Pot tale of the week

“One argument is that marijuana is just like alcohol, and that’s not the case,” prohibitionist Jason Guinasso told the North Lake Tahoe Bonanza. “The effects of marijuana are far more profound and addictive.”

Guinasso is certainly correct that marijuana is not just like alcohol, but not for the reasons he gives. Marijuana is far less addictive (“Pot tale of the week,” RN&R, Aug. 25) and dangerous. The crime costs associated with alcohol, financial and otherwise, are stupefying. In some counts, most crime is associated with drinking. The costs associated with marijuana are mostly caused by enforcing prohibition.

Alcohol is a common factor in homicide, suicide, domestic battery. None of these things are true of marijuana—none. Rather, according to President Nixon’s Marijuana Commission, “In fact, only a small proportion of the marihuana users among any group of criminals or delinquents known to the authorities and appearing in study samples had ever been arrested or convicted for such violent crimes as murder, forcible rape, aggravated assault or armed robbery. When these marihuana-using offenders were compared with offenders who did not use marihuana, the former were generally found to ‘have committed less aggressive behavior than the latter.”

As for addiction, marijuana was a godsend to many U.S. soldiers in Vietnam as they dealt with the anxieties and conflicts of their roles there. As the officer corps became aware of use of the plant, a July 1970 crackdown was launched against marijuana, which succeeded in reducing supply. Because marijuana serves as an obstacle to harder drugs (“Pot tale of the week,” RN&R, July 21), the shortage caused soldiers to turn to harder drugs like alcohol and heroin. Clark University scientist Norman Zinberg later reported, “The Army itself is universally credited with causing the swing to heroin through its own blunder: the campaign against marijuana.” Not until 1971 did desperate officials drop the crackdown. Who knows what damage was done during those months? Soon many soldiers had shifted back to marijuana. Army Spec. 4 Peter Lemon, who was stoned during the action for which he received the Medal of Honor, said marijuana was useful in forward combat in keeping soldiers alert. But the point is, when soldiers returned to the U.S., it was common for them to simply drop smoking pot, in spite of dogmatic claims of marijuana addiction.

In the late 1960s and early ’70s, there were indications that marijuana might overtake the alcohol habit in the United States. But there was no Ad Council or other public service campaign to support that shift to a less malignant drug. There were anti-marijuana campaigns, and eventually the trend declined. Consumer Reports noted, “A knowledgeable society, noting a few years ago that some of its members were switching to a less harmful intoxicant, marijuana, might have encouraged that trend. At the very least, society could have stressed the advantages of cutting down alcohol consumption if you smoke marijuana. But no such effort was made. It may yet not be too late to present that simple public-health message.”