Opinion

WALLY'S WORLD: Weighing booze vs. marijuana

Well, gang, after at least 60 years of intensive, scientific research, there is still no evidence that marijuana is any more toxic than booze and, in fact, there’s considerable evidence it’s less toxic. Let’s take a moment to compare the two.

Whereas alcohol causes hundreds, if not thousands, of overdose deaths each year, the number of such deaths from pot is so small its negligible. While you probably know people who turn violent when they use booze, I suspect very few of you know anyone who has a similar response to weed. Furthermore, while booze contributes to many types of illnesses, from cirrhosis to mental deterioration, pot hasn’t yet been solidly linked to any major health problems other than lung diseases, including cancer.

Booze interferes with our ability to operate machinery and, therefore, as we’re all aware, a drunk shouldn’t drive. However, depending on the individual involved, this may not be true of someone who’s stoned. To a person high on grass, it may seem like his or her reaction time is slowed down, but this isn’t ‘necessarily the case. It varies from user to user. (Nevertheless, I’d discourage driving in either case.)

You can always tell if a person is drunk. However, depending again on the individual involved, you can’t always tell if a person is high. A person can be stoned and still appear quite articulate, socially suave and charming.

There is some evidence that marijuana can cause certain types of long-range mental problems if a person is stoned every day for many years, but if it does – and this is by no means confirmed – it’s a fairly safe bet the damage isn’t any worse than that associated with alcohol. At any rate, the detrimental effects of pot, both physically and mentally, appear to have been greatly exaggerated by the public. So, why are we still flushing millions upon millions of dollars down the drain trying to prohibit its use and why are we still throwing thousands of kids in jail – mostly black and Latino kids, I hasten to add – because they use it?   Damned if I know. Maybe someone in the Tea Party can explain it to me.

In recent years, there have been several moves to legalize pot in several states, including ours. During the last legislative session, Seattle Democratic Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson submitted a bill to legalize cannabis. Of course, her bill was shot down. The same is true in every other state that’s tried. (If any state ever succeeded in legalizing pot, the statute would run contrary to federal law, but I seriously doubt that our present president would try to fight the issue in court.)

Interesting enough, the main lobbying effort against legalization is financed by alcohol manufactures and distributors. They’ve even bankrolled opposition to legislative bills that would merely reduce the penalties for marijuana use or possession. It appears they’re against any legislation that would in any way diminish their control and their monopoly on mind-altering drugs.

Since millions of Americans use pot on a regular basis and since tens of millions more have tried it at one time or another, it’s a bit surprising that the public is still a little leery about completely legalizing the stuff. Perhaps if they clearly realized that legal pot would be tightly controlled through state-run stores and would produce a windfall in state taxes, they might feel different.    Perhaps.

Those folks who have actively promoted its legalization for the past 40 years don’t seem especially discouraged by their lack of success. I suppose that’s understandable. They’re in no hurry to do anything.

More on this topic next week.

 

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