Weed is a drug. Drugs are bad. Wine is alcohol. Politicians drink alcohol. Therefore, alcohol is ok and weed is not. Say WHAT? This is how most people function when it comes to issues of right and wrong. And while maybe it’s not as simple as caveman grunting, the way we’re wired to think is actually as a result of systemic beliefs created by institutions. Government is an institution. We live under government. Government creates drug laws. Drug laws are institutional. See what I mean?
Basically, if we don’t question what’s created by institutions, then we are products of that institution, and created by that institution for the sake of its perpetuation. This doesn’t really sound like LIFE, to me. It sounds like Alias, or Twilight, or some other fictionalized scary story. And so, we must question.
That’s what marijuana legalization advocate Steve Fox is doing, in the new book Marijuana is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink? And he’s not a Judd Apatow character, ripping bong hits. This ish is for real–marijuana is a perfect symbol for how we’ve been institutionalized in this country to believe something harmless is bad.
For a plant that’s never caused a single human death in the tens of thousands of years it’s been with us, marijuana still faces a gargantuan social stigma.
Government propagandists and some social conservatives, in their quest to proscribe our behavior, and consumption, are quick to cite anecdotal evidence and piles of bogus liquor- and prescription-drug-industry-funded studies that warn of the dangers of firing up even that first joint.
Yet these crusaders invariably fail to cite a little thing we call the truth: That alcohol, tobacco and prescription drugs kill or maim hundreds of thousands of Americans each year while marijuana kills, oh, no one; that marijuana – still this nation’s leading cash crop, with estimated sales of $35.8 billion in 2006 – was legal in this country until almost 1940 (long after Prohibition had come and gone); that legalizing, and taxing, the sale of a plant that’s been legal for most of our history could help pull state governments, including Nevada’s, out of recent budgetary sink holes; that’s it not the government’s (or anyone else’s) business to tell Americans what they can and cannot put into their own bodies.
Luckily, a growing number of legal, medical and policy experts are changing perceptions through the intellectual and logical force of their arguments that the time has come to re-examine and change our failed drug policies. Policies which will cost us more than $15 billion this fiscal year alone.
Steve Fox, director of State Campaigns for the Marijuana Policy Project (the nation’s largest organization dedicated to reforming marijuana laws) is one such expert. A former congressional lobbyist and a longtime proponent of sanity in public policy, Fox recently spent some time with CityLife talking about his new book Marijuana is Safer and to hash out and contrast the relative harms, and legal status, of this nation’s two most popular recreational substances: alcohol and marijuana.
CityLife: Considering the growth of the medical marijuana movement, especially here in the American West, and an increasing number of government and university studies that show alcohol to be far more dangerous that marijuana, do you think the United States will join other civilized nations such as The Netherlands and Portugal in re-legalizing cannabis?
Fox: It’s seeming like the writing is on the wall, but that doesn’t mean we’re as close as we’d like to be. There are, obviously, decades of propaganda and myth out there that have the ability to stall reform. It will be a battle, in the end, to change things.