You lookin’ for common ground between the political Left and Right? Go to your local pot dealer.
You’ll find there the profit motive Republicans drool over, as well as the sybaritic pleasures Democrats long to embrace. You’ll also find a virtually untapped source of tax money to make both parties jitter.
Among my acquaintances, most people—regardless of political affiliation—tend to approve of marijuana’s legalization. The actual possibility of its legalization depends in large part on whether people find it morally or socially acceptable. Law follows culture.
If Prohibition didn’t work…
People who favor legalization generally rely on the argument that marijuana is no different than alcohol.
But it’s difficult to explain why, and I must rely on “soft,” non-empirical arguments. If you’re wrapped in John Dewey pragmatism and rely on health studies and statistics for your moral conclusions, you might as well stop reading this right now, because nothing I say will interest you.
One of the biggest differences between alcohol and marijuana is their social qualities. Alcohol has a social element. Marijuana does not.
I realize, of course, that you can smoke a joint with a friend. But comparing drinking a beer with a friend to smoking dope with a friend is like comparing sex with one’s wife to sado-masochistic sex with one’s wife. There are similarities, but the differences dwarf them.
You ever talk with an individual
after two or three beers? I typically find such individuals quite convivial. You ever talk with a person after a joint or two? It’s Wayne Campbell without the charm. The stoned mental state is inherently anti-social. Smoking marijuana, in fact, can aptly be described as voluntary autism.
Fast and faster
Another difference between alcohol and marijuana is speed.
Alcohol induces a gradual relaxation and friendliness. It’s possible to get drunk real fast (nothing like a beer bong of grain alcohol to induce a coma-like good time), but imbibed normally, it takes well over an hour to feel the effects of drinking.
Marijuana isn’t like that. If you smoke pot for ten minutes, you’ll be more incoherent than MTV’s Beavis, unless maybe you’re smoking Mississippi ditch weed.
This difference in speed points to an important difference between alcohol and marijuana: control.
With marijuana, the emphasis is on immediacy and command: You beckon, and the buzz cometh.
With alcohol, there’s patience. Waiting. In this, I compare drinking—at a weak level of analogy—to awaiting grace. The calm disposition of the person having a few beers is usually an accepting disposition. The same disposition is wholly lacking with marijuana use.
I suspect it all boils down to a distinction that the British writer G.K. Chesterton drew between types of drinking. He wrote, “The man who drinks wine or beer with his friends does it from a good sentiment. The man who drinks absinthe or whisky by himself does it from a detestable sentiment.”
There is clean drinking and there is dirty drinking. Most drinking naturally falls into the former; marijuana use naturally falls into the latter.
It’s a distinction that should be pondered before we lump them together.