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Radical Rant: The War Between Booze and Weed

Russ Belville

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Booze is just going to have to understand that weed is legal now.

Just days after Denver passed its landmark Social Use initiative, regulators in Colorado announced rules that forbid any business with an alcohol license from applying to allow cannabis use in its facility. The benevolent bureaucrats explained that mixing alcohol and marijuana leads to greater impairment and, by golly, we must protect the public from the increased danger of stoned drunks.

A similar scenario has played out here in Oregon. Like other legal states, our law forbids the use of cannabis in public—because if people saw adults smoking pot like they see people drinking wine on outdoor restaurant patios, why, they might not think pot smoking is a wicked, dirty, disgusting habit only enjoyed by the dregs of society.

Soon after our legalization initiative passed, our benevolent bureaucrats decided that any place that has a liquor license is a “public place” under the law. Even if you rent out a hall, cover all the windows, and hold a ticketed private party for just you and one other adult, if that hall has a liquor license—even if no liquor is on the premises or being served—it’s a public place and you can’t toke there.

So, in Portland, as well as other cities in Oregon, Washington, and Alaska, there arose BYOB (Bring Your Own Buds) Social Use clubs. No alcohol served, no marijuana served, just a private room where adults can gather to enjoy smoking their own pot in each other’s company.

Even that was too much for the responsible regulators to bear. In Washington, the legislature hurriedly passed a law felonizing the operation of a cannabis-use club—whether intentionally designated as such or even if customers use pot on their own and the club fails to stop it. In Alaska, regulators there are also cracking down on the BYOB social clubs.

In Oregon, legislators shoehorned cannabis smoke and vapors into the state’s Clean Air Act, which was designed to protect innocent patrons and workers from the dangers of second-hand tobacco smoke. Of course, there is no science to back the idea that second-hand cannabis smoke is harmful and certainly not second-hand cannabis vapor. Most hypocritically, the law provides an indoor tobacco smoking exception for cigar bars.

Don’t for a minute think that any of this has to do with regulators trying to protect the public from the danger of stoned drunks. This is all about protecting the bar and alcohol industry from the danger of falling profits.

First of all, stoned drunks have been around bars and restaurants for as long as weed and booze have existed. I played music in bars for fifteen years. Did you ever notice how when the band goes on break, there seems to be an exodus for the dark parking lot? People have been smoking pot at bars all along; they just have been sneaking out to their cars or the back alley to get stoned before they head back inside for another drink.

So don’t try and tell us this is all about protecting people from impaired drivers. Those who get drunk and stoned always have, and they’ve done so without the watchful eye of a trained server who could track how much they’ve drank and smoked.

We also know that those folks who only smoke pot are far better drivers than those who only drink alcohol. Taking that option away from people who want to go out for a night of socializing just means more chance of drunk, not stoned, drivers.

What this is really about is protecting the profits of the alcohol industry. People who have weed to smoke aren’t going to drink as much alcohol. This influence by Big Booze is so great they’ve even got the restaurant industry ignoring the likelihood that weed could offer a huge boost to their profits, just off the dessert menu alone.

The people of Denver voted for a Social Use initiative that brings people out of the alleys and parking lots and back into the venue where trained servers can observe their use and mitigate the effects of overconsumption. Bars and restaurants were what voters were thinking of, more so than the potential cannabis-infused therapeutic massage clinic or a cannabis-vapored hot yoga class.

Moreover, the voters in eight states now have voted to “treat marijuana like alcohol”. Our detractors are more than willing to adopt that mantra when it comes to developing a cannabis breathalyzer, even though cannabis is nothing like alcohol when it comes to measuring impairment. It’s time they recognize that mantra cuts both ways.

Our opponents think legalization just means we no longer waste police time dealing with the disgusting dirty dopers – but everything else remains the same. The dopers must stay hidden in their back alleys and garages, their purchases must happen where nobody can see them, and their legal product can’t be seen by the public.

No. Legalization means ending the double standard we allow for the most dangerous drug – alcohol – but forbid to the least dangerous drug – marijuana. For society to allow public use of, advertising of, and celebration of alcohol while restricting, hiding, and demonizing cannabis is the height of hypocrisy.

Last week’s Radical Rant: A Man Is Being Hanged For Marijuana Today

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