Opinion: Pot, alcohol and tobacco | PostIndependent.com

Opinion: Pot, alcohol and tobacco

Jim Hoffman
Free Press Weekly Opinion Columnist

CORRECTION: In last week’s column I indicated that Grand Junction City Council member Marty Chazen had voted in favor of the initial allocation of $3 million dollars for the Avalon project. My recollection of the facts was incorrect, and Mr. Chazen voted against that expenditure.

There continues to be much discussion about the state of legalized marijuana and how it affects Mesa County; it was really joyful getting an earful about the “stoners” from a clearly inebriated woman.

Unless Fruita approves an outlet within its city limits, there does not appear there will be an outlet for recreational pot in the near vicinity of Grand Junction. Palisade is home to a medical dispensary.

Some of the arguments against allowing the sale of marijuana are ridiculous; if they were applied to alcohol and tobacco sales those retail activities would also be banished. Consistency is vital for a position to be viable. If your position against marijuana cannot be applied to the other legalized vices without resulting in a negative judgment for them, then you either need to re-think your opposition to marijuana or develop a new argument against it.

The arguments against approving local sales seem to fall into two broad categories:

Firstly, we cannot allow it because the taxes it generates will not be enough to pay for the additional cost of law enforcement and drug treatment. Wow, there is a thought for you.

Has any proponent of this argument done any cost analysis to support this claim? Have they studied the cost of alcohol upon our society and weighed it against the taxes that industry generates? How many dollars are expended each year on DUI checkpoints, DUI arrests and other law enforcement costs associated with drunks?

Have they looked at the huge health care expenses resulting from the legal use of tobacco and if the taxes generated are sufficient? There are law enforcement costs associated with ticketing underage users … how much does that cost?

If we ask that this argument be equally applied to tobacco and alcohol, it would result in the abolition of both of those legalized drugs. It is clear that if we are concerned about the addictive qualities (if any) of marijuana, we cannot deny the addiction of tobacco. We cannot overlook the physical dependence alcohol inflicts upon many.

Secondly, it is claimed we cannot allow its use as that would overlook the “science and facts” as to its detriment upon society. Some claim it would allow our underage children access to a “gateway drug.”

Again, if we are told we cannot overlook the “science and facts” regarding marijuana, we clearly cannot overlook the many years of science and fact that the use of tobacco and alcohol have made clearly evident. We know that tobacco kills more of our citizens than many “natural” killers. We know that alcohol results in the death of many due to both disease and vehicular accidents.

Where is the “science and facts” that would lead one to believe this latest legalized vice is worse than those we already tolerate. How many deaths are associated with long-term marijuana use? Where is the evidence after years and years of illicit use that marijuana is either addictive or a gateway?

Legalization of marijuana soon will not be limited to Washington and Colorado. The many years of criminalizing its use while allowing legal sales of alcohol and tobacco and turning a blind eye toward their obvious evils have blunted any legitimate argument against marijuana. The trade Colorado may briefly enjoy from “pot tourists” will rapidly diminish as the herb become available in their neighborhoods.

Okay, it is clear I feel that marijuana should be available and regulated just as other vices. I do not advocate its use, nor do I advocate use of either tobacco or alcohol. I do not smoke and I do not drink. I do not condemn those who do. I do feel that if we are going to restrict marijuana sales based on specific arguments, we should restrict sales of tobacco and alcohol on the same basis.

Allow all three or ban all three — I could live with either scenario. It would be highly pleasurable to see how well many who condemn “stoners” as they consume their third or fourth mixed drink of the evening would survive the banishment of their vice.

GJ Free Press columnist Jim Hoffman is a local Realtor and investor who, when not working, loves skiing, camping and fishing (in season). He may be reached at freepressjim@gmail.com.

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