February 12, 2011

Gladwell, Alcoholism, Stoners and Culture: A look at what shapes acceptable marijuana use

In a recent New Yorker article Malcom Gladwell, author of What the Dog Saw, dissected drug culture. His drug was alcohol, but the article holds interesting points for stoners as well. Gladwell showed how having a working cultural structure for alcohol consumption keeps drinkers from becoming alcoholics.

This is interesting because of what it says about all drug use. Just like drinking isn't alcoholism, marijuana use doesn't equal marijuana abuse. Gladwell pointed to many ethnicities in which drinking is ingrained in the culture, and yet they don't suffer from social disruption in the forms of fights, drunken rages, domestic abuse, or alcohol abuse.

Prohibition doesn't work because it doesn't focus on the problem. The problem isn't drug use it's drug abuse. Prohibition and propaganda magnify the negative aspects of pot use, until they are a common reality. It's when we legalize that the culture is allowed to decide for it self what's best, based on the information presented to them by their own research, their social circles and the media.

The media plays a big role in how we decide to live. College students get wildly drunk at parties because it's portrayed as normal and even cool behavior. People speed because it's seen as risky behavior for busy people. If we had a media that persistently represented the real problems of those decisions we wouldn't need laws to help us make common sense decisions, like not texting and driving.

German Autoban drivers have less accidents, even though there's no speed limit. Why? When we are allowed a full spectrum of actions without any artificial values (laws, rules), we tend to choose the best available option, and take responsibility for it.

In Amsterdam, a smaller portion of the society uses marijuana than in America, even though it's practically legal. In Italy and France, alcohol consumption, is relatively frequent and yet it's done with greater control.

Now that Marijuana use is out in the light of day, many people are getting their first good look at it. Unfortunately it doesn't fit into common categories. Is it medicinal or is it recreational? Is a pothead the same thing as an alcoholic? How frequently do users use? Why do users use?

As it becomes more acceptable and eventually legal, our society and it's individuals will decide how best to smoke pot. Likely they won't smoke before work, they won't smoke and drive, and if they don't want to they won't smoke at all. Those who will abuse marijuana, do so because of who they are and what they know. Our job is to educate our citizens and protect ourselves from the ones who intentionally harm us.

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