Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Why is Marijuana Illegal when Alcohol is Not?

It almost seems cyclical when the proposals come up for legalizing marijuana and it isn't just in this country, the world itself seems to question why it's not legal when alcohol is typically legal. You never see the same argument arise for cocaine or methamphetamine, with good reason! Legalizing an addictive drug just leads to trouble. I mean imagine if nicotine was legal? Oh wait...

Marijuana and alcohol have every similar effects. Both are impairing. Both can be harmful to your health, marijuana has similar effects on the lungs as tobacco and alcohol is known to damage the liver. So why is alcohol legal and marijuana is not?

Well, if you remember your history, the government did try to ban alcohol during prohibition. And we all know how successful that was. Alcohol was too fully enmeshed in our culture to be eradicated. Speakeasies were popular and people continued to drink though the health risks from homemade alcohol is always a bit higher than when it's made in nice clean regulated facilities. The interesting thing is what ultimately pushed the repeal was economic factors. The stock market fell, the Great depression started and people needed jobs. Prohibition was repealed and alcohol was once again legal to manufacture and tax.

Is it any wonder that economic downturns always lead to talks of legalizing marijuana?

At this time, marijuana was still legal. It's use and sale was allowed. So why didn't the government follow suit and develop the industry? Well in 1937 taxation began on marijuana with the Marihuana Act of 1937 which did nothing to criminalize it, but rather taxed those who dealt commercially with marijuana. In fact, the American Medical Association argued against the bill, not because they wanted to see harsher penalties, but because the bill did not exempt doctors who were prescribing marijuana for treatment purposes.

Eventually of course marijuana did become illegal, but there is more evidence that this was due to societal prejudice and competition with the paper industry who had more powerful lobbyists than it was to any scientific or health information.

I'm not saying whether or not it should be legal as that really is the point here. Besides which the argument is out there and repeated constantly. It's just an interesting thing to really examine why our laws are the way they are.


  1. how did the Pot industry compete with the paper industry? I don't see the link between the two

  2. With the invention of a decorticator, hemp became a much cheaper alternative for newspaper production then paper pulp. Randolph Heart felt this threatened his substantial investments in the timber industry. It was also opposed by the DuPont family (And Andrew Mellon who had invested in them and was also conveniently Secretary of the Treasury and the wealthiest man in the US)that had heavy investments in a new synthetic fiber (nylon) that was being outcompeted by hemp.

  3. Studies find there is no link to Cancer and Marijuana - in fact, they've seen anti-aging effects.