Elise Patkotak: Why do we give alcohol a pass?

By XxxxJanuary 2, 2013 

Am I the only one who thinks it strange that alcohol is the only legal, non-prescription intoxicant allowed in our country? Given it's history, you'd think that people would be much more willing to legalize marijuana than allow the open sale of a drug that is infamous for causing people to get violent, drive recklessly and lose all sense of morality when overindulging. Speak to most law enforcement officers and they will in all likelihood tell you that if people are going to use some mind altering substance, they'd prefer people use pot over alcohol every time.

I am always puzzled as to why the Mexican government has not figured out that if they just legalized and regulated marijuana, they could eliminate 90% of the gang violence that plagues their country while easily making up in tax revenues what they might lose in income from our government.

I have to wonder what hold the liquor industry has on us to keep this charade going in which pot is demonized but alcohol is advertised on TV with the simple caveat that we should all drink responsibly. See, the thing is that if we all could drink responsibly, there would be no need for that tag line. If we all could make sensible decisions after we've had a few, the state troopers wouldn't have to spend so much money creating drunk driving ads.

Driving while stoned is no better than driving while drunk. Neither should be done. Making life decisions while stoned should no more happen than making those decisions after three or four shots of tequila. An intoxicant takes away our critical thinking faculties whether we smoke it, eat it or drink it. Both pot and alcohol are equally guilty of being gateway drugs - to the extent that either is. If you have an addictive personality, you're going to be addicted to most intoxicants. That's simple common sense. If you can't get your drug of choice, you will use whatever drug is available.

But the other side of that coin is that both pot and alcohol can be used by reasonable people in a reasonable fashion, one in which they don't get messed up so badly they can't find their bed to fall down on. Both substances can and are used for relaxation after a hard day at work or to get a little buzz before sitting down to the latest superhero movie. No one is hurt when that happens. The main difference between a cocktail before dinner and a joint before dinner is that you are much more apt to eat a hearty dinner after smoking pot.

Every year we lose officers to the "War on Drugs", a war that has lasted longer than any war this country has ever waged. We spend billions of dollars we don't have on a problem that wouldn't be a problem if we didn't make it one. We send young men and women into the line of fire to prevent you from lighting up a joint legally while still allowing you to down a bottle of vodka and then legally go out to buy another. How does that make any sense?

Addictions are a serious matter and need to be dealt with for the health and safety of both the addict and the people that addict touches. Whether you are abusing alcohol, pot or Twinkies, if you can't stop and it affects your life and well being, you need to get help. The War on Drugs sucks money that could be put to much better use in providing more counseling services to people with a problem.

In thirty years of social services work, I never found violence in a home in which people were only smoking pot. Mostly those families were sitting together watching cartoons and eating chips. Maybe not your ideal family time, but the kids were fed and the parents were there with them, laughing and enjoying life. In those same 30 years, almost every time I walked into a home where alcohol was being consumed in quantity I found violence, abuse, empty cupboards, frightened children and general chaos.

Colorado and Washington State have had the courage to show the way. Alaska should follow. The war on pot is one of the stupidest things we've done in a long time. Let's wise up.

Elise Patkotak is an Alaska writer and author of "Parallel Logic," a memoir of her 28 years in Barrow. Web site, www.elisepatkotak.com.

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