone over the last 60 years. Do we need yet another year of 800,000+ arrests for pot in the US? And that’s just the people who got caught!

Our society has already proven that it can survive with the use of pot. Keeping it illegal should be illegal in and of itself.

Posted by phlashlite | Report as abusive

It’s hard to imagine that 40 years after Woodstock we are still having this debate; but of course, as always, there are those in the establishment who benefit by maintaining the status quo and in this case the beneficiaries of this status quo are the pharmaceutical companies & the legal community.

The pharmaceutical companies & the government, i.e., legal community, drove the criminalization of hemp in the latter 1930’s and the subsequent “reefer madness” propaganda craze of the 1950’s; if you’re willing to do your homework you’ll find that before 1937, this country had a booming hemp industry going back to the colonial period.

How could pharmaceutical companies profit, when citizens are allowed to freely, at low cost, grow and use a NATURAL substance for self-medication? Likewise, the law & order crowd: 1st, create a fear in the public, artificial or otherwise, then you may justify the need for more lawyers, cops, judges and other assorted legal experts & legislators to grow their budgets for the “public good” and thus increase taxes & generate more revenue for the public coffers. Hitler & other totalitarian leaders knew this well.

The assumption is that just because the government & some so called “expert” panel have deemed something bad for you, then so it must be. Common sense is in short supply in this country and that is because the “average Joe” thinks the government and large corporations have his best interests at heart.

This country can justify the murder of millions of innocent unborn children every year under the name of legalized abortion; can legalize gambling nationwide via state lottery systems which never seem to accomplish their originally intended purpose of subsidizing education (prices continue to rise yearly), but if the individual is allowed to “grow his own” , unregulated, that’s a no-no.

God forbid we should have to dismantle the prison industry & related legal apparatus to service the truth.

Posted by stevengr | Report as abusive

“And of course if this was a perfect world than Addiction would not exist. But seeing that it does we are compelled to eliminate it.”

I am a News Junkie, that is I am addicted to reading news spending hours a day reading, sooooo, LETS GET RID OF THE NEWS!


Posted by OBG | Report as abusive

i want to join the army
but they told me because i smoked a joint on my birthday i can’t

of course – i can drink without end – no problem

whatever …
just wanna join the army, man

Posted by OWEN | Report as abusive

What we need now is a great awakening to get Health Care Reform funded and passed. There are so many benefits to legalizing pot it is virtually immoral not to do so.

Firstly, legalizing pot will be an immediate boost to the federal and state coffers in the form of tax remittances. No need for the tax increases being proposed to fund health care. It will also create many, many jobs at a time when that is of great importance to our economy. It will also cut the tether to illegal drug cartels. I have read where people state that the cartels aren’t going to give up so easily. But we already have an example with the lifting of prohibition on alcohol. All of those criminal elements could not survive. Some moved on to other crime. The same will happen with pot. In fact, the longer we wait to legalize it, the more money criminals will make and the better position they will be in to “branch out” if and when pot is made legal.

Overcrowded jails will see immediate relief. Court systems will be much less burdened and much more important criminal cases can be handled more expeditiously. Police resources can be redirected to crimes like murder, rape, robbery and assault. Heck, even white collar crimes could be better targeted. No more SWAT invasions of homes for MJ busts. They have at times hit completely innocent people and some of them have DIED or been wounded as a result.

Businesses can stop testing for marijuana for job applicants, saving tons of money. In fact, it doesn’t even make sense to test for heroin, meth or cocaine since these substances can leave the system in about 3 days. Pot is the only one that stays for any length of time. Better off to observe people and test when you have REASONABLE CAUSE, rather than violating a person’s civil rights (with the approval of the courts which still doesn’t make it right) with an unwarranted search of their body and blood. If they are doing heroin or meth or cocaine, SOMEBODY is going to notice. Otherwise, businesses are just wasting money and passing the costs on to consumers, and I think we pay enough for stuff already. In addition, we should go back to a time when businesses were not automatically held responsible for the actions of employees. This is a result of lawyers trying to suck money out of anything that moves. It is ridiculous and immoral and needs to be stopped. Lawyers have driven up the cost of business for every single American and have had a tremendous negative impact on business and our society in general (that’s why there’s so much drug testing going on – it’s not that most people can’t do their jobs or smoke responsibly, it’s the fear of liability lawsuits and it’s been proven that you can’t trust a jury to render a verdict that makes sense according to the facts). Interesting that no one seems top be pointing this up.

No more making of criminals of the felony or misdemeanor classes. How big is this? Felons can’t vote. Otherwise law abiding people with a criminal record for pot will have great difficulty getting or keeping jobs with which to take care of their families. Do we really want to make it so that John can’t get a better job (or keep a job) and eventually send his daughter to college because he’d rather use pot than the deadly alcohol for recreational purposes? Anyone with an ounce (no pun intended) of sense who is not completely brainwashed by the “anti-drug establishment” can see the folly of that position.

Pot is nowhere near as dangerous as alcohol, so why are we arresting people for it’s use?? Make it legal, tax it, regulate it like tobacco and alcohol, create businesses, provide relief to city, state and federal budgets and legal systems, not to mention funding for health care reform, and do it… now!

Posted by phlashlite | Report as abusive

Ganja…. Ummm…. :)

Most comments about the impact of self-grown marijuana are totally misguided, of course, because it takes at least as much heart and skill to grow good buds as it does to make good wine. I hate to say, but personally my biggest worry is that with legalization will come the rise of industrial cheap production, which will good enough to drive the artisan growers out, or make high quality stuff more expensive. Imagine having to pay for prime ganja something like the price of a fine Napa Valley Cabernet?

Posted by Levito | Report as abusive

The people who believe that pot should be illegal and users should be put in jail for “breaking the law”, are the same people who think they are going to heaven for being “law abiding citizens” (goody, goody two shoes). Believe it or not, people who think like this believe in these principles. They live their life by wrote, not utilizing their critical thinking. They also love “Big Brother”. Need I say more?

Posted by AlteredStates | Report as abusive

Honestly, I think it would do this country some good. Maybe it would take away all the hate and violence. People are going to smoke it whether it is legal or not. Why not make some money on it to make this economy a little better. Keep the money and the production in the United States. Stop letting it go to these foreign drug lords. There are worse drugs out there that are legal. God put it here for a reason.

Posted by bd | Report as abusive

Here we have great wisdom….

Posted by Dave404
“Actually, there is one aspect of the drug laws that is a success. The original push behind them was to crack down on minorities – Mexicans and later blacks. This is why 1 in 9 black males between 20 and 34 is in jail. Forget about improving themselves with college – student loans are denied (check line 1 of the FAFSA).

See the drug laws are working as intended – they are the last vestige of Jim Crow to be socially acceptable.”

Posted by Ax | Report as abusive

@ Owen:
If you want to join the military, do what I did. Lie. Just make sure you study for the whiz quiz. On another note, however, why would you be willing to defend a government’s decisions with deadly force when they won’t defend your decision to do what you want with your own body?

Posted by Vet | Report as abusive

Here’s why I think it’s bad for people’s health:

1) I think smoking / inhaling it in your lungs is bad for the lungs’ health

2) Some people have had brain haemorrhages partly / wholly due to marijuana use

3) Psychosis and marijuana can likely be linked as can other mental health problems.

Lastly, all those advocating legalization are probably users of the substance in question, and therefore may have impaired functional capacities to understand the detriments of smoking a weed on the body’s health system. I also think the pro-legalising marijuana movement doesn’t pay attention to the evidence against the legalising of marijuana either.

I suppose we can all look to Amsterdam to see what the effects are on having legalized marijuana use in a society. (I’m just saying, they could be a model for what will happen if it becomes legalized everywhere).

Posted by Debater | Report as abusive

Prohibition laws make otherwise law-abiding citizens into criminals. My personal experience is this: The federal government has made me a criminal because they don’t like what I put into my own body. The result is that I now have no respect for any of their laws, I root for the bad guy in the movies and look forward to the day when this unconstitutional bureaucracy comes crashing down. They’re also lucky that pot also takes away any violent streak I might have ever had, so as it stands I don’t care if they legalize it or not. They’re gonna do what they do, and I’m gonna do what I do, and neither of us is stopping the other. If it’s legalized, I’ll have more respect for the government, but if it’s legalized and taxed I’ll go from a prohibition outlaw to a tax evader. So be it.

Posted by Barry | Report as abusive

“…i am an avid pot smoker, have been for the better part of the past 15 years, and low and behold, guess what? i just graduated from an ivy league school….”

Guess what, indeed – you can’t spell right and your typing is sloppy – the word Lo is a contraction for look, not a relative position, but then, you knew that, didn’t you, Doctah!
During the League of Nations Mandates after WW1, the occupying powers in Syria, Lebanon and Egypt had this same public policy problem over students smoking hashish. They gave in and within 10 years, the crime rates had increased, students didn’t finish University, civil services deteriorated until after WWII, the rise of religious fundamentalism filled the vaccuum left by drug-addled indolence and lethargy. These countries’ productive class were neutralised and demagogues moved in to mesmerise the already slack-jawed sloths.
Alcohol, on the other hand, has a long history of being useful to the State as an anaesthetic, a reliable motivator when violence is necessary and an efficient recreational diversion during hardships. Cigarettes were employed during WW1 for the same reason. That part of the population which cannot self-control the urge to binge will always be “victims” as much as abusers. People who drive a lot and eventually die on the highway, instead of using alternative means of transport are also “victims”, but there’s not going to be a debate about shutting down the roads.
If you want this country to turn into an Anglo-phone Somalia, then repeal all the drug laws and get ready to suck up to your local Hells Angel war lords, who naturally will require you buy your stash from them and them only.

Posted by Lydia P Troyer | Report as abusive

The economic benefits of legalization should be obvious. Our country is missing out on a great opportunity to tax a recreational product – as it does alcohol and tobacco. Tax all of the sales transactions and profits. Marijuana can be a viable replacement for the “evil” tobacco companies. Tobacco farmers would have a replacement crop. The big obstacle I see is developing a way to enforce against “stoned” drivers. An oral litmus paper test, similar to a breathalyzer may accomplish this.

I am a former alcoholic and narcotics user (clean for almost four years). “Pot” was not my gateway drug – ALCOHOL was. I was introduced to beer at age 8. I started drinking heavily in High School. I didn’t smoke pot until I had learned that drinking was “cool”.

I agree with many posters. Anything that becomes a personal obsession and controls your life is an addiction (sudoku for example). People will always drink, smoke pot, snort coke, eat too many fatty foods and lie on their taxes. Ignoring facts does not change facts. Our government spends far too much money and manpower on something that could ultimately be a tax benefit and a boon to private industry.

Marijuana can be legalized, taxed, have controlled distribution and developed into a respectable business


J: I agree that addiction is not a good thing and it should not be marginalized. On a psychological level having a MJ addiction may be as bad as an alcohol addiction (depending on the individual, just as with alcohol), but on a physical level, alcohol is head and shoulders above MJ in the “dangerous” department, and that’s for almost everyone with few exceptions. That difference MUST be recognized. But the most important thing you need to realize is that the significance of addiction pales in comparison to the fact that every day people are getting arrested for pot. Every day there are many felony and misdemeanor convictions in the courts. For some, their lives will be completely ruined over it. For others, they and their families will be doomed to suffer the consequences financially and otherwise for the rest of their lives. I think one would take having to deal with an addiction over being sent to jail and black marked. With at least 15 million regular users and potentially many more if legalized, it’s most important to stop the carnage against people who simply want a less dangerous way to augment their mood. We can help the addicted just as we do with those on alcohol. But the arrests and their consequences… 775,137 possession arrests in 2007… it really needs to stop.

Posted by fishfry001 | Report as abusive

I smoked pot for 25 years and enjoyed doing it. What I do know from my experience is that pot will not kill you, give you a hangover, make you violent, make you want to steal from people to support your habbit like opiates and alcohol will. It WILL probably make you hungrier than usual and more relaxed and maybe some things will seem a bit funnier when you do smoke it, but if you stop smoking pot,unlike opiates or alcohol, you will not suffer withdrawals. I quit 12 years ago after being busted, no withdrawals. Would I like to smoke a joint again? Sure would, but not until it is legal. I would rather have a joint than a beer. I have an IQ of 125, college degree (3.35 GPA, made Deans List last 3 semesters). I did this after smoking pot 25 years and 27 years since high school. Is pot a gateway to other drugs? Perhaps, but I would also suggest that beer is a gateway to hard liquor as well. Just as with alchol, I’ve tried the harder stuff. I did not like the harder stuff. I just wish the government would leave us all alone over pot. All I want to do is have an occasional joint with my occasional beer without the threat of losing my freedom over it.

Posted by Ron | Report as abusive

The United States Constitution and the Declaration of Independence were written on hemp paper. That is marijuana’s non drug version, which is also illegal thanks to racism and vested corporate interests.

It was made illegal in the 30s and then legalized during WW2 since there werent wenough synethics like nylon to support the war effort, but then it was made illegal again in the 50s.

Also the reason many countries in the world ban hemp and marijuana is because one of the stipulations in receiving financial aid from the United States is a drug ban.

Also over 90% of the cannabis plants the DEA burns every year is ditchweed, which is hemp and cant be used for drugs or to get high. So we are paying the DEA to kill tons of weed that doesn’t even have pharmaceutical value.

The list goes on and on, unless your pocketbook is being threatened by legalization, someone else has you brainwashed to line their pockets to keep marijuana illegal. Wake up and smell the damn coffee, and read.

Posted by Moose | Report as abusive

Wow, The ‘war on drugs’ is an abysmal failure. Common sense ppl.

Posted by Mike | Report as abusive

I have been smoking pot since 1991…graduated from high school, Associates in business, Bachelors degree in science and currently an Area Director for a nationally known restaurant corporation which pays me more than 110k a year….go figure.

Posted by theone | Report as abusive

Dear J.
1 There is no such thing as an overdose of marijuana.
2 Nobody has ever been harmed in any way from using marijuana, other than the legal consequenses of the war on drugs on them and their families.
3 Mrijuana users are generally peaceful and rarely hurt others.
4 Marijuana is NOT a narcotic and is not addictive, (any more than anything else you like a lot)
5 Tobacco causes cancer in 50% of its users, is highly addictive and a huge strain on the health care system.
6 Unlike the tar in tobacco whch stick flat to your lung walls, cannabis resin forms globules in a liquid like the moist environment of your lungs. They stick together and expirate normally from your lungs carrying free radicals and toxins left by the environment or cigarette smoke. In fact, marijuana may have been saving the lives of many who smoke both, daily.
7 If more people had access to marijuana there would be far less demand for other harmful drugs like cocaine and heroin. (I suspect the DEA knows this and doesn’t want their budgetary requirements reduced)
8 If the folks favouring prohibition would educate themselves, they would cease to fear and begin to appreciate the many benefits of Cannabis and all its products and byproducts
9 people who use marijuana are not bad, or immoral. Marijuana cannot be considered a vice, as it is not addictive like gambling or sex, or ignorant foolishness. We pity those who refuse to recognize the Truth. We hope they will take their head out of the sand and stop believing everything they are fed by so-called ‘authorites’ who are only trying to protect THEIR ideal of the status quo, no matter how many they hurt in the process. We pray for them.

God Bless

Posted by Smokepot Daily | Report as abusive

Furtherto the misinformed who fear someone may toke and drive. Unlike one who drinks Alcohol which depresses the nervous system steadily with each drink, until ultimately death occurs, I could chainsmoke 50 joints and still kick your derriere at chess or any other intellectual pursuit.

Mothers against Drunk Driving (MADD) is a very powerful yet profoundly misinformed lobby. Marijuana DOES NOT IMPAIR as alcohol does. There is no such thing as an overdose of marijuana, marijuana is NOT a narcotic or addictive substance. MADD squawks about the fact if Marijuana is legal, people might drive high. Newsflash ladies, they already do. While it is inevitable that there will be marijuana at the scene, and marijuana users will be in accidents just like non users, there is no evidence that users are involved in more accidents per capita than non users. The same is not true of alcohol or many prescription drugs used legally.

If a demonstration is required I will happily volunteer to be a test subject, smoke two joints for each beer the other driver has, I guarantee I will still score better than the other two on an obstacle course. Even after 35 years of daily use. The Olympic Committee is right. It IS a ‘performance enhancing substance’.

Posted by Smokepot Daily | Report as abusive

so the government can send me to Iraq or Afghanistan at 18 years old to blow people’s heads off (or have mine blown off) with an M16, but I cant have a beer or light a spliff to relax?
c’mon, barack toked (and did some coke), dubbayah refused to talk about marijuana but hinted that he used it and you know clinton was a pothead.
oh, and remember all that coke coming to the US in the seventies? yeah, the government knowingly let 90% of that come in.

how many of you would pay an extra $10 for an eighth of government controlled stanko? the recession would be over tomorrow!

Posted by kris | Report as abusive

Reply to Marshall:

If those quotes are in fact accurate then America has strayed a long long way from the foundation it was built on.
As far as marijuana goes, it is interesting to note that a long time ago, it was illegal to not grow it.
Marijuana had to be grown to manufacture hemp. In fact, if you didn’t grow marijuana, you were taxed bags of tobacco.

Anybody remember the ridiculous propoganda ads they had on TV showing kids doing crazy things when high on marijuana? I was just wondering what an alcohol ad like that would be like. Dave Chappelle does a comedy skit on it called “Dudes’ night out”. Though it is hilarious, it makes you wonder about the negative effects of alcohol as compared to marijuana. And George Michael once said in his defense of marijuana: “When was the last time you heard of someone smoking marijuana and then going home and beating up his wife?” – Food for thought?

Posted by TheObserver | Report as abusive

There’s no corporate or government conspiracy against marijuana, there’s simply no public demand nor consensus to de- criminalise it. And why’s that?
Because it’s of no interest to most people whatsoever.

I’ve tried marijuana, it’s crap. The kind of vapid thrill that initially appeals to the lower rank of ‘rebellious’ teenagers, which most grow out of. The one’s who didn’t make that leap into adulthood seem well represented here though.

I’d guesstimate a 100,000 pints/shots/glasses of alcohol are had each weekend here in London, how many joint? Perhaps a 1000 at the most. So thats 100:1 people favouring alcohol.

What politician in their right mind would take up a cause contrary such a clear indication of public preference?

Since it appears the primary thrill of marijuana seems to be the appeal of it’s ‘naughtiness’, (and a term straight out of the nursery is appropriate here), how daft of its proponents to want to legalise it. Unless its because the more vocal of them conform to the cliche of ‘old hippy,’ are getting older, more conservative, and instinctively more law abiding?

Posted by Rhoops | Report as abusive

Use not abuse is the key . Time and a place for it .Dont know many people that would want to fight while smoking pot.A family member has MS and the best thing for her ( to clam down ) is pot.The goverments of this world know only money.It will be a long time because there is no money in it for them .

Posted by Racey Johnson | Report as abusive

Interesting debate -
Personally I’ve seen someone I love live with an alcohol addication my whole life and it was like growing up with someone with a split personality, depressed and moody during the day, an absolute laugh riot during the night. I never truly knew them as a whole person until I became an adult myself and could differentiate between their drunk and sober side…very confusing for a child.
So it’s no surprise that I’ve grown up with an addictive personality too, only my choice substance is hash because it agrees with my laid back artistic personality, it aids in creativity and makes me more introspective thus appreciating the little details I would have normally missed.
Obviously there are bad side effects sometimes like mild anxiety, paranoia and depression. The only other side effect as well is feeling demotivated to do stuff but that, I’ve found out, depends totally on the type of hash I’m smoking. If I stop smoking then these symptoms subside just like if I stop drinking I stop feeling more drunk.
To say that one of these drugs can be legalised and the other not to me seems like a contradiction. What needs to happen is for governments to accept that they can’t control how the general population relaxes and escapes from the every day grind and they should stop trying. Instead they should try and make what is available as safe for human consumption as possible and educate people as much as they can on the risks they pose to themselves and others and leave the decision up to the individual.
I’m fully aware that I’m increasing my risk of getting a mental illness from smoking but then my father is at greater risk from liver failure and cancer (as he smokes more tobacco when he drinks).
And the fact this debate has raged for countless years just goes to show that there is no right or wrong, just personal choice.

Posted by A woman | Report as abusive

Sooner or later marijuana will be legalized. Prohibition of alcohol was established because alcohol abuse has always been a big problem for the citizenry of the United States. It didn’t work because it was the wrong answer to a rightly defined problem. The question is: in the United States, how can we establish a public health policy that effectively changes the popular attitude that debilitating mind altering substance abuse is acceptable? The legalization of marijuana will increase rather than decrease mind altering substance addiction in the United States. People will abuse marijuana for the same reasons they abuse alcohol. People who become alcoholics usually are self medicating themselves in an attempt to alleviate mental or emotional distress, illness or disease. With the legalization of marijuana, double addiction to both alcohol and marijuana will increase. As of yet, we don’t have a public health system capable of curtailing our epidemic of mind altering substance abuse. There are no easy fixes. Legalizing marijuana isn’t a fix. It’s simply another admission that prohibition doesn’t work. Of all the health care and health insurance issues that “health care reform” is trying to address, economically debilitating public health issues like substance abuse, addiction and mental health are more important than an aging “baby boomer” population’s concern about health insurance. We didn’t seem all that concerned about health insurance when we were tuning in, turning on, and dropping out. If we had been, we would probably have no need for health care reform today. We need an activist public health system that fights the disease of addiction at every economic level by steering children and young adults away from addiction and helping to get addicts off mind altering substances. Health care will be much less expensive for a society that is essentially addiction free.

Posted by Bernard Vescovi | Report as abusive

Legalize it! I’m not a user for fear of screwing up my career. The gateway drug theory is B.S., people that are going to experiment will do so under the influence of alcohol just as easyily.
Tax it, clear the dockects and the jails!


It is near to farcical that a plant growing in nature can be banned and yet a manufactured, and highly addictive, substance that kills 1000s, ruins countless lives is advertised in all media and promoted as a rite of passage. Even one with no interest in marijuana can see that it is a plant — and a useful, versatile plant at that. The only danger with marijuana use and legalization is that it will be abused and perverted like every other controlled substance. Although marijuana is a natural substance — that is, not manufactured — it requires respect and moderation in its use. It could be a new sacrament for a secular world.

Posted by mark | Report as abusive

Cannabis does not need to be regulated by the government. Safety laws that are enforceable, practical, logical are what is needed. But aside from that, the government has no right to tell people what the can and cannot partake of in their own personal lives.

And WE are the ones that give government this right. We should be pressuring our government to make the changes they need to make regarding cannabis and not asking them. And for those that say tax and regulate it, I submit that this is just a compromise suggestion. Why should you be taxed for something you can grow yourself and enjoy on your own without government interference?


I agree, I agree, I agree – legalize. As a frequent traveler to the Netherlands, I can tell you the US is missing out on the program. Not only would there be revenue from the taxes, but also from the realized savings of no longer spending millions a year on law enforcement. I have a good friend working with the DEA and local law enforcement and he shared with me that the spend $5,000 per day flying around in a helicopter looking for marijuana plants, normally finding an average of 2 plants per day (yes, sometimes they find a whole crop, but on average 2 per day) think about that $5,000 per day, finding 2 plants!!!

Posted by Tony | Report as abusive

I’ve always thought the fact it can be grown in your back yard and therefore lacking big business / lobbyist kept it illegal… That being said I’ve always wanted to see State Grown marijuana and sales with 100% of all profit going towards Collage education, including the revenue of all laws and regulations broken. I myself haven’t consumed used it since 1979 and I’ll be willing to bet I can get some within the hour! We are fighting a losing battle it’s like trying to stop Grass (no pun intended… well maybe a little) from being green… I am an applications developer and network engineer.

Posted by R Tracey | Report as abusive

i’ve used weed and beer enought to know that there is huge difference between their effects, and that everyone is affected differently by both of them.
i know people who go crazy angry when they smoke skunk, and people who go crazy angry when they drink whiskey.
i don’t think either one’s worse than the other, but i have my preferances.
it seems to me that whichever you indulge in, you shouldn’t judge other people for their preferance.
it’s not exactly a secret that hemp smoking was far more popular among blacks than whites in the thirties, and making it against the law was mostly just a way to force blacks into slave labor via the prison system.
we are generations down the line now, but the guys in charge hate to admit when mistakes have been made, particularly in america, where many of those involved now are the decendants of those who made the law in the first place, so to turn around and admit their mistake would lessen their pedigree.

why is so hard for people in poer to admit when they are wrong, and why is so much harder for them to say the same of their predecessors?

Posted by BlueDreadlock | Report as abusive

I have smoke Grass or cannabis, all my adult life 64 years but recently, because I don’t smoke tobacco any more
(laterly only straight grass because that legal drug Tobacco was likely to kill me)
I have taken to having it in a cooked/baked biscuit so I that I have no lung damage from doing that and the effects are equally good.
Infact eating marijauna is will also to help against the argument that it induces paranoia or phsycosis as there are chemicals in the plant which counteract that effect but when smoked these are lost.
Therefore all the people who say it damages your lungs and your brain need to get a brain and figure out how to negate these effects.

Posted by john smith | Report as abusive

AND THEN … Has anyone ever overdosed on marijuana ?

Alcohol overdoses are reported each year when kids hit the campus.

Just a little too much of some substances will Michael Jackson your a**.

Enough said ?

Posted by Jerry NJ 818 | Report as abusive

As an IT professional and a dope smoker for the last 30 years (daily user), I think I can say with some certainty that if I had been using alcohol in a similar way, I would almost certainly be an alcoholic. I would definitely have a strong dependence on it, whereas when I have been on overseas trips and unable to get hold of any marijuana, it has not been an issue at all.

If there is anything which really does tip the balance, it’s that fact – alcohol IS addictive, marijuana is not. In fact, imho tobacco is a more dangerous drug than marijuana :-P

That said, no drug is completely safe, and the user pays a price for using any drug…

Posted by Teper | Report as abusive

amen brother

Posted by Shawn M | Report as abusive

Again we see public support for the legalization and taxation of Mary but our elected officials that are supposed to represent us fail to listen. Can you believe that there is such strong support for an item to TAX and they keep missing it. This may be the only tax that most of the public would be willing to pay, nuts isn’t it.

Posted by John B. | Report as abusive

paeple wake up, the gov does not want it leagle,it has nothing to do with facts or health, by it being illeagel thay are making fat $$$$$, make it leagle,tax it spend $$$ on educatoin, poor exc exc exc,,,this is a no brainer even ARNOLD should be able to understand this,,,its simple, the people that want it illeagle are making $$$ from it being illeagle,,those are the people that only care about the $$$ not the kids, not the community,not the unfortionate only thair bank account,,OOO ARNOLD LOOKY LOOKY TAX REVANUE

Posted by jeffrey allen cudneysr | Report as abusive

The article is flawed; because society is flawed. To measure one bad substance against another is flawed thinking.

If society sought the sane and proper solution, and was concerned with the well being and health of future generations then, alcohol and marijuana, along with cigarrettes would be made illegal.

The problem with these substances is that prohibition does not work, as there is both a strong demand and a strong supply.

Prohibition can only work where the supply is removed through a combination of sentencing, and policing.

Successive governments have proven that they do not have the stomach to take the prohibition route as it is not a vote winner; which means – society prefers to remain flawed.

If the Government does not have the will to ban marijuana; then what about legalisation?

Legalisation for producers, and users should be the preferred route – however marijuana is not risk free, and has a high correlation with mental health issues; and would not be eligible for ‘over the counter’ sales, under the present guidance; so to legalise it would mean special treatment.

So what does this mean?

Well in essence the author of this article is asking:

“Shall we give people marijuana, because they want it?”

and the answer from a responsible government and a responsible society should always be “No”.

Posted by Darren Duffy | Report as abusive

Good luck to all you libertarians out there working for this goal of common sense.
When you have achieved your noble aim, I hope you don’t mind if I choose not to indulge.

Posted by FrankMcUK | Report as abusive

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