Marijuana v. Alcohol

Although no one tells me, I’m positive everyone gets annoyed when I start a comment off with “I used to be a newspaper reporter and I…”

I apologize in advance but the thing is, journalists see things in this world that most people don’t. They have a unique perspective and a more informed perspective than those who are content to just watch TV news.

I say all of this before talking about something that I haven’t before and that’s drugs. Obama said in a recent New Yorker article that marijuana is perhaps not the pariah on society that it was painted to be in the likes of Reefer Madness. While it could be a gateway drug and is damaging to your lungs, it doesn’t cause as much ill effects on the body and on society as previously advertised. There’s all kinds of research about the subject. Some say marijuana’s bad. Others say it’s not that bad.

I won’t profess to know one way or the other. I’ve never toked up nor have I smoked a cigarette in my entire life. Watching my grandfather wither up and die from lung cancer solved that problem for me.

I do however, drink. Not excessively but regularly.

As a newspaper reporter I witnessed a lot of the things that go wrong when it comes to alcohol and drugs. One of my responsibilities with some of the papers I worked for was covering the courtroom. Most every single murder case I covered involved alcohol and/or drugs in some manifestation. Either the victims or the killer were on drugs, buying drugs, selling drugs or fighting over drugs. As far as alcohol is concerned many times killer was drunk or had been drinking.

Then there are the manslaughter cases from drunk-driving fatalities. There’s a lot of those, especially in Texas. The trials were especially painful to watch because, unlike homicides, there’s no real explanation for someone dying in a drunk-driving wreck. With a murder, there’s some known motivation. With intoxicated manslaughter, it’s really about chance. The victim just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and then, poof, their gone.

Like it or not, alcohol is part of American culture but it is also an element of many heinous things that happen in the criminal justice system. Aside from the wreck deaths and the murders, there’s an untold number of domestic violence, assaults, robberies and more that are fueled by people with alcohol in their system.

While it was a prevalent theme in many of the cases I covered, one thing that I didn’t see a lot of were suspects who committed crimes while under the influence of marijuana. I’m not saying that it never happened, just that it was exceedingly rare.

There’s two ways of looking at that, of course. One is marijuana isn’t much of a factor because it isn’t legal and therefore less people use it than alcohol. True. The other way of looking at it is (and I’ll borrow the pro-gun lobby logic here) criminals don’t follow the law thus they’re more than likely to light one than regular people and thus more likely to commit crime while under the influence.

Regardless of how you look at it, it’s not something that you see a lot of when it comes to people who commit crime and their mental state. Yes it does happen but not near as often as you see with alcohol.

So why are so people fighting the legalization? My guess is they’ll use the point of view that if it’s legal more people will use it thus leading to more crime, etc, etc. These detractors are more than likely conservative and the same people who use the criminals-are-criminals-and-don’t-follow-the-law-anyway argument when it comes to the gun control measures that they oppose.

Why is it that alcohol is acceptable to use and marijuana is not? A close look at the criminal justice system will show that alcohol seemingly has a more damaging effect on society and yet it is legal.

With Washington and Colorado blazing a new trail with their legalization laws, time will tell if marijuana will create the rise in crime some believe will happen.

I’m guessing it won’t. Some people are happy drunks. Some people are mean drunks. You’ve never heard of a mean pothead.



  1. Follow the money.

    “Man smokes four joints and beats his wife to death.”<<<<<You'll never read that headline (unless the joints were laced).

    1. I never said that it was NEVER the case marijuana was a factor. It is rare, is what I said.

      So far as the money, I’m pretty certain alcohol distributors as well as the pharmaceutical companies have plenty to go around if they were to try and fight this. They would have market share to lose.

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