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A Safe Substitute for Alcohol?


By dswanson - Posted on 16 September 2009

By David Swanson

The U.S. Department of Justice says that alcohol plays a pivotal role in two-thirds of all cases of violence against an intimate (a spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend), and blames alcohol for contributing to 100,000 sexual assaults against young people every year. That's right, alcohol hurts more people than al Qaeda.

Of course, alcohol does not always lead every consumer of it to violence. Most people who drink alcohol don't hurt anyone. But a large percentage of those who do get violent have been drinking alcohol. Should we ban it? We tried that once with miserable results, and we've banned other substances with equally bad outcomes.

We could stop promoting alcohol so heavily, but the impact of doing so would probably not be large. What to do? Well, what if there were a substitute for alcohol that didn't make anyone violent? What if this substitute were far less dangerous than alcohol to the health of the person using it, as well as to those around him or her? What if this alternative substance even had health benefits and medicinal properties and potentials? What if this substance satisfied the desire for intoxication without actually containing anything toxic, and you woke up the next morning without a hangover? What if this magical substitute for alcohol could boost the economy, free prisoners, reduce prison budgets, free up police to address serious crimes, and subtly improve our culture if only we could discover what it was?

The common name for this life-saving drug is marijuana, and in "Marijuana Is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink?" the authors Steve Fox, Paul Armentano, and Mason Tvert argue for legalizing marijuana as a regulated substitute to reduce the societal damage done by alcohol. In the book's foreword, Norm Stamper, former Chief of the Seattle Police Department, writes:

"I've been asking police officers throughout the U.S. (and Canada) two questions. First: 'When's the last time you had to fight someone under the influence of marijuana?' (And by this I mean marijuana only, not pot plus a six-pack or fifth of tequila.) My colleagues pause; they reflect. Their eyes widen as they realize that in their five or fifteen or thirty years on the job they have never had to fight a marijuana user. I then ask, 'When's the last time you had to fight a drunk?' They look at their watches. It's telling that the booze question is answered in terms of hours, not days or weeks."

The case for making pot more available to those who might choose it over alcohol seems straightforward. Unless, of course, you've heard any of the pervasive myths that have been spread about it in this country for nearly a century. In 1927, lacking any Iraqi aluminum tubes to peddle yet, the New York Times published this fantasy:

"Mexican Family Go Insane
"Five Said to Have Been Stricken By Eating Marihuana
"A widow and her four children have been driven insane by eating the Marihuana plant, according to doctors, who say there is no hope of saving the children's lives and that the mother will be insane for the rest of her life…."

This is not terribly different from the stories promoted by our government today, and much of the book is devoted to debunking myths. While television networks are not required to give back even a smidgen of our airwaves for political campaigns or information, they have been required to air anti-pot propaganda, or to incorporate it into the plots of shows (such as "ER" and "Beverly Hills 90210"). In 2005, the Government Accountability Office determined that the government's anti-pot campaign had violated the law against covert propaganda by producing video news releases that news programs aired as if they had been created completely independently of the government.

When Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps was shown in a photograph using marijuana, both USA Swimming and the US Olympic Committee came down hard on him, just as the NFL does to its players. These are all organizations that live off massive funding from the makers of alcohol. So, incidentally, do members of Congress. It's a good thing THEY are never influenced by money.

David Swanson is the author of the new book "Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union" by Seven Stories Press. You can order it and find out when tour will be in your town: http://davidswanson.org/book

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UPDATE:

California Issues Official Title, Summary, and Legislative Analysis
for Legalize, Regulate, and Tax Marijuana Initiative

Sacramento, CA - September 9, 2009 – The California Attorney General
has released the official title, summary, and legislative analysis for the ballot measure proposed by the California Cannabis Initiative
(CaliforniaCannabisInitiative.org).

The LEGALIZE, REGULATE, AND TAX MARIJUANA INITIATIVE will save
“several tens of millions of dollars annually to state and local
governments ” while potentially creating “major new excise, income,
and sales tax revenues” for California.

This law would mandate that all taxes and revenues must “be spent on
education, healthcare, environmental programs, public works, and state parks.”

If passed, this law would repeal “state laws that make it a crime for
people 21 years old or older to use, possess, sell, cultivate, or
transport marijuana or industrial hemp, except laws that make it a
crime to drive while impaired or to contribute to the delinquency of a Minor”.

The Legalize, Regulate, and Tax Marijuana Initiative is now
circulating the petition and has until February 5, 2010 to collect
433,971 signatures in order to qualify for the November 2, 2010
general election.

For more details please go to www.CaliforniaCannabisInitiative.org