Marijuana deserves to be seen on the same level as other legal intoxicants
I want to hold a real conversation regarding the use of marijuana and whether or not it is too “harmful” to be legal. We have to discuss the notion of what harm intoxicants can inflict, and whether or not certain intoxicants earn more scorn than necessary. In the case of marijuana, we see much more negative feedback than is warranted. My point is pretty simple: marijuana should be treated on an equal playing field with other legal intoxicants.
For the most part this discussion sprang from the release of certain studies that have linked marijuana use to the damaging of one’s brain and the loss of intelligence. The studies basically said that pot smokers, even smoking casually, at an early age will develop impaired brain functions. It’s an old argument. The old “pot dumbs you down” argument, I’ve heard it many times before.
Let me say, I don’t necessarily disagree with the idea that marijuana can cause harm if used in improper ways. Items like marijuana, cocaine, Vicodin, and liquor are called intoxicants for a good reason. They mess you up. Every intoxicant can lead to negative effects, if used improperly.
We have to understand the issues regarding intoxicants before we can have honest changes in our laws. Can marijuana cause someone harm? Theoretically, yes. Can alcohol cause you harm? Almost certainly, if abused. I wouldn’t recommend anyone go driving while super blitzed from the Maui Wowie. I also wouldn’t recommend the same after drinking a bottle of Jameson. Both scenarios have the chance of causing irreparable harm.
The point I am making is not that marijuana is “harmless.” The point I am making, more or less, is that the harm it imposes is much less severe, or at least is on the same level, as intoxicants that are already legal. Marijuana can, for example, cause lung illness if smoked in excess over extended periods of time. It can also impair one’s brain functions, though to what extent is still debatable. However, does this mean that marijuana is bad and therefore should remain illegal?
Take alcohol as an example. I cannot stress this example enough. By all standards, alcohol is one of the most harmful vices of human kind. It is not only an intoxicant that impairs most senses and causes one to run their mouth when they otherwise wouldn’t, but it also can cause severe liver disease and other health problems if drank in excess over periods of time. Alcohol, in fact, takes the cake when it comes to deaths by both impairments and disease. Cirrhosis of the liver is a huge killer, let alone the millions of car accidents (and others) caused by alcohol across the world.
If alcohol, as harmful as we know it is, can be deemed appropriate for legal (recreational) consumption and somehow marijuana can be deemed illegal, then what standard are we really using to judge the harmfulness of a substance?
The basic idea is not that marijuana legalization advocates are saying that marijuana is absolutely harm-free. Of course there can be consequences for abusing its use. Just as with any intoxicating substance, marijuana should be tightly controlled. It should not be illegal. Just like I don’t think alcohol should be illegal, however that doesn’t mean I want to sell alcohol to kids. Same goes for marijuana.
Marijuana should be treated on an equal playing field with other substances. I believe in representing the issues as they are, case by case, in full breakdown of pros and cons. We need to have a real conversation on marijuana, about what its benefits and harms are and whether or not this means it deserves illegal status based on the facts and not counter-culture stereotypes.
Oh, and if anyone says that smoking pot will dumb you down I would advise them to look up Carl Sagan. Enough said.