Ask any veteran law enforcement officer about responding to 911 disturbance calls where alcohol was a contributing factor versus the same type calls where marijuana use was primarily responsible for the complaint. In most cases, those calls that involve alcohol will involve physical or emotional altercations, domestic violence and possibly involve a weapon of some sort. On the marijuana call it will generally be neighbors complaining that the music is too loud, or some dude has climbed a flagpole naked and cannot or will not come down. According to the United States Centers for Disease Control, more than 88,000 people die from alcohol-related deaths each year in the United States. Alcohol continues to be one of the nation’s most preventable causes of death, second only to tobacco and a poor diet/sedentary lifestyle. Yet alcohol is legal, and marijuana is not. Alcohol results in the death of innocents on our highways, it causes some people to act or react with violence towards others, and it is poison to our physical health if misused. Alcohol can destroy families, cause financial ruin, and result in mental health issues when abused. Alcohol once used in medicine as a general anesthetic, hasn’t been used for that purpose since the Civil War. Alcohol is now nothing more than a recreational drug. Marijuana on the other hand does not have that history or at least it does not have the “blood on its hands” that alcohol does. In fact, marijuana may very well be good medicine for cancer patients, especially those undergoing chemotherapy. It may also be indicated for other ailments. As a recreational drug, it is certainly more “civil” than alcohol. You’ll rarely see people under the influence of marijuana engaged in a fist fight or a shootout.
However, in Tennessee and other southern states marijuana remains illegal and you’ll go to jail, pay a fine or both if you’re caught with it. If you are caught with more than just a small amount or make a sale of marijuana to someone, you may actually go to prison and come out as a convicted felon. On the other hand, you can buy alcohol all day, every day. Drink as much as you want. The law allows you to do so. You can go to a bar and buy it by the drink or go to your favorite liquor store and buy it in volume. So, we are to understand that something as deadly and destructive as alcohol is legal and marijuana is not?
While I am sure many will argue with this position, I believe it’s time we reconsider our marijuana laws in Tennessee. Sadly, I fear that will be a long time coming…criminalizing marijuana just does not make sense…. not to me anyway.