Alcohol and Cannabis, why can’t we regulate both?

By Ian F.

Cannabis is safer than alcohol, yet it is prohibited in the UK

The cannabis plant.

My name is Ian. I am eighteen years old and am completing my A levels in Kent. On occasion I smoke cannabis for recreational purposes. 

As well as the medicinal benefits of this plant, it could also be seen as an untapped industry that could potentially be worth billions, not unlike the alcohol industry that is one of the most powerful industrial groups in the world. It also influences the writing of alcohol policy even though unlike cannabis, it has no medicinal properties but is a highly toxic substance that NEEDS to be broken down in the body by an enzyme called ALDH2. With the result that if consumed in excess alcohol saturates these enzymes and the acetaldehyde lingers in the body for longer, resulting in liver damage. It would be true to say then that there is NO SAFE WAY OF TAKING ALCOHOL, unlike cannabinoids (the active parts of cannabis) that when metabolised in the body are broken down into non-toxic substances.

  • ‘The damage done by alcohol is caused by a small group of deviants who cannot handle alcohol’.

3.5 million adults in the UK are alcohol addicts ( Alcohol: first report of session 2009-10, House Of Commons Health Committee, December 10th 2009). This is not a ‘small group’. Cannabis is non-addictive. It may be habituating, but so is fast food. So should we outlaw fast food for the greater good of our nation?

  • ‘Normal adult non-drinkers do not, in fact, exist’

This sounds like a large conglomerate of corporations trying to justify their ‘moral social function’ or an attempt to scaremonger the government into thinking that further alcohol restrictions will prove unpopular. Most people believe however that the more the alcohol industry is regulated the safer alcohol consumers become. This can also be applied to cannabis. Regulate and tax the market, keep it out of the hands of young children and ensure that cannabis users are getting the product they are paying for. Pushing a market underground retreats it further into the shadows and forces law abiding people into the criminal underworld.

  • Alcohol problems can only be solved when all parties work together’.

If the alcohol industry were interested in public health they would be non-existent. Of course the alcohol industry wants to work alongside the government because it allows them to self-regulate with their success depending on the widespread availability of their product. Therefore, it could be argued that if progress is to be made in drugs law reform, then like alcohol, cannabis could be available in specific shops similar to the dispensaries in America where cannabis has been decriminalised.

  • Alcohol marketing is not harmful; it is intended to assist the customer in selecting a product’.
Legally available bottles of alcoholic drinks, which are far more dangerous than cannabis.

Alcohol legally on sale in shops throughout the UK.

The British Medical Association (BMA) has shown that many techniques employed by alcohol marketing are aimed at a young audience (get them while they are young). It involves texting directly to phones and emails with embedded videos and Facebook links. Showing images of young people having fun with their fruity alcopops and vodka mixers it is nothing less than social pressure to drink. But apparently it is acceptable to show this to an influential generation of young British people while at the same time blatantly lying about the effects of cannabis. The number of times it has been said how cannabis kills brain cells and causes psychotic episodes is ridiculous. The truth is that not one person has ever died from taking cannabis, unlike alcohol related deaths that reach into the tens of thousands. All I hear from my government is that it is okay to go out and drink myself into a stupor, but I am demonised if I mention my cannabis use.

  • ‘Education about responsible use is the best method of protecting society’.

This is merely to shift responsibility of regulation away from the industry and into the hands of the young people who the alcohol industry. Alcohol reduces self-control so by saying that it is okay to buy drink once everyone is in control is a contradiction. In places where cannabis is regulated, only certain amounts can be bought at once. This could be implemented easily with alcohol, if it didn’t affect the CEO’s profit margins.

Overall I think that parallels should be drawn between cannabis and alcohol, and both should be taxed and regulated in order to make bold steps towards a brighter future of drug law reform.


My name is Ian, I smoke cannabis, and I am NORML.        

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