All Potted Up-Ride Side

Let’s Stop Punishing People For Getting High While Encouraging Them To Get Drunk



The double standard of legalizing alcohol but criminalizing marijuana

Some things are just stupid. They can’t be rationalized, explained by bits and pieces of research, or charted on an X-Y plane as methods of proof as to why they are anything other than stupid.

Here’s a perfect example. In scenario 1, Jim Bob gets into a scuffle in the front yard with his neighbor after a few too many sips of Early Times. There’s hollerin’, chest thumpin’, and the general atmosphere of a cage fight. The police are called, who threaten to haul Jim Bob off to jail unless he gets inside in a hurry and sleeps it off. Silly ol’ Jim Bob. In scenario 2, Jim Bob decides to listen to a little R.E.M. and relax with a nicely rolled joint of the devil’s lettuce in the backyard. Mrs. Ratchet next door sees this tomfoolery, calls the popo, and Jim Bob is then hauled off to jail for possession of marijuana. Do you think that’s fair? If you answered yes, please refer to paragraph one.

We’ll get into some facts and figures in a minute, but riddle me this: why is it ok in this country for people to imbibe on a drink that’s made from a plant (barley, hops, or in the case of my Irish and English ancestors, corn), yet it’s not ok to smoke a plant? Let me correct the verbiage. To say that it’s “not ok” is like saying it’s not ok to pinch your mother-in-law’s tush at your own wedding. In fact, it’s so not ok, that the federal government has literally spent hundreds of billions of dollars vilifying, persecuting, hunting down and incarcerating tokers, thereby affecting their income, their records, their ability to drive, and their voting rights.

Instead of the FBI and ATF only slapping the cuffs on the worst of the worst from an episode of Miami Vice, 46 percent of all drug arrests in 2010 were for marijuana possession. It equates to a marijuana arrest every 42 seconds. In Virginia, first offense convictions include a fine of up to $500, up to 30 days in jail, or both. Second convictions include a fine of up to $2,500, up to one year in jail, or both. Add to this the onerous minimum mandatory federal guidelines, and we come to realize the true scope of our country’s hypocrisy pertaining to marijuana—and our love affair with alcohol.

The multi-decade run up to the 18th Amendment, aka Prohibition, was lead by concerned wives, preachers, and even some factions of the KKK, who were at wits end over abusive husbands and lost work hours due to the evil of alcohol. While their concerns were more than valid, the fact that the federal government stepped in and actually forbade people to drink (there were notable exceptions, which is why some churches were packed for communion), seems so Orwellian now that the thought of another Prohibition is laughable.

Yet, the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, which makes possession and transfer of cannabis illegal in the U.S. under federal law, still stands. Fourteen states have decriminalized possession of marijuana, making the penalties much less punitive. But those penalties still stand in stark contrast to our usage, our celebration, and our cultural common thread that is alcohol, a substance that can ruin bodies, brains, families and livelihoods. In fact, a recently completed 75-year Harvard study on happiness found that the number one detriment to happiness and loving relationships is, you got it, alcohol.  

I’m not here to argue that Himalayan Mind Crusher is good for you. All drugs are a scourge on society. But the idea that somehow alcohol is not as bad, or not as dangerous, is so ludicrous, and so void of medical research support, that I can’t believe people have the temerity to use that as an argument against the legalization of marijuana. Yes, legalizing will not be bereft of ramifications, but let’s have some common sense, reap the tax revenue, and stop punishing people for getting high while encouraging them to get drunk.

Besides, if Mary Jane is destined to put you on the path to ruin, how did Barack Obama become President? Dave Parker hosts The Dave Parker Show on AM 790 WNIS weekdays from 10 a.m.–noon. He can also be heard each afternoon on US1061 and reached at dparker@wnis.com. He lives in Virginia Beach with his wife and two daughters.