As one of the authors of Marijuana Is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink?, I was disappointed by Jacob Sullum's review of our book ("Pro-Choice or Pro-Pot?," April). Sullum cherry-picked certain sentences and completely ignored others to create the impression that the book is somehow an attack on alcohol consumers.
Our book is intended to strengthen a political movement in favor of a legal marijuana market by helping the general public understand that marijuana is not as harmful as they have been led to believe. We do so by objectively comparing the harms associated with marijuana to those associated with a substance familiar to all Americans: alcohol.
We understand that we are fighting more than 80 years of anti-marijuana propaganda and went out of our way not to make similar generalizations about alcohol consumers. There is a huge difference between citing government statistics and academic studies about the link between alcohol use and violence, which we did, and portraying all alcohol users as "reckless, brawling, wife-beating, child-abusing drunks," as Sullum implied we did.
We can have an honest debate about whether comparing the relative harms of various substances is the best tactic if your goal is reaching a point when Americans are "Saying Yes" to all drugs. But Sullum's opposition to that tactic shouldn't become the basis for implying that those who dare to compare the relative harms of marijuana and alcohol are demeaning individuals who choose to use alcohol.
Director of State Campaigns
Marijuana Policy Project
Jacob Sullum replies: I have no problem with discussing the relative hazards of marijuana and alcohol as a way of encouraging people to question our current drug laws; I frequently use that tactic myself. Our disagreement is mainly a matter of tone and emphasis. The point I try to make is that we manage to address alcohol-related problems without prohibition, so the same thing should be possible with drugs that are no more dangerous than alcohol and in some respects less so. Marijuana Is Safer makes a valuable and provocative contribution to the debate, but it sometimes seems like special pleading on behalf of pot and its users. Steve Fox and his co-authors may not have intended to write an anti-alcohol book, but that is how it often comes across, and I fear that impression could alienate potential allies.
Five Lies About the American Economy
Tim Cavanaugh's "Five Lies About the American Economy" (April) reminds me of the current discussions about a second stimulus package. The $789 billion stimulus has failed to reduce unemployment: We face the highest unemployment rate in 26 years, and when you add in those working part-time and those who have given up looking, the real unemployment rate is more than 17 percent. Considering the results to date, why should Congress even consider adding hundreds of billions more to our debt by funding a second stimulus package?
Great Neck, NY