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Pot Parents: Smoking's Better Than Drinking!

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A controversial new movement promotes pot use instead of alcohol. These parents want to ban pot prohibition because they believe it will save lives.

teen smoking

Gina Kaysen Fernandes: Alcohol and marijuana are the two most popular -- and easily accessible -- substances on college campuses, but they're not treated the same under the law. Possessing pot can land you in jail, but drinking too much at a keg party can kill you. "This highlights the absurdity in how we treat these two substances," said Mason Tvert, the co-founder and executive director of the group Safer Alternative for Enjoyable Recreation, or SAFER. Mason has made it his personal mission to debunk the government's anti-marijuana message. "The fact that we have students drinking themselves to death made us realize we had to start some awareness on college campuses," says Mason.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 20,000 Americans die every year as a result of drinking too much. It's a tragedy that Mason narrowly escaped. He nearly died from an alcohol overdose in the summer of 2000. The high school senior guzzled beer all day at a country music festival in Arizona. "Beer was widely available, and my friends gave it to me," recalls Mason. Paramedics rushed him to a nearby hospital, where doctors pumped his stomach. Mason's mother didn't know what happened to her son until the next day, because he was 18 years old and the hospital was not required to notify his parents. "He could have died -- I was so worried about that," said Diane Tvert. As a practicing physical therapist, Diane is supportive of her son's efforts to dispel marijuana myths. "I would so much rather he smoke pot than drink and get behind the wheel of a car," said Diane.

Many like-minded moms share her opinion. "I want my children to grow up to believe that laws are just and rational, and if there's injustice, they should fight it," said Jessica Peck Corry, a Denver-based Republican political strategist. Jessica, a former GOP candidate for state senate, is also a cannabis activist who campaigned for a ballot initiative that would decriminalize marijuana possession in Colorado. "We can no longer afford to wage war on a substance that people can grow in their backyard. It's a war we can't win," says Jessica. As a mother of two young children, Jessica says she plans to have an open dialogue with her kids about drug and alcohol use, even though, she says, "I want to place them in this bubble where I can protect them." Jessica believes that by arming her daughters with accurate information, "they will respect their bodies and make good decisions." These moms insist they're not pushing their kids to abuse drugs, but prefer they choose the lesser of two evils. "Things have gotten so skewed. People look at pot like it's the bogeyman. It's not going to kill you; alcohol can kill you," said Diane.

The statistics on the dangers of alcohol are staggering. Drinking on college campuses led to 1,400 deaths, 500,000 injuries, and 70,000 cases of sexual assault or date rape, according to a 2002 study by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) task force.

The risks associated with getting stoned are fuzzier. No studies have found a direct link between marijuana overdose and death. There's no objective research that finds pot use contributes to violent or aggressive behavior. "They're correct. Typically people don't get violent; I'll be the first to admit that," said Ken Winters, Ph.D., a psychiatry professor at the University of Minnesota-Fairview who specializes in adolescent substance abuse. "But there are plenty of issues with marijuana. It's not a healthy option," says Winters, who believes parents are fooling themselves if they think smoking pot has no long-term consequences. "Prolonged marijuana use appears to increase memory and learning problems," said Winters, who adds, "like tobacco, habitual pot smoking can also lead to cancer and respiratory diseases." Winters also warns there's new research emerging that suggests marijuana can effect your DNA, which has risky implications. He thinks that parents who rationalize marijuana use are being naïve. Instead, Winters recommends we teach our kids to drink responsibly by sticking to the two-drink rule. "It's no fun to be the 'no-fun police,' but that's what you got into, that's part of parenting."

The so-called "Marijuana is Safer" movement is gaining momentum among college students, but is facing a lot of resistance from campus officials. Mason believes the institutions are part of the problem. On one hand, school administrators are trying to promote responsible drinking, yet "universities are fostering this behavior," argues Mason, by allowing beer companies to sponsor campus events like fraternity parties.

A number of well-known party schools are starting to mellow out on pot penalties. Students are adopting SAFER measures at about a dozen college campuses nationwide, including Colorado State University, University of Colorado-Boulder, Florida State University, University of Maryland, University of Texas-Austin, University of Central Florida, and Ohio State University. Students on these campuses are working to make sure the school penalties for marijuana use are no greater than those for alcohol use.

Mason makes his case for SAFER Referendums in a new book hitting shelves this month, titled "Marijuana is Safer, So Why Are We Driving People to Drink?." Mason co-authored the book along with two other prominent legalization advocates, Steve Fox of the Marijuana Policy Project, and Paul Armentano of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).

Marijuana is so easily accessible that one in three Americans have tried it at least once, including the three most recent U.S. presidents. The nation's marijuana business is estimated to rake in $113 billion in annual sales. That's not far behind the alcohol industry, which pockets $130 billion per year. For parents like Jessica, it's the fiscal concerns that make her blood boil. "It costs $30,000 a year to incarcerate a pot dealer, and we spend $10,000 a year to educate a child." Jessica thinks it's time that more mothers come forward "because for so long, others have been exploiting our children by perpetuating this war on drugs in the name of our children."

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142 comments so far | Post a comment now
Elijah August 10, 2009, 11:36 AM

Great article. Marijuana does not damage your DNA. Check out Manuel Guzman or Robert Melamede two prominent scientists in reference to cannabis. Though there are harmful free radicals in any burning plant material, THC combats any problems associated. THC is a neuroprotective antioxidant, try that on for size lol. We need a safer alternative that bypasses alcohol.

Matt August 10, 2009, 12:13 PM

Sounds extremely dangerous to me! I smoked marijuana for a period of about 8 years and the damage it did to my mental wellbeing was horrendous. I gradually became detached from society and, later, from friends and family.

I had no social life, barely left my home and reversed my sleep pattern so that I slept all day and stayed up all night. I totally isolated myself from every part of normal life and believe marijuana to be the direct cause of this.

Just because the effects are not glaringly obvious in the same way as they are with drink it does not make marijuana ‘safe’. This widely accepted myth could do a lot of damage to society and I urge anybody reading this to think twice before readily accepting that marijuana is the ‘safe’ option.

Anon August 10, 2009, 1:40 PM

Sorry Matt - I’ve never known a pot smoker like you. Every pot smoker I’ve ever known has a daily job, normal hours, and no one would know they were a pot smoker. It’s time to decriminalize it - pot smokers who would sink into a depression, become a loner etc - they’ll be here whether it’s legal or not (Matt proves this) We can manufacture, sell and tax it - America would be out of this recession in no time.

Morten August 10, 2009, 2:15 PM

I think Matt is a real loser.

otakucode August 10, 2009, 2:19 PM

Matt - You need to learn that drawing causal conclusions from personal experience is a very bad idea. When someone is inside of a given situation, it is mostly impossible for them to accurately assess it. That’s why it is important to ignore anecdotes such as yours. You are not a professional and do not even claim to be attempting objective judgement. In many studies of large groups of people, none of the effects you imagine were caused by marijuana were documented. It is very common for human beings to imagine causal links where none exist. When you were withdrawing, what else was going on in your life? Why are you so certain that it was the pot, and not those other factors, that were the cause?

Regardless of how you work it out personally, you certainly can’t expect other people to respect your biased guesswork over studies from Harvard and the like. There is a lot of research out there. Marijuana destroys cancer cells while protecting healthy ones. It has antibacterial properties that make it a useful treatment for MRSA. It protects memory and could be a good preventitive or treatment for Alzherimers. Amotivation syndrome has been proven to be fictional. Also, the DNA damage claim was researched and found to be baseless. As research continues, it is quite clear - marijuana is, if anything, good for you.

And why is it illegal? There is only 1 reason. Because in the 1930s, some racists wanted to ‘protect white culture’ from Mexican immigrants and wanted an excuse to arrest Mexicans. That’s it. That’s why they made it illegal. They didn’t do it to protect anyones health or safety. And they did it illegally, also. Alcohol prohibition required a Constitutional amendment - and so should any other form of drug prohibition! It is unconstitutional for the federal government to restrict the citizens right to control their own bodies.

Anonymous August 10, 2009, 2:24 PM

Smoking pot may not be as dangerous as it is often billed to be, but neither smoking nor drinking are healthy options. Instead of teaching kids to choose the “lesser of two evils” why can’t we just teach them to say no? There’s nothing forcing them to use drugs or alcohol. I don’t care how easily available it is; if they have respect for their bodies, they won’t want to use drugs or alcohol in the first place.

Mike R August 10, 2009, 3:37 PM

To Matt:

It sounds like you had some preexisting psychological condition. Hope you get help for it.

For mysef, I am 30 and have smoked pot nearly daily for 12 years. I am an IT professional, so I am studying and taking classes all the time - no problems to report here! :)


Paul R August 10, 2009, 3:39 PM

To Anonymous -

Because teaching kids to say no doesn’t work. Might as well teach them not to have sex either…..riiiight.

Better get a clue.


Some Mom August 10, 2009, 3:47 PM

Being a mother who has tried marijuana back when she was younger and then has drank alcohol, to excess sometimes… I believe we as Americans with our War on Drugs haven’t done a thing to curb marijuana use.

This is where I feel that being a mother with children would feel much more comfortable with marijuana being made legal and then controlled much like alcohol with a 21 year old age limit. It is completely stupid and ignorant to keep the laws we have on marijuana in place.

The problem is that politicians have much invested in programs such as D.A.R.E (growing up the 80s was a big DARE thing) they don’t want to lose the political backing they receive from giving money to schools for anti-marijuana programs.

To any politician that reads this… Your War against Drugs hasn’t done one damn thing to keep kids away from marijuana.

Legalize, regulate, and control it! (and TAX it!)

Nic August 10, 2009, 3:56 PM

Can we just legalize it already? Everytime someone tries to point out the so-called “negative effects” of marijuana there are always at least 4 or 5 counterpoints that prove their beliefs to be false…

Tom August 10, 2009, 4:07 PM

To Matt: Its easy to place blame on a substance for your own stupidity but there are many marijuana users out there that live full lives with families and good paying jobs and their only real crime is consuming a plant which has been proven time and time again to be virtually harmless.

Bio August 10, 2009, 4:15 PM

What is with the links in this story? Only a few of them link to something relevant and some are completely misleading. For instance, the “marijuana overdose” link brings up a story titled Teen Dies After Drinking Poppy Pod Tea which has no references to marijuana at all, let alone an overdose! The “tobacco” link brings up a story about Harry Potter Star Pleads Guilty to Growing Marijuana Farm. Again, tobacco was not mentioned in the article. There are more, but I think you can find them yourself. Get your act together Momlogic!

todd August 10, 2009, 5:21 PM

This unfortunate “Detachment” from society that pot smokers go through is due to the ‘PROHIBITION” of Marijuana not pot itself. The negative feelings and effects some associate with pot’s use ALL stem from it’s illegality in one form or another. Free the Weed and end the paranoia.

mike August 10, 2009, 7:26 PM

habitual marijuana use leads to cancer, says a specialist in “adolescent substance abuse”. That might seems intuitively obvious to some, but there is no scientific or anecdotal evidence that smoking marijuana leads to cancer. Google Donald Tashkin for details.

Phusion August 10, 2009, 7:34 PM

Hi there, wonderful article, I couldn’t possibly agree more. I work on a medical marijuana news, laws and information site and try to do my part in the local MMJ community.

Not only is Marijuana a medicine, but as mentioned in this article, a safe alternative to alcohol. More people are killed by alcohol each year than crack, coke and heroin COMBINED each year. Put the booze makers out of business and give them all shovels, nutrients and some seeds… those who are profiting from the war on drugs and from cannabis being illegal need to go. They can go die from alcohol poisoning while we eat pizza and hit the bong.

Thank you.

booker t August 10, 2009, 7:40 PM

Ight….anytype of smoke in ur lungs is bad. But it only physicly shows the effects if its constantly abused or used over a long period of time. I do believe it is safer than drinking. And its more fun…ps, I’m realy high right now.

Mary August 10, 2009, 8:06 PM

I smoke pot with my kids all the time - and have found it’s a great way to bond as a family.

Richard August 10, 2009, 8:07 PM

Good article. I agree completely. Alcohol is much more destructive than Marijuana. If the only negative aspect of Canabis is smoking it try putting it into a brownie or vaporizing it.

ame i. August 10, 2009, 10:34 PM

I drank and smoked pot when I was younger. It is somewhat true that driving after drinking is more dangerous than driving while high. Too much alcohol affects vision more but after a toke or two or seven reaction time slows way down.
It’s probably the same with alcohol, but I remember pot taking the “give a damn” right out of me. College- class at 9 = don’t give a damn, skip it.
I’m an older person and am glad I realized in time that any substance that changes the way we feel can ruin one’s future faster than we think/thought.
Realizing that the way I felt before I did something to change the way I felt was good enough was one of the best life lessons I ever learned.

Gloria  August 11, 2009, 7:53 AM

I don’t think it’s about the negative effects, I do think that marijuiana was cool back in the day, but I think I ended up feeling more detached as another poster pointed out. I do not smoke weed today, and have no need to. I don’t understand why there should be any problem understanding that pot is illegal. That is the biggest problem this substance faces. There are many people that are being killed every year due to drug use, why? Why because people want to escape some of lifes daily hassels, easy. No, what ever those hassels are they are in the real world, and they need to be fixed by good old fashioned hard work. They will not go away because you have smoked pot or drank. It isn’t wise, but marijuiana has been an accepted under the carpet high for many. Does it matter when we hear that there are serious problems in Mexico regarding the growing and importing of marijuiana of pot? No, does it matter that family drug lords are rubbed out? Does it matter that people that are having trouble finding regular work, no turn to pot for their selling profit? Does it matter that people walk around high, and others that follow the law, no better and respect the law for what it is? There are reasons other than the typical usual responses on this rather tough debate about the legalization of marijuina. If kids must try pot, as it comes with the terriority, and there are kids that follow their partents cues, and they come home late at night and get into accidents, or worse are killed is that a good argument to legalize this substance as well?

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