Booklist Starred Review: If Americans could legally smoke marijuana, would it reduce alcohol abuse and the attendant violence and aggression that go along with it? That is a social experiment worth trying, according to pot-decriminalization advocates Fox, Paul Armentano, and Mason Tvert. At this pivotal time of a national shift in thinking on the double standard in law and social attitudes, the authors offer a commonsense perspective on the relative threat of and social response to marijuana versus alcohol. After detailing how the government, media, and beer and liquor companies often collude in demonizing pot and drive Americans to drink instead, the authors cite statistics and combat myths regarding marijuana, from the hysteria of the film Reefer Madness to the assertion that legalization will only sanction another vice. Focusing on the successful legalization campaign in Colorado, the authors concede they have an uphill battle in their effort to educate the public on the comparisons between pot and alcohol as they assert the positive benefits of legalization, taxation, and regulation of pot, including more revenue, less crime and mayhem, and fewer health problems. Given the changing political landscape and widespread use of pot, whatever a reader’s perspective on marijuana, this book is a well-researched, thoughtful look at a controversial issue.
ForeWord Reviews: Three authors behind Colorado legalization stir the pot of double standards on marijuana vs. alcohol.
The past year has seen a dramatic change in the national conversation about marijuana and its potential legalization. In November, voters in both Colorado and Washington supported legalization, and the use of medicinal marijuana has continued to expand. The three authors of Marijuana is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink? played a significant role in pushing passage of the Colorado ballot measure, and their book explains the focus of their advocacy strategy—using the legal status and ubiquity of alcohol as the basis to build a case for making marijuana equally legal.
The authors—Steve Fox, Paul Armentano, and Mason Tvert—argue their point effectively on a number of fronts, crafting a book with a well-structured political message. They touch on the history of American marijuana laws, the science of how marijuana creates a chemical high, and the statistics behind marijuana’s continued use despite its illegal status. They do go through some of the familiar arguments put forth by marijuana advocates, like the potential revenue from taxes on the drug, marijuana’s limited side effects when compared to other drugs, and the idea that police can be freed up to work on more serious crimes when they don’t have to spend time enforcing drug laws.
Then they pivot to their more creative argument, comparing cannabis to alcohol and highlighting where they see double standards at work. They use anecdotal examples of athletes having to apologize publicly for marijuana use while others pitch beer in commercials, or of political figures with brewing backgrounds cracking down on weed. They cite statistics about the negative societal impacts of alcohol, like binge drinking or drunk driving, and posit marijuana as no more dangerous. At times their arguments stretch a bit, such as when they imply alcohol company sponsorship is behind sports leagues punishing athletes for marijuana use, rather than the drug’s illegality. But overall they build a strong case for at least decriminalization.
Most of what’s covered in the book isn’t new material, but the authors are effective at collecting and presenting arguments that form a useful advocacy resource for legalization supporters and an interesting read for anyone wishing to learn more about the pro-legalization perspective. The book includes a chapter about how the authors used this argument during their years-long push for legalization in Colorado, and advocates working in other states will no doubt find their work an example and their book a useful tool.
Kirkus Reviews: It’s not rocket science: Alcohol puts more people in the hospital or graveyard than marijuana. If our laws are meant to prevent harm to others, then what harm are we trying to prevent by the illegalization of marijuana? In fact, making marijuana illegal absurdly inflates its value and encourages violent crime to command its distribution. The sources of marijuana’s illegalization are vile, rather easily traceable to bigoted attitudes toward Mexicans and African-Americans. Certainly, there are moments in this otherwise thoughtful and policy-driven initiative that veer perilously close to demonizing alcohol in the same manner that marijuana has been demonized. Regardless, the authors’ argument that marijuana is the safer of the two recreational intoxicants is rock solid, and one can see that this everyday, common-sense comparison would be an effective tool in changing public perception, manipulated as it has been by everyone from Nancy Reagan to the great brewing concerns. The authors end with a workable proposal for a grass-roots response, complete with talking points and ready answers to FAQs, to bring the issue to the ballot. A well-designed initiative to redress the villainization of marijuana.