Northwest Arkansas Times, March 19, 2013


No Moral Difference
Between Alcohol, Marijuana

A writer asks whether moral behavior matters (Public Viewpoint, March 13), then launches into a murky rant about marijuana, among other things. He claims THC (the primary intoxicant in marijuana and one of many chemical ingredients) is “a chemical the brain and body don’t agree with.”

Perhaps he’s not aware the human body manufactures its own chemically-identical version of THC called “endocannabinoids,” and there are plasma membrane protein receptors for this chemical throughout the body, largely in the central nervous system but also in other areas including, importantly, several immune system cells.

These receptors occur in key areas of body function that correlate closely to relief cited by some patients using marijuana for nausea, loss of appetite, glaucoma, spasticity, pain, etc. One could summarize this correlation by saying marijuana serves to boost the body’s natural endocannabinoid response to certain ailments.

This writer further asserts that “one pot joint is equal to five cigarettes in terms of lung damage.” This old canard is a relic of “reefer madness” dating back to the 1930s, when marijuana was also said to cause white women to consort with “colored people and jazz musicians.” In fact, recent research has found that compared to cigarettes, marijuana does not cause lung damage and in persons smoking both, the lung damage caused by cigarettes is less than in those smoking cigarettes alone. In other words, marijuana has a beneficial effect in the lung. See http://healthland.

The attempt to label marijuana use as immoral again dates back to the 1930s, when the repeal of alcohol prohibition threatened to terminate a new government bureaucracy (Federal Bureau of Investigation) and put a bunch of law enforcement people out of work. The prohibition of marijuana kept these folks in their jobs and merged nicely with a desire to gain greater control over undesirable demographic groups such as blacks and Mexicans who were more likely, at that time, to use marijuana. There was no scientific evidence to support such a prohibition, and so the push through Congress required heated rhetoric about morality.

There is no moral difference between use of alcohol for intoxication and use of marijuana. If a person is to alter his consciousness in any manner, the substance used is beside the point. A strong argument can be made that a person’s decision to become intoxicated is a private matter ensured by constitutional right (as is sexual behavior this writer considers “illicit”), and becomes a matter of concern to the state only if an intoxicated person drives or otherwise becomes a threat to others.

Whether intoxication itself is immoral is a separate matter, but unless one is prepared to prohibit alcohol in the same way marijuana is prohibited, then perhaps that’s an argument best not brought up. Since key figures in Judeo/Christian religious writings routinely drank wine, that dog might not hunt.

Denele Campbell

West Fork