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Legalise marijuana and ban drinking?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014
London Calling

Earlier this week, the Daily Mail in England published a rather tragic story about a 20-year-old British man, Bradley Eames, who downed two pints of neat gin, for a dare, and was found dead at his home four days later. 


In Britain there is a current trend amongst the stupid called NekNominate which involves challenging people to down pints of lager or shots. (“Necking” means to down a drink in one go, rather than its old meaning, kissing). 


It’s been made viral by the Internet—people posting videos to YouTube of their drinking feats. It’s also gone viral because Eames is the third person to have died doing it.


The level of stupidity required to do such a thing is frankly beyond my comprehension. Even a single shot of gin would repulse me. In the 18th century, gin was called Old Mother’s Ruin because it was as destructive and addictive as crack to poor people in the slums of East London. Hogarth’s famous 1751 print Gin Lane shows a sloshed mother grinning as she accidentally and unknowingly drops her baby off a wall. 


Eames drank the equivalent of 37 shots in two minutes. He filled a pint glass, necked it, gagged, filled it again, recorded it and shared the video on Facebook where people, including his own mum, “LOL’d.” 


Later they “RIP’d.”


I can’t think of many worse ways to die than drinking yourself to death. The slow, deadly, toxic poisoning. The corroding of the internal organs. The unceasing vomiting.


Of the 1,454 comments (and counting) the majority are typically unsympathetic hardline Mail reader quotes like: “Well it’s slowly whittling down the stupid people, of which there are many. Anyone who does this certainly should never be allowed to breed.” That angry post, ironically, from a user called Happy Harry.


But amongst the vile, abusive comments, one caught my eye. Bicycle_Dealer from Southend posted, “You know the NekNominate I’d like to see? It’s the one where someone smokes a bunch of weed, giggles a bit, has a pizza, turns in early and wakes up feeling absolutely fine. But silly me. I forget. We can’t legalise cannabis. It’s bad for you.”


It’s a funny comment but the underlying message is simple. Marijuana is better for you than alcohol. Anybody who disagrees is either ill-informed, inexperienced or both. 


Anybody who has tried the two and checked how they felt the next day knows it’s true. Patients in chronic pain with multiple sclerosis who are prescribed marijuana to ease their suffering know it’s true. Anyone who’s smoked a joint or eaten a hash brownie to alleviate flu symptoms rather than drank “medicinal rum” knows it’s true.


Anybody who’s woken up in Casualty with alcohol poisoning or because they’ve fallen down stairs drunk or been attacked by drunken louts or a violent alcoholic partner or been rammed off the road by a drunk driver knows it’s true.


So who doesn’t know it’s true? Governments, that’s who. But governments who continue to criminalise marijuana will soon be swimming against the tide of common sense and global public consensus. Those who decriminalise its use (in small amounts for personal consumption) such as Uruguay and the United States are ahead of the game. Not just socially but economically. 


Uruguay has opened up a new agricultural economy. California, Washington, Oregon and Colorado have created new private enterprise opportunities with their medical marijuana clinics for card-carrying “patients”, which are of course taxable.


Instead of spending the taxpayer’s money policing, arresting and imprisoning they are generating money for the public purse that can be used to reinvest in other parts of the economy.


St Vincent and the Grenadines, Jamaica, Colombia, India, T&T could find themselves market leaders in terms of production and quality. For Vincentians, an entire industry could be established where currently a quarter of their land mass is wasted. It could be converted to cultivation.


Instead, alcohol remains legal and taxed and advertised all around us not just by marketing companies but in popular culture—“whole day we drinking and we’re not drinking water”? And people continue to die from drinking.


Judging by Instagram and Twitpics posted by teenagers these days, youth culture is moving away from drinking and towards weed. It’s seen as sexier, cooler, more edgy. It’s us adults that perpetuate drinking culture. 


Jamaica must lead the way, legally speaking, because it leads the way in production and consumption. But T&T should not lag behind. The UK decriminalised it some years ago, then nonsensically re-criminalised it. 


So far, only Chief Justice Ivor Archie has been brave enough to voice his support here. Come on Kamla, Rowley et al. Chill out. Go green! Or perhaps you prefer a nice, cold, refreshing pint of G&T? Bottoms up.


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