Pubdate: Fri, 24 Oct 2014
Source: San Francisco Chronicle (CA)
Copyright: 2014 Hearst Communications Inc.
Author: David Sirota,
Note: David Sirota is a senior writer at the International Business Times.


When Colorado voters in 2012 approved a ballot measure legalizing 
marijuana, the state did not merely break new ground in the ongoing 
battle over narcotics policy. It also bolstered an innovative 
political message that compares cannabis to alcohol.

Two years later, that comparison is being deployed in key 
marijuana-related elections throughout the country, and drug reform 
advocates are so sure marijuana is safer than alcohol they are now 
challenging police to a "drug duel" to prove their point.

The proposal for the duel from David Boyer of the Marijuana Policy 
Project, came after Police Chief Edward Googins of South Portland, 
Maine, announced his opposition to a municipal referendum to legalize 
marijuana possession.

"Claims that marijuana is safer than alcohol are so bogus it's not 
even funny," Googins told a local newspaper.

In response, Boyer has challenged the police chief to a "hit for 
shot" duel - for every shot of alcohol Googins takes, Boyer would 
take a toke of marijuana, and the public would be able to see who is 
in worse physical condition in the end.

"We have done everything in our power to highlight the danger 
associated with laws that steer adults toward drinking by threatening 
to punish them if they make the safer choice to use marijuana," Boyer 
said in a press release promising to bring "enough alcohol to kill a 
man" to the duel. "Enough is enough. Perhaps this dramatic 
demonstration of the relative harms of each substance will finally 
get the point across."

The "drug duel" concept - and the larger comparison between cannabis 
and alcohol - is the brainchild of the Marijuana Public Policy 
officials Steve Fox and Mason Tvert.

Following unsuccessful legalization campaigns in Nevada and 
California, Tvert and Fox persuaded advocates in Colorado to 
explicitly frame the 2012 campaign around the alcohol-marijuana 
comparison. Ultimately, the ballot initiative was called the Regulate 
Marijuana Like Alcohol Act of 2012.

"Marijuana has been illegal because too many people think it is too 
dangerous to allow adults to use, when in fact it is less harmful 
than alcohol," Tvert said.

There is plenty of evidence to support that assertion, and since the 
Colorado vote, the message has gained traction.

In this election, the alcohol-marijuana comparison is defining 
legalization campaigns not only in South Portland and Lewiston, 
Maine, but also in Alaska and Oregon. In Alaska, drug reformers call 
their effort the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol. They 
have sponsored bus ads promoting marijuana as safer than alcohol.

Additionally, though much of the legalization campaign happening in 
Oregon has been about public safety, activists designed that 
initiative to invoke the alcohol comparison. Specifically, their 
proposal would have the Oregon Liquor Control Commission expand its 
regulatory oversight to marijuana.

"Everyone recognizes that alcohol prohibition was a huge failure," 
Tvert says. "Our point is that marijuana prohibition has been just as 
big of a disaster."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom