A point of contention for many reformists is a comparison between cannabis and alcohol – an unnecessary comparison festering with hypocritical undertones and prejudice. It’s contentious because arguing for cannabis’ safety over alcohol is sanctimonious at best, and collapses under the weight of its own piety when debating outside of medicinal remit.
The emergence of CISTA (the UK Cannabis Is Safer Than Alcohol political party) last year resurfaced an ugly truth: comparing the safety of cannabis with other substances will always lead back to the undeniable truth that abstinence from all recreational drugs is the safest and healthiest option – which really shouldn’t be the point.
Also, stating cannabis is safer than alcohol bares the implication that alcohol is a fair barometer for pharmacological safety. Obviously I don’t meant to escape the fact that alcohol is the opium of the people and not some other intoxicant, like MDMA… or opium. Yes, it’s more ‘socially acceptable,’ that’s a given. But, equally, you might say that rudeness is more commonplace than kindness across the globe, stating Manners Are More Polite Than Rudeness doesn’t lend credit to anything unless your sole aim is to prohibit rudeness at the expense.
Arguing the comparative safety of anything is fruitless. Always – and I mean always – the safety of sitting in a room doing nothing except involuntarily biology functions (think: breathing, pumping blood, homeostasis) will eclipse the safety anything. It’s the world’s worst game of Top Trumps. “I see your standing in a field, and I raise you standing in a field, motionless, with a bicycle helmet on. Didn’t think of that did you!”
Safety is not traditionally a hallmark of fun; for the most part, safety inhibits fun. In practice, a small departure from safety usually guarantees fun. Paragliding, for example, is obviously less safe than filling in a HMRC self-assessment, but the former might be a more profoundly life-changing experience which you will treasure at detriment to your own safety.
I don’t need to be a physician (and my lack of medical training evidences that I am not) to understand that I can live without recreational drug use. I may not want to but I physically can. However, there are many eventualities by which I might not be able to live without the intervention of medicine, namely genetic predisposition to illness, and unhealthy lifestyle, i.e. not wanting to eat all my greens, avoiding physical exercise wherever possible and indulging in foods high in trans fats.
Fundamentally, it only matters that cannabis is safer than alcohol if your advocacy only extends to medicinal applications. Clearly they would not be satisfied if both were banned, lending credit to the point that safety is not their main concern. I’m surprised than puritanical prohibitionists haven’t also adopted the same adage to argue that cannabis is safer than alcohol and that is unlawful, so should alcohol be henceforth.
It shouldn’t be the point because most reformists aren’t arguing for medical-only legalisation, they are doing it because they want to get high, and should be championing as an act of recreation consumed responsibly.
Unfortunately naming a political party something like People for the Responsible Consumption of Substances sounds too much like a cult. And cults have really fallen out of favour in recent years, more so than organised religion. No doubt a major religious figure could monopolise on it with a single-issue party called Abrahamic Religions Are Safer Than Cults!
Since they are gunning for outright legalisation, promoting an alternative to alcohol would make more sense. And perhaps they should have geared their slogan more towards that. Something with a more positive message, here are my suggestions.
Cannabis Enhances Lovely Nature Walks
Cannabis Doesn’t Give You A Hangover
Cannabis Could Be A Decent Alternative To Sitting In The Same Pub Every Friday, Because Pubs Get A Little Boring, Don’t They
(I will concede that CCBADATSITSPEFBPGALBDT doesn’t roll off the tongue as easily as CISTA, but that’s what marketing teams are for.)