Mr. Norris, with Washington and Colorado recently legalizing pot smoking and their football teams (Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos) being in the Super Bowl, some have asked whether there is going to be added marijuana use during this year’s Super Bowl. And President Barack Obama recently said that he doesn’t think marijuana is as dangerous as alcohol. What do you think, Chuck? Is it? – “Trying to Make Sense of Sensimilla” in Seattle

I understand the arguments for the legalization of marijuana: It can generate tax revenue. It can reduce illegal supply and demand. It can strip power from cartels and lessen crime across and at our borders. And it isn’t so dangerous as other illegal drugs or alcohol.

You’re right; President Obama even claimed one of those arguments when he recently told New Yorker Editor David Remnick, “As has been well-documented, I smoked pot as a kid, and I view it as a bad habit and a vice, not very different from the cigarettes that I smoked as a young person up through a big chunk of my adult life.”

Obama explained, “(Smoking marijuana is) not something I encourage, and I’ve told my daughters I think it’s a bad idea, a waste of time, not very healthy.” But then he added, “I don’t think it is more dangerous than alcohol.”

With the president entering the cannabis conversation ring, debate has intensified around the nation. But what’s the truth in the alcohol-vs.-marijuana dispute?

This past week, CNN reported on some extensive studies and evidence surrounding the topic, especially in comparing use, addiction, withdrawal and the effects on using motorized vehicles.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, alcohol remains the leading addictive substance consumed in the U.S., and it’s legal for those who are 21 or older. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, marijuana is categorized as a Schedule I substance – in the same classification as heroin, LSD and Ecstasy – and is still illegal in most states for recreational use.

Regarding numbers of addicts, according to the NIAAA, 33 percent of adults suffer from alcohol abuse or dependence. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 9 percent of marijuana users will become addicted to it. (By comparison, about 20 percent of cocaine users become addicted.)

Alcoholics can suffer from the following withdrawal symptoms: depression, anxiety, insomnia, headaches, fever, nausea and even seizures.

And CNN’s chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, explained, “There is clear evidence that in some people, marijuana use can lead to withdrawal symptoms, including insomnia, anxiety and nausea.”

CNN also reported on “a new study (that) found that even slightly ‘buzzed’ drivers – drivers with a blood alcohol level of 0.01 percent, meaning someone who has had even one drink – are 46 percent more likely to be blamed for a crash when they collide with a sober driver.” Similarly, early laboratory studies have found that marijuana use slightly affects psychomotor skills used in driving. A recent study published in the British Medical Journal showed that marijuana users who drove within three hours of smoking nearly doubled their chances of causing a crash compared with sober drivers. And if they combined their marijuana use with alcohol or other drug consumption, their risk of crashing was elevated even more.

(Next week, I will discuss how alcohol and marijuana compare in their effects on our minds, bodies and relationships.)

To say marijuana isn’t so dangerous as alcohol is like saying a plain doughnut isn’t so bad for us as a glazed one. The point is what? Wouldn’t it simply be better to ditch the doughnuts from our diets and try whole-wheat toast with organic peanut butter and sliced bananas as a more nutritious way to start our days?

It suffices to say here that justifying the use of one drug because it’s not so dangerous as another drug is weak reasoning in any book and bad grounds for justifying usage of either of them. Maybe it’s time we fight all addictive drugs instead of making excuses for using them. Maybe it’s time we try to conquer potentially addictive passions instead of succumbing to them. Maybe it’s time we believe life can be good enough on its own merit without any drug use.

I’m not here making a case for or against the medicinal use of marijuana. However, it’s very difficult for me to believe that America, average healthy Americans and particularly our younger generations are going to be better off with pot’s legalization.

I’m all for freedom, but when liberty turns into licentiousness, it’s time to reconsider why we’re doing what we’re doing. Just because we can doesn’t mean we should. And if that’s the case, what other illicit passion is going to be next in the lineup of legalization?

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