MY SAY: It’s time to debate as our booze culture goes to pot
IS it just me or does everyone think drugs are not as much fun as they first appear?
I first tried pot when I was 14, mainly because I was from a druggie town where most people didn't even have to buy it.
Possibly because no one ever taught me the drawback, smoking dope was a fairly underwhelming experience for me personally.
Couple that with the fact it made my friends quiet, anti-social and unlikely to leave the couch, it's fair to say I am anti "the green".
But I'm interested in the debate.
When I attended my high school reunion, the flow-on effect of marijuana was clear. Twenty years on, those druggie kids are still struggling to get off the couch, or worse.
Research, however, is quite mixed.
A report published in the British Lancet says alcohol is worse for teenage brains than cannabis.
On the other hand, in adults there is plenty of reliable data demonstrating moderate alcohol use by adults (with no precondition) is actually good for them, particularly in the prevention of heart disease.
While moderate use of marijuana may help with pain relief or nausea, I couldn't find any studies to suggest cannabis had a positive health effect. In fact, a very important distinction is the fact marijuana is smoked.
Just like cigarette smoke, marijuana contains carbon monoxide, carcinogens and tar.
Researchers make particular mention of users who hold the smoke in their lungs for a long time before exhaling. Even moderate marijuana users are considered highly at risk of developing lung cancer.
So in moderate consumers, the evidence seems to be that alcohol is less harmful than cannabis.
Conversely, in high-level consumers, alcohol results in more violence, chronic and long-term illness, premature deaths, loss in productivity and property damage than any other drug.
So which is the lesser of two evils?
The way I understand it, it's healthier to be a moderate alcohol drinker than a pot smoker.
But better to be a serious pothead than an alcoholic.
For the record, neither is more addictive. About 15% to 20% of users end up getting hooked, losing control and causing problems to themselves and others, regardless of the drug they choose.
Like many parents, I hate drugs. While the jury might be out regarding the link between marijuana and schizophrenia, I honestly know far more people who've thrown their lives away on pot than on booze.
And since we've already got a problem with alcohol, I struggle to see what good could come of increasing access to harmful substances.
However, the more I read, the more I think it's pointless to debate which is more harmful. The horse has already bolted.
Thanks to strict liquor licensing, Australian teenagers report it is much easier to access marijuana and pills than alcohol.
Therefore, many believe that while there is demand for any drug, we might as well take control of it, properly quantify its effect, cut out the cartels and reduce crime.
At the very least, we should talk about it.