Another View: Alcohol more harmful than marijuana

Secretary for LEAP responds to Corp. Hilderley's stance on prohibition of marijuana

Corporal Scott Hilderley surely cares about the future of our youth, but his comments about cannabis and legalization simply miss the point. Cannabis, in some forms, can be harmful to some people, but there is no question that alcohol is significantly more toxic and addictive. So by Hilderley’s logic, if cannabis should be prohibited because it is sometimes harmful, then alcohol must be prohibited as well.

That conclusion is clearly untrue, so we know that something is wrong with the logic — but what? The mistake lies in thinking that prohibition is an effective way to manage any substance that is harmful (or that could be harmful to some). On the surface, this sounds as if it ought to be true. Unfortunately, it is absolutely false.

The reality is that prohibition of a drug, whether it is alcohol or cannabis, does nothing at all to reduce its usage. The statistics prove this at every level. In North America, 40 years of the so-called “war on drugs” has increased the supply of illegal drugs; reduced the prices; and increased the usage rate. Countries which have reduced the level of prohibition, such as the Netherlands and Portugal, have consistently lower usage rates for all drugs than the U.S., where prohibition is aggressively enforced. And finally, the only drug for which usage has significantly decreased in North America is nicotine — which is not prohibited.

Those are the facts; Corporal Hilderley is not entitled to his own.

If prohibition merely did not work, that would be bad enough. But prohibition also creates crime, violence, disease and death (including the unnecessary deaths of police officers). These effects are usually blamed on “drugs”, but in fact they are caused by prohibition. Which was more dangerous to your health in Chicago in 1928: Getting between a drunk and his bootleg rotgut, or getting between Al Capone and his money? This is not a hard question to answer, and the same principle applies to drugs and prohibition today.

The history of alcohol prohibition also disproves Hilderley’s claim that gangs will “continue to thrive” when we take the cannabis business away from them. When alcohol re-legalization took the alcohol business away from the gangs in the 1930s, the bootleggers did not “continue to thrive” as criminals. Some stayed in crime, but with far less money and far smaller organizations. Others continued producing alcohol, but legally and under the control of government regulation.

Both in the 1930s and now, some criminals will try to find other criminal businesses after prohibition ends. But how does that justify not taking away their biggest cash cows?

Finally, it is quite comical to describe the men and women of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) as “beaten down by the horrors they’ve seen as a result of drug use.” LEAP’s members and leaders know that most of these “horrors” are not the result of drug use alone, but of prohibition. And as a civilian who works with LEAP’s law enforcers day in and day out, I can assure Corporal Hilderley of one thing: “Beaten down” they are not. They are intense, committed, and active and they will not go away until prohibition is no more.

Steve Finlay

Secretary/treasurer

LEAP Canada