Is it time to take a chill pill and legalise marijuana?
Marijuana is less toxic, addictive and harmful than alcohol, says successful campaigner for legalisation
Author and campaigner Mason Tvert.
Chances are, you know your 21 year-old son or daughter gets drunk. They do it in the college bar, get trollied at house parties, sneak a naggin into music festivals, the usual. You did it yourself. But what if they were smoking cannabis just as regularly?
For parents outraged by the thought of weed-smoking offspring, it might be time to take a chill pill. That’s what they’ve done in Colorado.
“It’s safer to get high than to get drunk,” says Mason Tvert, co-author of a book ‘Marijuana is Safer: So why are we driving people to drink?” Tvert co-directed the successful campaign that persuaded the people of Colorado to make recreational marijuana, like alcohol, legal for those over 21. Marijuana for medicinal use has been legal there since 2009.
In a vote that took place alongside the US Presidential election last November, more people in Colorado voted to legalise recreational marijuana that voted for Obama. Tvert attributes the campaign’s success to the fact that for Centennial State voters, the penny has dropped that marijuana is safer than alcohol. In his view, proscribing marijuana and not alcohol defies logic.
“Marijuana is less toxic, less addictive and less harmful for the body that alcohol and there is a great deal of evidence that alcohol contributes to violent behaviours and recklessness, whereas marijuana does not,” says Tvert.
Does marijuana contribute to overdose deaths, long-term health problems, violent crimes and serious injuries? ‘No’ says Tvert. But alcohol does.
Tvert is part of the Marijuana Policy Project a group that says that marijuana gets a bad rap. It says that most Americans have been led to believe that marijuana is dangerous, addictive and is a gateway to harder drugs and that it has destroyed the lives and ambitions of millions of teens and adults. It says we have been ‘conditioned’ to think that those who use marijuana are “dangerous or strange or maybe even dirty”, people who “sit around on couches all day doing nothing”.
But are marijuana users really ‘losers’? Statistics published by the National Advisory Committee on Drugs and Alcohol (NACDA) in July show the typical Irish cannabis user is more likely a winner. Rates of lifetime cannabis use were highest among professionals and managers and those with third level education and lowest among those in semi-skilled and un-skilled jobs.
But with alcohol marketers pumping millions into linking their products with sophisticated dinner parties, elite sporting events and even national pride, it’s no wonder the image of blow has gone to pot. Pop open the champers at your next dinner party to sounds of glee, offer a spliff and guests will think you’ve lost your mind.
The Marijuana Policy Project’s website teems with pro-marijuana arguments, the central plank being that we can’t logically frown on marijuana while wine and beer form part of our weekly shop.
“The U.S. Centres for Disease Control (CDC) attributes 37,000 deaths per year to alcohol use alone, and that includes some overdose deaths,” says Tvert. “That’s not including accidents or homicides, that’s just people using it.” The CDC however, he says, “Does not list marijuana as a cause of death and it’s never been attributed to any sort of overdose death”.
What of the argument that marijuana causes cancer? Tvert retorts that while alcohol use is linked to cancer, there is evidence that marijuana ‘does not contribute to any form of cancer’. “There has never been a marijuana-only smoker that has acquired cancer as a result.”