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Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Comparisons - by Citizen Jay Daily



     It’s been shown that in states where the use of cannabis for medical purposes has been legalized the number of auto fatalities consistently declines.  Speculation dictates a correlation here.  But it’ a fairly obvious one—given the choice it seems some people would rather consume cannabis than alcohol.  Those people no longer drinking are no longer posing the same risk they did before that choice was made legal.

     The comparison of cannabis to alcohol is dubious at best.  Still, it’s one of the best working analogies we have.  Most people drink at least some alcohol and are familiar with how it feels as well as how it is bought and sold across the United States.  Remember, however, that it was not always so.  In the years after prohibition ended, municipalities across the country had to determine how they were going to regulate the sale and use of alcohol.   This led to a phenomenon we know as “dry counties,” which to this day still checker our nation’s map. 

     When it comes to the discussion of cannabis regulation, it seems the analogy with alcohol is an easy tool to demonstrate how cannabis might be treated.  The phrase “regulate like alcohol” was used extensively in the campaign to legalize adult-use cannabis in Colorado.  But cannabis is NOT regulated like alcohol in Colorado.  When the citizens complain, the regulators turn a deaf ear. 

     This has led, as I’ve pointed out before, to a problem of consumption, that is, where to consume—especially for the out of town customer.  It’s all about “public consumption” and what that actually means.  The discussions have reached the absurd, to the point that in Denver the city council had to define our front porches and living room windows as “private” even though they are in public view just so that we could enjoy our cannabis at home. 

     The solution seems as obvious as the question itself.  Allow for the opening of cannabis lounges or “clubs” for adults to consume cannabis in safety and in private.  The City of Denver along with other Colorado municipalities, however, have made it quite clear that they will not tolerate such enterprises.  The heavy-handed closings of the several attempts at “private clubs” in and around Denver serve as grave examples of the pitfalls faced by cannabis consumers and those looking to pose reasonable remedies.

     But just what is the case against opening cannabis lounges?  Again and again opponents point to their one main argument—that it will increase the amount of “drugged drivers” on the road.  That’s their argument.  That’s their concern.

     Recent sensational stories in the news singling out aberrant examples where cannabis may have been a factor in accidents, suicides, and even murder spread this kind of fear.  They portray cannabis as much more dangerous than it really is.  But in almost all of the cases singled out by the media cannabis was never the only substance found to be a factor.  Alcohol was also usually involved if not prescription drugs or other illicit substances.   

     In general, most people who consume cannabis do so in moderation just like most people who drink alcohol.  The effects of a cannabis “high” wear off in a few hours just like the “buzz” you get with alcohol.  That’s a comparison that holds some truth.  That being the case, most people would consume cannabis like they drink in bars—mindfully with an eye to driving later.  While we all agree that drunk driving is a problem, no one is suggesting we close bars down and relegate alcohol consumption solely to the privacy of one’s own home.  It would be patently ridiculous to punish every adult for the actions of those who abuse the privilege of “drinking responsibly.”  In fact, there are powerful lobbies making sure these kinds of sweeping punishments don’t effect the consumption of alcohol by the public or the industry that produces it. 

  Besides, didn’t the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently claim that when adjusted for factors such as age, race and gender, there is little difference between driving under the influence of cannabis and driving sober when it comes to the risk of having an accident?  Yes, yes they did.  But just to be clear, additional studies have shown the risk of an accident becoming much greater when marijuana is combined with alcohol.

    Recently, a petition has been circulating in Denver that proposes to allow cannabis smoking and vaporizing in spaces that are not publicly viewable, such as in music venues, bars and restaurants that currently allow alcohol consumption.  Smoking would likely be confined to enclosed outdoor areas, so venues can comply with existing state laws that limit indoor tobacco smoking.

     Cannabis tourism would also gain a shot in the arm from the measure, allowing visitors to Denver, which has become a hub of the legal cannabis industry, a place to enjoy their purchases.

“Denver voters have repeatedly voted in favor of treating marijuana similarly to alcohol,” said Mason Tvert, communications director for Marijuana Policy Project and a key backer of Colorado’s Amendment 64, which legalized cannabis for adult 21+ use. “For the same reasons many adults enjoy having a drink in a social setting, many adults would enjoy using cannabis.”

     “It would be ridiculous to limit alcohol consumption only to people’s homes,” said Tvert. “So why must marijuana use be limited in such a fashion? There’s no rational reason to treat marijuana consumers so differently.”

     The truth of the matter is that people do drive under the influence of cannabis.  They have been doing so for as long as there have been cars and cannabis consumers.  It’s never really been an issue before legalization brought the topic of conversation into more polite circles. 

     “First, people are already doing this anyway,” said Colorado Sen. Pat Steadman (D). “It’s happening whether we like it or not. It would be best to regulate matters rather than allow the ‘wild wild West’ situation we have now. I think we should let the free market find solutions, but we have to remove legal barriers before this can happen.”

     Some feel cannabis clubs are a forgone conclusion.  It’s a matter of time.  As legalization becomes more normal (pun intended) and wide-spread the consumer market will demand the same rights for cannabis use as they now have for alcohol.   If it were up to me, though, I’d regulate cannabis like parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme… 

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