Marijuana is Safer ~ so why are we driving people to drink? (a book review)

“Pot vs. Booze” from Criminal Justice

There are countless arguments for the legalization and regulation of marijuana, and you’ve heard many of them in this space before. There’s the cost – in both human lives and dollars – of incarcerating and punishing millions for a victimless crime. It follows from this argument that we can spend the money saved on court and police costs on drug treatment programs to help heavy users change their habits. There are the medicinal benefits of the plant.

And then there’s the argument that marijuana can be an alternative to alcohol – and legalization would spark a reduction in alcohol abuse (and therefore a reduction in death, disease and violence). That’s the thesis behind a new book: “Marijuana Is Safer, So Why Are We Driving People to Drink?” Co-written by leaders at the Marijuana Policy Project, NORML and SAFER, the book argues that marijuana prohibition has fueled our country’s dangerous drinking habit and that legal pot would provide a safe alternative.

Supporters of the book are buying copies en masse today to drive it higher (pardon the pun) in the Amazon rankings. As of this writing, it’s #1 in Health Policy and #705 overall. Buy your copy today, you’ll help raise the profile of this issue – and I think you’ll enjoy the book, too.

I read pieces of the book this week and I’m finding it convincing and well-written, as this is an argument I’ve always agreed with. The book compares health impacts of the two substances, and although the conclusion can be predicted by the book’s title, the evidence laid out is convincing. The stats are impossible to ignore: Alcohol plays a role in 25-30% of violent crime in America. It causes 12,000 liver-related deaths each year in the U.S. Meanwhile, the long-term health effects of marijuana use appear to be minimal (although they need more study). The drug doesn’t have to be smoked, so lung problems can be avoided.

The book also spends a few pages on an important point: the role of alcohol-industry lobbyist in not only keeping marijuana prohibited, but in keeping enforcement a high law enforcement priority. This is one of the primary obstacles to reform.

The authors and others have been making the rounds on the blogs this week. Alternet has run excerpts, and posted a great Q&A with the authors. Co-author Steve Fox wrote about the book on a Daily Kos diary. Former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper wrote the book’s foreword, which HuffPo reprinted yesterday.

Help spread the word and get the book to the top of Amazon. Buy your copy today. And be sure to post to Twitter, Facebook and Myspace to help spread the word. Only through increased awareness of this issue, and through well-formed arguments like those in this book, can we move toward legalization and away from the dangers of alcohol abuse and the destruction of an oversized criminal justice system.

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