Alcohol causes 1 out of 4 violent crimes in the US.
I’m at an Amy Winehouse tribute show on the north side of Chicago. The show just ended and the crowd is still buzzing. Bethany Thomas just sang her heart out, and everyone is talking about how powerful of a singer she is. I’m standing in a small group when a friend of a friend of a friend (read: stranger) approaches us with a tray of shots. She says, “Everybody take one and get down on one knee.”
I hesitate. I really don’t want one. I have never seen this person before in my life, and I’m wearing new pants and the floor is gross. She notices my apprehension and says something like, “C’mon! This is fun!”
I grab a shot, follow my new master’s orders and get down on one knee. She recites some speech in iambic pentameter that probably impressed people in college, but it sounds corny and tired. When she stops speaking, I take the shot with the group. I watch my wife pretend to down it then promptly throw it away in the trash. With the slurping of the alcohol, we are finally free from the clutches of this drunken terrorist’s grasp.
This is drinking culture. It’s aggressive, obnoxious and, unfortunately, widely tolerated.
By now, most of us have seen the Tea Consent video that began circulating in October 2015. The video draws the comparison between making someone a cup of tea and sexual consent. The video proposes the very basic idea that if someone doesn’t want a cup of tea, you shouldn’t force them to drink it. It’s a simple mapping design that boils down the idea of consent in a sexual context.
But, if we slightly shift the Tea Consent analogy to the world of alcohol, it’s easy to see why this video loses its effectiveness. Drinking culture prides itself on its bullheaded forcefulness. In the example above, I wasn’t given the opportunity to voice my discontent?—?I felt like I had to take the shot. Of course, I’m a grown man and could have easily said no, but social pressure is a real thing and shouldn’t be underestimated. I didn’t want to be the fuddy-duddy, and I didn’t want to be judged. So, I said yes despite my reservations. Hell, my wife didn’t even drink the shot, yet she threw it away in secrecy, afraid to cause a commotion. The aggressive whiskey monger most likely walked away thinking she made us all have a good time, unaware that anyone begrudged her for her lack of respect and blatant disregard.
This is why drinking culture can be so problematic. And after that moment, my wife and I both rolled our eyes as if to say, “Let’s go home and smoke weed like adults.”
America’s problem with pot
In the book “Marijuana is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink?” authors Steve Fox, Paul Armentano and Mason Tvert discuss America’s misguided view of marijuana and the hypocritical double standard of alcohol. According to the book, the US government estimates that alcohol contributes to 25 to 30 percent of all violent crime in America. Additionally, men are eight times more likely to be physically violent when consuming alcohol. Compare this to the many studies that have found an inverse relationship between domestic violence and marijuana usage.
So, why has America demonized pot for so long?
We can blame Richard Nixon for America’s War on Drugs. We can blame the promotion of “reefer madness” as a legitimate idea in the ‘30s. Or, we can go back to 16th century Mexico, where Spanish conquistadors linked marijuana to indigenous tribes, creating a racist stigma around the drug. No matter the root of the negative perception, we can all agree it exists today.
This was reinforced when the Marijuana Policy Project aired an advertisement outside the NASCAR 2013 Brickyard 400. The commercial advocated for marijuana as an alternative to beer and alcohol. Apparently that was too much for racing fans to handle?—?the ad was pulled for not being family-friendly. This came from a sporting event where fans are encouraged to fill up coolers with beer and get drunk.
America has long held these misconceptions about marijuana?—?that it will make you lazy and brain dead, and that it’s ultimately a gateway to more harmful drugs. These negative fallacies have largely been debunked, as many successful and wealthy individuals regularly smoke pot. Even US Attorney General Loretta Lynch admitted marijuana was not a gateway drug.
Marijuana is a safer vice
I’d like to cast my ballot for America’s rebranding of marijuana?—?a drug that you cannot overdose on; a drug that doesn’t have any correlation to violence; and a drug that’s used to help people suffering from epilepsy, glaucoma and cancer.
When I think of that fateful evening at the bar, I realize that situation would have played out very differently with weed. Marijuana culture is one of acceptance, most likely because of its ties to ’60s and ’70s hippies. This is a breed of people who believe in the motto “good for you, not for me.”
It’s time to reprogram the way we think. We are products of a country that demonizes pot and glorifies alcohol. Let’s bring marijuana into the fold of acceptability. Let’s detach from the stigma. No one is saying you can’t have your alcohol, but if you’re going to start judging those who enjoy weed, you should first read up on all the problems your preferred vice causes.
So, if you ever come over to my apartment, I’ll invite you to take a seat on our new, cozy couch. I might offer you a hit. If you decline, I couldn’t care less. I promise I won’t get up in your face and hold you hostage with weed. I’ll get high, you won’t, and everyone will be fine. I might smile a little longer or be a bit more introspective, but I’ll be me. And you’ll be you. And we will have a good time.