« "Free at Last? Judicial Discretion and Racial Disparities in Federal Sentencing" | Main | Federal prosecutors say Whitey Bulger "richly deserves" his coming LWOP sentence »

November 7, 2013

Is it "misleading to compare marijuana to beer"?

Beer potThe question in the title of this post is drawn from a quote by someone from the Beer Institute appearing in this notable new National Journal item headlined "Alcohol Is Really Pissed Off at Marijuana Right Now; The marijuana industry is convincing Americans its substance is safer than alcohol, and booze lobbyists don't like it." Here are excerpts from the new National Journal piece:

Marijuana has been giving alcohol a bad name. So contend booze lobbyists, who are getting sick of an ad campaign that makes the claim that pot is safer than their beloved beverages.

"We're not against legalization of marijuana, we just don't want to be vilified in the process," said one alcohol industry representative who didn't want to be quoted harshing his colleagues mellow. "We don't want alcohol to be thrown under the bus, and we're going to fight to defend our industry when we are demonized."

The marijuana industry has had a good couple of years: a recent poll found that 58 percent of the country thinks the product should be legal, recreational use has been legalized in two states already, and this past election saw the city of Portland, Maine, legalize 2.5 ounces of pot. Ahead of the vote in Portland — which received 70 percent support — the Marijuana Policy Project put up signs around the city with messages like "I prefer marijuana over alcohol because it doesn't make me rowdy or reckless," and "I prefer marijuana over alcohol because it's less harmful to my body."

Alcohol lobbyists believe it's a "red herring" to compare the two. "We believe it's misleading to compare marijuana to beer," said Chris Thorne of the Beer Institute. "Beer is distinctly different both as a product and an industry."

Thorne notes that the alcohol industry is regulated, studied extensively, and perhaps more importantly already an accepted part of the culture. "Factually speaking beer has been a welcome part of American life for a long time," he said. "The vast majority drink responsibly, so having caricatures won't really influence people."

But MPP takes issue with the idea they are painting a false picture. In a recent Op-Ed for CNN, Dan Riffle, the group's director of federal policies, notes that according to the Centers for Disease Control excessive alcohol use is the third leading lifestyle-related cause of death. Booze also "plays a role in a third of all emergency room visits," he says....

"That's like saying we shouldn't talk about relative harms of sushi to fried chicken," said Mason Tvert, who in addition to working at MPP wrote a book called Marijuana is Safer: So Why are We Driving People to Drink? "It's important that people know the relative harms of all substances, so there's no reason not to talk about the two most popular substances in the world." 

Cross-posted at Marijuana Law, Policy and Reform

November 7, 2013 at 03:33 PM | Permalink

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d83451574769e2019b00c8bb97970d

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Is it "misleading to compare marijuana to beer"?:

Comments

There is very little controversy here. Beer is 10 times more addictive and 100 times more harmful than marijuana.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Nov 7, 2013 9:59:21 PM

"...so there's no reason not to talk about the two most popular substances in the world."

So we need a worldwide conversation on oxygen and water?

Posted by: Kent Scheidegger | Nov 8, 2013 1:02:13 PM

Kent, I think they mean the most frequently abused substances. Nice red herring, though; practice makes perfect.

Posted by: Gritsforbreakfast | Nov 8, 2013 8:11:39 PM

The two most popular substances in the world: sex and rock and roll. And if you include a roll in the hay then you have both in one trick.

Posted by: Liberty1st | Nov 9, 2013 1:07:45 PM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB