America has been waging a war on drugs ever since marijuana was declared illegal. In the ’70s we learned that cannabis is a gateway drug that will eventually lead us to dying in an alley of a heroin overdose, and this after Congress repealed the majority of the mandatory sentences for possession in 1970. In the ’80s, the Reagan administration brought back mandatory sentences for drug-related crimes. Decades later, we are still fighting the war on drugs and no one is winning, but plenty of people are losing. There are people in prison for being in possession of a plant. Some of these people have life sentences for being in possession of a plant. A PLANT! And a harmless plant, at that.
I’m not easily astounded, but I’m completely floored that a 21-year-old can hop down to the corner, buy a bottle of whatever alcoholic beverage floats their boat, drink contents of said bottle, drive to their friend’s house and kill a family of 4 on the way. Yet, if that same 21-year-old wants to smoke a joint, he’d have to buy the weed for it illegally. When was the last time you heard of anyone killing someone in a car accident while they were high? Most people don’t want to drive when they’re high. They’d rather chill on the couch and watch movies that are only good when you’re thoroughly toasted.
Teen alcohol drinking kills about 4,700 people a year. That’s more than all illegal drugs combined. True, it’s not legal for teens to buy it, but they still get their hands on it. They steal it from their parents or have the skeevy guy who’s in his 30s but still hangs out with 16-year-olds buy it for them. A total of 10,322 people died in drunk driving crashes in the U.S. in 2012. That’s one person every 51 minutes. So, alcohol that kills people every day is legal while a plant that doesn’t kill people can land you in prison unless you’re lucky enough to live in Washington or Colorado.
Now, before you drinkers think I’m against alcohol, I’m not. In fact, I have a stock of various libations in the kitchen as I write this. I love wine, merlot to be exact if you’re thinking of buying me a gift. But, I rarely drink and I most certainly don’t drive if I’ve been drinking. As responsible adults, if we put anything in our bodies, legal or not, that will affect our ability to drive, we shouldn’t drive. It’s that simple. If you’re driving while impaired on any substance, you’re an asshole.
Drinkers don’t have to worry about alcohol ever being illegal, though. Probably because the majority of our Congress people probably imbibe on a daily basis. So, we should be writing these legislators and reminding them that alcohol kills about 100 percent more people than cannabis does. We should demand that cannabis is made legal, because the fact that it’s illegal is BS. Let’s remind them that the war on drugs is a huge failure and that all of the nonviolent offenders that are wasting away in prison are costing us money. Let’s remind them that they are supposed to be our public servants, not our overlords. And finally, remind them that they’ve probably heard the term medical marijuana a lot more than they have medical alcohol.
Rachel Birdsell is a freelance writer and artist. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org