By John-Ross Boyce
A cloud of smoke is swirling lazily over the states of Washington and Colorado right now. Midnight burrito sales in Denver are poised to go through the roof this month. Seattle just spent the whole weekend watching “Aqua Teen Hunger Force” reruns. Walla Walla finally understands why “Dark Side of the Moon” is the biggest headtrip of the 20th Century. Grand Junction just bought an old Spiral-Graph on eBay and when it arrives in the mail, man, it’s going to be epic. It’s official. Recreational marijuana, for the first time since the 19th century, is legal, if only in 2 states.
Meanwhile, America’s officially registered wet blankets are wringing their hands, terrified at some antiquated vision of reefer madness wreaking pungent havoc all over the countryside. Perhaps you count yourself among their ranks. You think that making an honest woman out of Mary Jane is going to incite violence and destruction in the streets. You think that legalizing weed will make it more accessible to children, whose futures will be snuffed out like so many roaches. You think that the evening news will be clogged with the names of unfortunate fools who met the Grim Reaper at the business end of a water pipe.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, there are approximately 80,000 deaths attributable to excessive alcohol each year in the United States alone. Search the CDC’s website for deaths attributed to marijuana and you will find zilch. Because no one dies from smoking too much pot. They fall asleep in front of a b-grade Kung fu movie. In some extreme cases, they’ll throw up a little. Do you know that withdrawals from alcohol addiction can actually kill you? Because they can. Do you know what happens when you “withdraw” from marijuana? Taco Bell tastes less delicious.
Alcohol is directly linked to cancers of the stomach, esophagus, colon, lungs, pancreas, liver and prostate. Marijuana has never been conclusively linked to any form of cancer — it is, after all, prescribed by doctors to help patients deal with the pains of chemotherapy. Marijuana cannot even be conclusively linked to lung cancer. A 2006 study conducted by Dr. Donald Tashkin at UCLA even discovered that those who smoked marijuana had less incidences of cancer compared to those who did not use the drug.
Are you worried that your children will have greater access to marijuana once it’s legal? Guess what: Your average sixth grader can get his paws on a dimebag much easier than he can a 12 pack of Coors, because you don’t need photo identification to purchase something which is illegal. If anything, the legalization and regulation of marijuana sales would likely decrease use among our youths.
Alcohol begets violence. We use terms like “violent drunk” and “barroom brawl” for a reason. But no one ever wrote a tear-jerking memoir about how their awful stepfather used to come home, smoke a bowl and beat the kids bloody. What little violence associated with marijuana is a result of the illegal drug trade, rather than the drug itself. It’s the same circumstances as the prohibition of alcohol in the ’20s and ’30s. As soon as we stopped the legal flow of spirits in this country, violent gangsters began meeting our country’s beverage needs. They secured their industry by the proverbial sword, and many people died unnecessarily as a result. No one got less drunk during that period. If anything, all we did was make those violent gangsters wealthier. Why haven’t we learned from our history yet?
We can hem and we can haw and we can rationalize. We can shrug our shoulders and say “It’s gotta be illegal for a reason.” But until we find a valid reason, we should stop punishing marijuana and its users for social and medical maladies that are caused by completely different drug. That’s like punishing one child for the misbehavior of another. If you simply don’t like marijuana, that’s fine. Don’t use it. But let’s quit pretending like we don’t already manufacture, regulate, tax, distribute, transport and abuse a drug that is far more damaging.