Thursday, August 20, 2009

Marijuana Is Safer Than Alcohol

There is a new book out called Marijuana is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink? which suggests that switching people from alcohol to pot could save lives.

I haven't read the book. But a former Police Chief has and has written a forward to the the book. Here is some of what he has to say.

When you pick up a book touting marijuana as a safer recreational alternative to alcohol, I imagine the last thing you are expecting is a foreword from the former chief of police of a major U.S. city. Well, if you're surprised, I guess we are off to a good start. You see, the goal of this book--and the purpose of this foreword--is to encourage you (fan and foe alike) to reassess the way you think about marijuana.

In pages that follow, you will find objective comparisons of marijuana and alcohol. You will learn about the ways in which the government and other influential institutions have maintained marijuana prohibition while simultaneously turning public opinion against its use. And you will be exposed to a plethora of statistics quantifying the damage caused by alcohol use in our society. Steve, Paul, and Mason have done a terrific job of presenting all of this information in an objective, compelling, and thoughtful manner. I am certain, whatever you may think about marijuana laws at this moment, that you will look at the issue differently by the time you reach the final chapter.

But before you dive into this book--which I truly couldn't put down the first time I read it--I'd like to give you an insider's perspective on the question of marijuana versus alcohol. By "insider," I refer to my decades of law enforcement experience, during which time I witnessed firsthand how these two substances affect consumers, their families, and public safety overall. As you can imagine, those of us who have served our communities as officers of the law have encountered alcohol and marijuana users on a frequent if not daily basis, and we know all too well how often one of these two substances is associated with violent and aggressive behavior.

In all my years on the streets, it was an extremely rare occasion to have a night go by without an alcohol-related incident. More often than not, there were multiple alcohol-related calls during a shift. I became accustomed to the pattern (and the odor). If I was called to a part of town with a concentration of bars or to the local university, I could expect to be greeted by one or more drunks, flexing their "beer muscles," either in the throes of a fight or looking to start one. Sadly, the same was often true when I received a domestic abuse call. More often than not, these conflicts--many having erupted into physical violence--were fueled by one or both participants having overindulged in alcohol.
He has more to say on the subject. Follow the link and read the whole thing.

Just think of it. Not only could we save the vast quantities spent on policing marijuana, but we may also save even more because people stoned on pot vs those stoned on alcohol are easier to police and less likely to need policing.

So. Are the winds changing when it comes to marijuana prohibition in particular and drug prohibition in general? There is a book that discusses the history of the drug wars in America that may have an answer. This Is Your Country on Drugs: The Secret History of Getting High in America. The author Ryan Grim was recently interviewed by Joe Hicks in a 15 minute video called Marijuana on the March: Is the War on Drugs Over? Here is a paraphrase of what he had to say. - "With the libertarian faction (smaller government) of the Republican Party ascendant and the Democrats basically anti-prohibitionist, the support for drug prohibition is crumbling [not even Police Chiefs can be counted on - ed.]. Even so it will take about ten years for the changes in policy to go national and policy changes are starting with State Governments either authorizing or running Medical Marijuana dispensaries." Not to mention even more states that have legalized medical marijuana without attending to distribution.

So far no state has fully legalized marijuana. California is in the running to be first - there are two ballot measures being planned for 2010 in that state.

So where will all this lead? Back to 1936 if we are lucky. A year when marijuana was still legal nationally. And we may finally get the research we deserve about the cancer prevention and treatment properties of marijuana.

Cross Posted at Classical Values


demian said...

Simon, I have to ask: do you not think that marijuana -- post-high -- dulls one's mental acuity and exacerbates spaciness (i.e., forgetfulness, absent-mindedness)?

I ask because your blog sometimes references your analytical, engineering background. I find the occasional endorsement of marijuana a fascinating stance, given the intellectual rigors of such fields.

M. Simon said...

My experience in the high tech area is that roughly 1/2 the people in the field were marijuana smokers.

You might consider what Carl Sagan said about marijuana.

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - The late astronomer and author, Carl Sagan was a secret but avid marijuana smoker, crediting it with inspiring essays and scientific insight, according to Sagan's biographer.

Using the pseudonym "Mr. X'', Sagan wrote about his pot smoking in an essay published in the 1971 book "Reconsidering Marijuana.'' The book's editor, Lester Grinspoon, recently disclosed the secret to Sagan's biographer, Keay Davidson.

Carl Sagan

One other thing to keep in mind.

In a study of high tech industries, researchers found that "drug testing programs do not succeed in improving productivity. Surprisingly, companies adopting drug testing programs are found to exhibit lower levels of productivity than their counterparts that do not... Both pre-employment and random testing of workers are found to be associated with lower levels of productivity."

Source: Shepard, Edward M., and Thomas J. Clifton, Drug Testing and Labor Productivity: Estimates Applying a Production Function Model, Institute of Industrial Relations, Research Paper No. 18, Le Moyne University, Syracuse, NY (1998), p. 1.