Whenever there is a conversation about drugs, we tend to assume that the legal ones are the “good drugs” and the illegal ones are the “bad drugs”. If you were to say “I take drugs” to someone, they wouldn’t assume that you were referring to alcohol, tobacco, painkillers or coffee, would they? Today, I am going to address one idea in particular: why I think swapping the legal status of weed and alcohol would be beneficial. Just to be clear, I’m not rallying a protest here to make alcohol illegal. I’m completely for adults being able to enjoy whichever psychoactive substance tickles their gonads. I’m simply using alcohol (a legal drug) and weed (an illegal drug) as examples of why the good vs bad view of legality makes little sense.
Again, let me just reiterate a major point here: I am not calling for the outlaw of alcohol! Everything I say in relation to alcohol is entirely as a comparison point to the legality of weed. With that in mind, I’m going to jump right in to exploring why alcohol is a fucking horrendous drug. To quote the late Bill Hicks, “there are better drugs and better drugs for you!” We view alcohol as this socially acceptable form of ignoring our inhibitions. What are some things you can get away with drunk but not sober? Throwing up everywhere; blacking out (both in terms of memory and physically passing out); being incredibly loud at antisocial hours; fighting your friend; falling off walls; bailing on a social obligation; sex in usually unacceptable places (particularly unprotected sex which can result in illness, unwanted pregnancy and in extreme cases: death); oversharing acquaintances; befriending people in the toilets; making plans that will never be kept…
Would you agree with any of these? Would you agree with all of them? Alcohol intoxication allows you the excuse of “sorry, I was drunk” which is can often be used like a ‘Get out of jail free’ card. How often have you heard people comment on their complete lack of memory from a night out only to follow it up with “…guess I must have had a good night!” Am I the only one that thinks having no memory of a night out is the same as just not going? Of course these are the lighter implications of alcohol consumption.
As someone from Scotland, it pains me to read statistics about my country. Before continuing, we have to define a certain term: alcohol-related death. The term covers any death that is primarily due to alcohol. This could be a long-term condition that has led to death, a more acute condition worsened by alcohol to the point of death, and of course alcohol poisoning. Accidents (including road traffic accidents) are not included. Why is this important? Well, in Scotland in there were at least 1,265 alcohol-related deaths in 2016. This is an increase of 10% just from the previous year. This is double the yearly average of alcohol-related deaths in the 1960s (but also a decrease from those of 2000). Alcohol accounts for 1 in 15 deaths in Scotland. It also contributes to 6% of new cancer cases each year.
There is a newer definition known as ‘alcohol-specific deaths’ which covers the same basic definition as alcohol-related deaths but only includes deaths that are a direct consequence of alcohol. This only alters the numbers by about 10%. In the UK in 2016 there were at least 7,427 alcohol-specific deaths. Looking at drug-related deaths in Scotland (within the NHS Board area), we find something rather unfortunate. Despite the “war on drugs” alcohol accounts for 38% of these deaths. These figures include illegal and illegal drugs with heroin being the only one to beat alcohol (literally one of the most dangerous drugs in the world). My point is NOT that alcohol is as dangerous as any of these drugs. Obviously percentage wise alcohol is drastically safer and looking at number of deaths doesn’t reflect the danger of one drug in comparison to another…BUT, weed is not even on the list.
A Crime is still a Crime
Of course the impact that alcohol has on the individual isn’t the limit of alcohol’s reach. We have to view the bigger picture and in order to do that we need to see the effect it has on society. For example, we can explore how crime and alcohol are related. We’ll be sticking to Scotland for the time being. In 2014/15, in 54% of violent crimes, the offender was under the influence of alcohol. We can’t assume that the attack wouldn’t have taken place otherwise but we do have to acknowledge that it plays a role. I mean in the last 10 years, half of the people accused of murder where under the influence of alcohol/drugs at the time. Not to mention that a shocking two-thirds of all young offenders were under the influence of alcohol at the time of their offence.
We also have to consider the financial burden this is having on not only the NHS but Scotland in general. I mean alcohol-related crime costs at least £727 million PER YEAR! It costs the Scottish health service about £267 million PER YEAR! When including all the wider costs, productive capacity, crime, social care and health of alcohol it costs £3.6 billion PER YEAR!
Greater Societal Impact
I had planned on finishing my alcohol portion of this rant there but then completely by chance I stumbled across even more areas. I hadn’t even considered these but fuck! A recent study into the effect that alcohol marketing has on children revealed some pretty disturbing shit! Children as young as 10 are not only familiar with, but can identify alcohol brands, logos and even the characters involved in advertising campaigns. Weirdly, they could often identify these easier than the adverts aimed specifically at children.
Would it be crazy to think that alcohol companies were just luring in new customers from a young age? The study found that children are aware of an association between alcohol and sports. For example, 45% of children correctly recognised the alcohol brand associated with the Everton Football Club. Children who had social media had higher recognition and could more easily identify alcohol brands.
Scourge on Society
We always hear the argument that alcohol is an acceptable form of societal bonding. A drug that “when used in moderation” can offer stress relief, ease the nerves and make otherwise tedious evenings a bit more exciting. Yet when we look at the facts, alcohol quite clearly has a hugely negative impact on health and crime. Sure, the alcohol industry may rake in X amount of money…but is that worth the cost of even one human life? If the youth of a country are being fed advertising, being put in prison and committing acts of violence, destruction or slowly killing themselves…does that sound like a drug that should be legal to you?
A Bag of Weed
I’m not here to blindly shout that weed is some sort of magical, harm-free drug. Any drug can be harmful. Any drug can have negative side effects on one person but not the other. What I am going to do here though is highlight why weed legalisation wouldn’t lead to the collapse of civilisation. We’ve already touched on the idea that weed isn’t killing anyone. I’m not bending facts, I’m not making light of low numbers. Nobody has ever, ever died directly from weed…EVER!
You’ve probably heard of the rather mythical “first ever marijuana overdose death” that often crops up. One such example took place in Colorado. This was after the recent legalisation of marijuana for recreational use in the state. Of course a death would not be a great start to weed legalisation. This report turned out to be nothing more than media sensationalism. This is always the case with supposed marijuana deaths. At first sight the media is quick to jump on the supposed cause. Every single time there is always a previously undetected, underlying cause. That’s not to say that weed can’t contribute to mental illness or play a role in triggering genetically predisposed illnesses. More on that in a moment.
The Harm in Weed
So when does weed pose harm to individuals and society? What about those suffering from anxiety or depression? Any psychoactive substance, including marijuana, can impact mental health conditions negatively. It is worth mentioning that marijuana does have an effect on mental health if used before the brain is fully developed. In saying that, studies have found that drug-use in adolescents is usually a symptom of a disorder or personality type rather than a cause.
We always hear about how marijuana is dangerous because it can trigger psychosis, schizophrenia, anxiety, depression and other illnesses in those with a genetic predispositions. A study reviewing this data came to the conclusion that there are a whole range of factors to consider. This makes marijuana a contributor rather than a cause. They did mention that the largest risk is to those under the age of 18 who use marijuana. However, a separate study found that the amount of weed consumed did influence the risk of psychosis. This, however, was only true in individuals with the AKT1 gene.
In terms of anxiety and mood disorders, studies found no significant results. In fact, the only significant associations were drug-use disorders (specifically weed, alcohol, nicotine but also others). These can quite obviously be attributed to the individual and not to marijuana. In comparison, there are links between alcohol and depression. There are links between coffee and anxiety (including anxiety attacks). What about links between marijuana and self-harm or suicide? Sadly for those against weed legalisation, these don’t compare to the alcohol-related figures. Not to mention that with many people weed can reduce these issues.
What many people forget is that varying strains have varying effects and as such, one strain won’t affect you in the same way as another. Certain strains can help to manage certain mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression. Not to mention reduce pain, stress, and insomnia effects, etc. Much in the same way that I hate the blanket term “drugs” I also hate that many assume weed to all be the same. Firstly you have indicas, sativas and hybrids. That alone greatly divides weed into different categories. Then you have the different strains of each type. These all have varying effects, different THC and cannabinoid ratios. Not to mention that how they are grown plays in impact on health as well.
Strangely enough, the most harm ever caused by weed relates to synthetic weed. Synthetic weed can often be legal (as a legal high which are often more dangerous that their illegal counterparts). So if synthetic weed is the real danger then legalisation is literally the safest route to reduce the damage. This would allow for the regulation of weed. By supplying safer strains of marijuana that is grown under strict conditions, you can make it drastically safer. Not to mention the taxation and the benefits that can be reaped.
Weed is a Friend Indeed
At this point I think we need to highlight a couple of things. Firstly, weed has never killed anyone. Secondly, while weed can pose a risk, it’s only to a tiny fraction of people who are genetically predisposed to certain mental illnesses. Thirdly, weed consumption appears to be a symptom of many illnesses or mood disorders rather than a cause. Lastly, the biggest danger posed by weed is that of synthetic weed. With all that in mind, we can move onto the final reason why weed legalisation is THE way to go. We’re going to use Colorado as our shining example so let’s take a look at how legalisation has impacted the state so far.
- Teen marijuana use is unchanged! This is a major argument put forward by anti-legalisation campaigners. During the parliamentary discussion on the topic a few years back, this was pretty much their only reasonable argument. So now that there is evidence to show that this is not the case, I wonder what arguments they could make.
- Traffic fatalities are still the same. This is one of the other issues that anti-legalisation campaigners often mention. Since we can’t test for recent weed consumption in the same way as alcohol, there is the concern that we can’t detect individuals driving under the influence, leading to more accidents. Evidently, this is not the case.
- In 2016, legal marijuana sales earned the state nearly $200 million in tax revenue after the $1.3 billion in legal marijuana sales. Market research suggests that this will reach $20.2 billion by 2021. This is put back into schools, hospitals, fixing roads…
We haven’t even touched on the benefits that medicinal cannabis can offer people. I’m not going to either because my argument in this post is regarding recreational use. But bear in mind that such benefits do exist and would have far reaching benefits through legalisation. Even when we take all of this into consideration, it seems pretty ridiculous to ignore one very obvious truth: if marijuana is even slightly less harmful than alcohol, it seems ridiculous that one is legal, heavily advertised and available everywhere. Yet the other is still a class B drug in Scotland which could land you up to 5 years in prison. There is literally no argument at all, not one, as to why alcohol should remain legal but marijuana illegal. Not to mention that alcohol is 114x more dangerous than smoking weed.
Yet there is a point of view that we always seem to ignore. Why should anyone have a say over what I put into my body? I can drink myself to death. Eat McDonald’s food until the NHS has to fund every procedure under the sun. People can choose to pierce their skin with jewellery to destructive levels or cover their bodies in tattoos. If you want to jump out of a plane, go climbing up mountains or beat someone to near-death in a ring, you can. You can even charge people to watch it and make money from the event. I beg you; please tell me why smoking weed is any worse than these things! I mean how fucking dare I suggest that I should be able to smoke a drug, laugh my ass off and enjoy myself in the comfort of my own home, right?
So should alcohol and marijuana have their legal statuses switched? Realistically: no. Scotland’s alcoholic society would crumble without the crutch that is alcohol. However, if there is even a chance that legalisation would reduce alcohol consumption in my country then I see absolutely no reason why that isn’t a benefit. Alcohol is a destructive force, it’s a scourge on society and it kills so many people each year. Weed may have some risks but no more than nuts or driving to work. Can we truly accept that just because those in parliament don’t want to smoke weed that the rest of us shouldn’t be able to?
I actually wrote about this topic before and I’ve even explained why the petition system in the UK is a massive pile of shit that serves no purpose and doesn’t change anything that parliament wouldn’t have changed anyway. It’s a pacifying measure to make people feel like clicking a button can change the world. I wrote to my MP at the time, David Mundell. I explained I had strong opinions on the matter and my e-mail went through several drafts, was concise and in my opinion argued a strong case. What did I get in response? A generic e-mail talking about issues I hadn’t even mentioned. My own MP (who didn’t even attend the parliamentary discussion by the way) couldn’t even take the time to read my e-mail. It’s literally his job. Anyway, if you want to read something a little lighter, check this out!
So guys, we have reached the end of this rant and hopefully you’ve learnt something along the way. As always, I’m interested in hearing your opinions and feedback. If you think that alcohol deserves its legal status over weed, please share your reasons why. Also, stay tuned for the opportunity to win a $20 Amazon gift card in the next few weeks. Be sure to follow me here and on Twitter to stay in the loop. Peace!