DRUGS OR BOOZE: Police dealing with crowds on New Year’s Eve in Byron Bay 2012. ABOVE: A marijuana plant.
DRUGS OR BOOZE: Police dealing with crowds on New Year’s Eve in Byron Bay 2012. ABOVE: A marijuana plant.

Legalise drug to curb drinking says alcohol research expert

THE head of Australia's leading alcohol research body has said that marijuana should be legalised in an effort to curb binge drinking.

Director of the Centre for Alcohol Policy Research, Robin Room, said marijuana should be legalised (under strict controls) because the social harm associated with it was significantly less than from drinking.

"It makes sense to legalise marijuana in a controlled market," he said.

"We are in a situation where we need to look ahead. I think we need to have the discussion and it makes a lot of sense in terms of, among others, cutting down government costs to have a fairly highly controlled legal (cannabis) market and, while we are at it, tighten up the legal market of alcohol in the same way we tightened up the market of tobacco."

In a perfect world, Prof Room said teens would not smoke marijuana or binge drink, but if an 18-year-old was going to use substances, he said they were less likely to get in trouble after using cannabis rather than binge drinking.

Alcohol, Prof Room said, had a closer association with aggression and violence, loss of co-ordination and impacts on work and family life, than marijuana did.

These statements come after the previous weekend's alcohol-fuelled crime and violence in Byron Bay, which according to police is now a regular phenomenon.

Michael Balderstone, of Nimbin Hemp Embassy, said it's about time somebody high up the chain realiSed this and spoke out about it.

"How intelligent of them; totally intelligent and they're totally right and it's about time they started getting real," he said, noting that Prof Room's comments might also bring some "respect" back to cannabis and it's smokers.

"(Marijuana) is not for everyone, and if your family has a history of mental illness, be careful, (but) for 99% of people, it's a good experience."

He said the fear that comes with the prohibition of marijuana can cause more harm than anything, with the fear of getting caught causing more paranoia among smokers than anything else, in his opinion.

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