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Crossposted from SmirkingChimp frontpage

Sometime ago I posted a comparison of marijuana and tobacco called Pot is not like tobacco. Please make a note of it. Thanks.

It was prompted by various ongoing - and stupid - assertions that those who do not understand marijuana make when they assume it is like tobacco.

It's time to do the same for marijuana and alcohol.

For this post, I will start by saying that unlike marijuana and tobacco, there is some range of comparison to be made, albeit limited. And I will end by making the case that marijuana is not just safer than alcohol, it is, in fact, a superior product. Along the way you will learn that I don't like drinking alcohol, I don't like being 'drunk', and that I don't like drugs in general, so you are aware of my biases, which is only fair.

Comparisons
Like alcoholic beverages and other 'preparations' marijuana comes in a rather wide variety of qualities, colors, smells and potencies.

With alcohol you have beer - and a wide variety thereof. You have wine - and a wide variety thereof. And you have what I will simply call hard liquor - with a wide variety thereof.

Beer is not as potent ans wine, which is far less potent than liquors like bourbon, vodka and tequila, to name a few. Beer, wine, and liquor each come in a range of qualities from crappy to fine.

With beer things run the gamut from 'PBR' to fine-quality micro-brews that, even though I despise beer, its smell, and it's taste, truly bridges the gap between alcoholic beverage and food. It looks good to me but the taste and smell are terrible. That's just me.

Wine, of course, is the same and even more wide-ranging once one gets into vintages and all the other complexities of wine-making, which I know virtually nothing about. I just know that wine-making is an art and lots of people enjoy it.

And liquor as well has a wide range of quality and potency and price. LIke wine and beer there are contests and all manner of celebrations of the artful high-end of distilling these potent products, and there is a lot of crappy stuff sold every day. Think "Rebel Yell" whiskey versus something like Basil Hayden or Baker's 107.

MArijuana comes in just as wide a variety: from crappy Mexico schwag - often a terrible, low-potency, seedy weed smuggled into America in 'bricks': chopped down in a field, not really properly cured, compacted into tight kilogram chunks - to the fabled "BC Bud" and "Humboldt's Finest": super-high quality pampered pot that is the result of years of crossbreeding and highly-skilled growing techniques - and a wide range of qualities in-between.

There is the Cannabis Cup a yearly competition that judges marijuana just like any alcohol competition or other judging event.

The main and single difference is that cannabis remains very illegal, which, of course, makes no sense at all.

Which brings me to part 2.

Marijuana is safer than alcohol
This is pretty simple, actually. Not rocket surgery. Since marijuana isn't  causing deaths, it's safer than alcohol: but that makes for a short article. ;) Plus this simple fact seems to go in one ear and out the other, as if it doesn't matter.

It is well-beyond dispute that alcohol is intoxicating, that intoxication has well-defined traits, and is known to cause loss of motor coordination and to diminish some personal inhibitions. And alcohol is strong enough to cause poisoning, overdose, and death. It is associated with birth defects and, particularly, fetal alcohol syndrome.

Yet it is still legal, tolerated and, as described above, celebrated. People rush to defend alcohol.

I sometimes get messages in my e-mail or on twitter complaining that or attacking me for "bashing" or 'demonizing' alcohol. (Have had the same sorts of complaints about pointing out the hundreds of thousands of tobacco-related deaths and illnesses, as if reciting unpleasant facts is a bad thing.)

But facts IS facts. Alcohol kills plenty of people each year, mostly from impaired driving, but also from diseases of the liver, and straight-up overdosing. It's legal: drink as much as you want.

Cannabis, of course, is not known for killing people and has no known overdose potential. It's got a big, fat zero in the "deaths from" column.

To appease the inevitable nitpickers, nobody is saying that inhaling dried and smoldering plant material is particularly wise behavior...but then, again we have legal tobacco and drinking alcohol is imbibing poison: so let's dispense with that crappy objection. And vaporizing bypasses the 'inhaled burning material' objection as well.

Cannabis is very illegal, still, at least in some states.

Reform is progrssing in about a fourth of the US and mainly out West.

I, of course, live in the South, which remains stuck in the 1950's. It's illegal and many places of employment still do pee testing, which, as MOST people know, is BEST at catching pot smokers. Serious drugs vacate the body in 3 or 4 days, but THC metabolites - what drug tests search for - stay in the body, detectable for  a month or so after you last toke. One can smoke just a couple times a month and fail the test, resulting in loss of employment. But drink all you want, ok?

This year, for the first time, I have been subjected to random pee testing. This means I cannot smoke at all. Ever. Which is just pissing me off to no end.

Cannabis isn't addictive, like tobacco: just try and get a tobacco smoker to quit for an indefinite period of time. Most of them are not going to be able to do it. Period.

I have no problem not smoking. No 'withdrawal'. No particular jonesing. Just one noted symptom: Indignation. I know that I cannot enjoy smoke fine herb because backwards stupid people still think I should pee in a cup to continually prove my worthiness.

Which brings me to part 3.

Alcohol is inferior to cannabis
Yep.

I dont buy the "people drink alcohol because it tastes good' argument. Alcohol tastes like crap. People like the effect. I am not about to debate this.

I don't like the taste of alcohol and I do not like being 'drunk'. I don't like it and don't know why it's so popular.

However, since having to worry about pee testing I have had a couple shots of high-quality bourbon during moments when I would normally smoke the herb. It's been an exercise in really reviewing what I think about alcohol.
bakers & bud
I have settled on Bakers 107 (not to promote them, by the way, but it's the truth.) Whiskey is generally pretty nasty if you ask me, but this is fairly refined, small-batch made stuff. Expensive and more or less top-of-the-line. As good as I can afford.

I also consumed some Booker's, a 128 proof, bottled infiltered straight from the barrel bourbon. That's extremely potent.

Both of these high-end bourbons taste better than common whiskies. Again, I can't stand whiskey but these go down reasonably smooth and pack a notbale wallop.

I can't make myself consume more than 3-4 half-shots in an evening. Just too potent and often I get a headache. I can't consume a whole shot. It burns my throat. A half-shot is manageable.

Alcohol is inferior to cannabis in a number of ways.

  1. The Buzz.

Drunk, to me, is a dreadful feeling. I just don't like it and as I am nearing 50 years of age, I think it's safe to suggest I never ever will. Cannabis, as it comes in a wide variety of types has a variety of buzzes, most of them very pleasant. The schwaggy stuff can be not so good, can be wholly unpotent (ie: you got ripped off.)

The Good Stuff, which I will describe as "mid-grade' to the KGB (Killer Green Bud" in potency terms ranges from comparable to wine to super-potent liquor, minus the damages and impairment that accompany alcohol. On one hand, the more potent the Herb is, the less one generally smoke. Generally.

I can't really describe the high. In a way, I think the unknowing would find it anti-climatic. All the propaganda would make a person think that when you got high all sorts of things would transpire. I find it relaxing and simply enjoyable. Like adding steak sauce to steak. Drunk is a crappy feeling that, again, I have no real clue why people like it.

  1. The impairment:

Marijuana doesn't impact my motor coordination: can't speak for others, but it dosn't bother mine. If it did, I would not be  smoking marijuana nor writing this. Motor impairment, judgment impairment are among the reasons I don't like drugs in general.

When I first started getting high - back in 1978 - I was as ignorant as the people who still believe the propaganda. I believed it all. When I went to college I was confronted with a different reality and eventually tried it. I remember getting my first serious buzz and trying to play the guitar. I was actually DISAPPOINTED that I was able to play without a problem. I thought that I had somehow not gotten high.

  1. No hangover.

This is pretty basic. I have had maybe 2 hangovers in my life, the last one back in the early 1990s, and to be fair, I think that was due as much to the margarita I had being too sweet as it was to whatever alcohol was in it. I may have woken up once or twice in 30-some years of pot smoking still feeling "high" from the night before, but those are extremely rare occurrences, possibly due to too little sleep or very potent weed. I very seldom ever get to have that super-potent weed the US Federal Government likes to warn you about.

  1. All serious drawbacks to marijuana are man-made.

The single worst thing about smoking marijuana, of course, is the possibilty of being arrested. Then come losing your job, being ruined financially by court costs, and inability to get another decent job. All of this is due to politics. This is why people have been trying to reform the laws prohibiting marijuana possession.

"So...why IS marijuana STILL illegal?"
This is the exact question to try to answer, not "why is it illegal?".

It doesn't matter why it was intially made illegal and people waste a lot of time thinking they have the best single answer as to "why" it's illegal in the first place. A variety of things came together - none of them good - to create the original marijuana prohibition and reefer madness propaganda.

In the 60's people began in earnest to get marijuana prohibition repealed but Richard Nixon made it a dividing line in the culture war of the time and made it part of Republican cosmology. Over the past 40 years more and more people have tried to get this ridiculous situation fixed but republican after republican stood actively in the way: Reagan, Bush I - that accounts for 12 solid years of escalating push-back against the effort to reform cannabis law. Clinton did NOTHING to help despite his infamous non-inhalation. 5 million people were arrested for nothing during his tenure.

Bush II saw another vast expansion of reefer madness with Dennis Hastert and John Walters bloviating about how marijuana smokers financed terrorism and other such garbage.

And to be fair, Obama - not that he has to do anything personally -has done very little to help the situation. There has been talk of reining in the DEA's vicious campaign against stats that have implemented medical marijuana laws, but the raids DO continue.

Now Californians will be voting on actual legalization in November and the forces of reefer madness will again crawl out from their holes and fill the media with all manner of repeatedly -debunked scare stories in an effort to derail the change people have sought for 40 years.

Marijuana is Safer
David Sirota has written a piece that argues for reform based on the fact that marijuana is safer

Last week, students at 80 colleges asked their schools to reduce penalties for marijuana possession so that they are no greater than penalties for alcohol possession. It's a request with safety in mind: According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, alcohol use by college kids contributes to roughly 1,700 deaths, 600,000 injuries and 97,000 sexual assaults every year. By contrast, "The use of marijuana itself has not been found to contribute to any deaths, there has never been a single fatal marijuana overdose in history (and) all objective research on marijuana has also concluded that it does not contribute to injuries, assaults, sexual abuse, or violent or aggressive behavior," as the group Safer Alternative For Enjoyable Recreation notes.

"It's time we stop driving students to drink and let them make the rational, safer choice to use marijuana," said one student.

Drug testing has caused me to consider alcohol as an alternative to marijuana smoking... and it's just not for me. It stinks, it tastes bad, the 'buzz' is not remotely the same, nor as good, it impairs my reflexes in any substantial amount, the list goes on.

Alcohol is not like and is INFERIOR to marijuana.

That is all.

Thanks for reading.

PS: Please DO check out SaferChoice.org for a longer look at this topic.

Doc

Originally posted to Toking Points Memo on Sat Apr 17, 2010 at 04:08 AM PDT.

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