Pubdate: Mon, 27 Sep 2010
Source: Summit Daily News (CO)
Copyright: 2010 Creators Syndicate
Author: David Sirota
Bookmark: (Proposition 19)


Here's a fact even drug policy reform advocates can acknowledge:
California's 2010 ballot initiative to legalize marijuana does,
indeed, pose a real threat, as conservative culture warriors insist.
But not to public health, as those conservatives claim.

According to most physicians, pot is less toxic - and has more
medicinal applications - than a legal and more pervasive drug like
alcohol. Whereas alcohol causes hundreds of annual overdose deaths,
contributes to untold numbers of illnesses and is a major factor in
violent crime, marijuana has never resulted in a fatal overdose and
has not been systemically linked to major illness or violent crime.

So this ballot measure is no public health threat. If anything, it
would give the millions of citizens who want to use inebriating
substances a safer alternative to alcohol. Which, of course, gets to
what this ballot initiative really endangers: alcohol industry profits.

That truth is underscored by news this week that the California Beer
and Beverage Distributors is financing the campaign against the
legalization initiative. This is the same group that bankrolled
opposition to a 2008 ballot measure, which would have reduced
penalties for marijuana possession.

By these actions, alcohol companies are admitting that more sensible
drug policies could cut into their government-created monopoly on
mind-altering substances. Thus, they are fighting back - and not just
defensively. Unsatisfied with protecting turf in California, the
alcohol industry is going on offense, as evidenced by a recent article
inadvertently highlighting America's inane double standards.

Apparently oblivious to the issues the California campaign is now
raising, Businessweek just published an elated puff piece headlined
"Keeping Pabst Blue Ribbon Cool." Touting the beer's loyal following,
the magazine quoted one PBR executive effusively praising a rate of
alcohol consumption that would pickle the average liver.

"A lot of blue-collar workers I've talked to say 'I've been drinking a
six-pack of Pabst, every single day, seven days a week, for 25
years,'" he gushed, while another executive added "It's, like,
habitual - it's part of their life. It's their lifestyle."

Discussing possible plans to "develop a whole beer brand around
troops" - one that devotes some proceeds to military organizations -
the executives said their vision is "that when you see Red White &
Blue (beer) at your barbecue, you know that money's supporting people
who have died for our country."

Imagine marijuana substituted for alcohol in this story. The article
would be presented as a scary expose about workers smoking a daily
dime-bag and marijuana growers' linking pot with the Army.
Undoubtedly, such an article would be on the front page of every
newspaper as cause for outrage. Yet, because this was about alcohol -
remember, a substance more toxic than marijuana - it was buried in a
financial magazine and depicted as something to extol.

Couple that absurd hypocrisy with the vociferous opposition to
California's initiative, and we see the meta-message.

We are asked to believe that people drinking a daily six-pack for a
quarter-century is not a lamentable sign of a health crisis, but
instead a "lifestyle" triumph worthy of flag-colored celebration - and
we are expected to think that legalizing a safer alternative to this
"lifestyle" is dangerous. Likewise, as laws obstruct veterans from
obtaining doctor-prescribed marijuana for Post-Traumatic Stress
Disorder, we are asked to believe that shotgunning cans of lager is
the real way to "support our troops."

These are the delusions a liquor-drenched culture prevents us from
reconsidering. In a society drunk off of alcohol propaganda - a
society of presidential "beer summits" and sports stadiums named after
beer companies - we've had trouble separating fact from fiction.
Should California pass its ballot initiative, perhaps a more sober and
productive drug policy might finally become a reality.
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake