I Want a New Drug
by Brian C. Bennett

If you are past a certain age, you may recognize the phrase "I want a new drug" as the title of an old Huey Lewis and the News song, and if you pay attention to the news about alcohol lately, you may find yourself thinking the same thing. This year, the city of Boston briefly considered outlawing alcohol sales within proximity of Fenway Park during the World Series, and of course, there are the usual reports about college kids getting drunk and going nuts, sometimes resulting in the death of a student from alcohol poisoning. Let's face it: alcohol is an extremely dangerous drug.

The good news is that there is already a well known and widely used drug that doesnít cause near as much mayhem in society as alcohol does, but the bad news is that it is a drug our government has been doing its best to demonize and suppress for over seven decades. That drug, of course, is marijuana.

Many people havenít actually tried marijuana, and seem to believe that it must be a lot like alcohol. To that end, they canít honestly consider why anyone would "need" another drug. But in the interest of public service, and perhaps keeping a few college kids around long enough to graduate, someone needs to spell out the differences between alcohol and marijuana.

There are quite a few distinguishing differences between alcohol and marijuana, the most important of which is that you canít possibly consume enough marijuana to kill yourself. Sadly, poisoning yourself with alcohol is far too easy, and since its effects take a while to take hold, it is far too easy to consume too much without realizing it. Marijuana meanwhile, may be the only drug in the world for which the words "thanks, Iím good" are regularly applied. I canít really remember hearing too many people say theyíve had enough to drink, but nearly every pot smoker Iíve encountered in life makes regular use of those words.

Also of great importance is the fact that alcohol acts as a central nervous system depressant, and thus disturbs ones ability to think clearly and directly interferes with ones motor skills. Pot smokers may forget what they are saying mid-sentence, but you wonít find many of them engaging in embarrassing behaviors that they donít even remember having done the next day. Another huge advantage of marijuana over alcohol is that marijuana smokers donít find themselves on their hands and knees hurling their stomach contents into a toilet, or praying for forgiveness while doing so.

Many people still believe in "reefer madness" though, and may still buy into some of the scare stories about how people under the influence of marijuana rape and pillage like maniacs while high. And of course, most of us are familiar with the idea that the word "hashish" is tightly coupled with the word assassin. Curiously though, despite the fact that some 25 million people use marijuana in a given year, they somehow cannot be readily identified without testing their urine. If someone is under the influence of alcohol, it is kind of obvious; but if you need to test someoneís urine to determine that they are a marijuana user, then seriously, how big of a problem can they be?

Of course, marijuana is not without its negative aspects, chief among them the fact that marijuana is illegal. Luckily, very few marijuana users end up getting arrested, but those who do may find themselves losing their college aid, their jobs, their homes, and just about anything else a vindictive society can extract from their hides. And of course, we hear from the drug czar that marijuana is causing all sorts of people to go to emergency rooms to seek aid or to seek drug rehabilitation treatment. However, those events really donít happen to too many pot smokers -- less than one tenth of one percent of past year users seek emergency treatment, and of the less than two percent of past year smokers who go to rehab, over half are forced into it through the legal system. The vast majority of marijuana users never have such problems, and indeed, the greatest danger of marijuana use remains getting caught with it.

According to our governmentís latest figures, there are nearly 100 million Americans who have tried marijuana at least once. How long will we continue the charade that marijuana is a "menace" to society? If you really want your kids to party safely, advise them to smoke pot. Sure, they could have their lives ruined if they get caught, but it beats the hell out of going to their funeral. Of course, we could always try not persecuting the pot smokers -- and letting them live in peace. Funerals suck -- but what the hey, bottoms up!

Written Oct 26, 2004

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