Green Intoxicants For All

This weekend Baltimore rolled out it's proverbial green carpet as people, both young and old-- descended upon the city to celebrate St. Patrick's Day. While St. Patty's Day is an Irish holiday of religious origins, steeped in history and culture, to many, it has become a day of celebration that is synonymous with alcoholic indulgence. Don't believe me? Simply scroll through your Facebook Timeline or listen to your favorite radio station as they promote pub-crawl, after drink special, after pub-crawl. During the St. Patrick's Day season, social media outlets gush with pictures of pints of Guinness, shots of Jameson, and yards of St. Patty's Day signature drink: the iconic green beer. I am in no way against dyed alcoholic beverages, holidays, or four leaf clovers; nor am I anti-Irish. If anything, I find it quite bizarre that on this holiday only one green intoxicant is considered socially acceptable, celebrated and legal while another, cannabis which is arguably no more harmful, continues to be treated like the snakes of Ireland and forced from the public view.

Whether in Canton, Federal Hill, or Fells Point, we can typically see the culture of consumption come to life. On holiday weekends in particular, the multitude of stumbling revelers, some with red solo cups in hand abound, and yet, come Monday morning, Baltimore City will still exist. This begs the question, if the city can accept a weekend of controlled chaos, even when that chaos is tinted green, what is the worry then about a little green plant? Cannabis users are simply attracted to it over other substances because its calm and relaxing effects. In light of pending cannabis legislation, citizens and politicians alike have attempted to identify all the possible dangers of legalizing cannabis. Ultimately, these perceived dangers are the recycled rhetoric of "reefer madness"—new packaging, same message. If the city can sustain a weekend of St. Patrick's Day patrons filling themselves with the day's spirits both literally and figuratively, then I'm sure it can handle the occasional bit of smoke.

Adults in favor of the legalization of cannabis aren't asking for special privileges. If anything, we seek the same treatment given to those responsible adults who chose to consume alcohol. The ensuing celebration for holidays like St. Patrick's Day, do a wonderful job of reminding us of our society's ability to adapt to—and proactively plan for--a culture of alcohol consumption. The city increases its police presence with more officers on foot and at checkpoints, parking bans are publicly announced weeks in advance, and, in the end most people cooperate. In the case of St. Patty's Day, Baltimore Police do a fine job of keeping the city and it's citizens safe. If the city can handle a weekend filled with spirited imbibers, then, I am confident, that it can definitely police the average subdued smoker.

This op-ed is not a condemnation of alcohol. Our system for policing alcohol isn't perfect, but it's continuously being reevaluated and better regulated. The same should be done for cannabis. This piece is meant to question our society's ability to accommodate for the use of one substance over another. St. Patrick's Day is a prime example.

In large part cannabis is the preferred substance of responsible adults who are simply looking to relax and have a good time. With that in mind I ask Baltimore and its inhabitants to reexamine their beliefs about cannabis as a substance and the people who use it. I think it is safe to say when we legalize cannabis Baltimore and Maryland will survive.

Whether smokers or drinkers I want all Baltimoreans to have the freedom to choose how they want to enjoy St. Patrick's Day safely and responsibly. But that day won't come until we legalize cannabis. Until then we have our, pints of Guinness, shots of Jameson and green beers. So cheers to St. Patrick's Day. Even though Baltimore will have a raging hangover tomorrow, it will survive.

Kevin Cranford
Deputy Director
Maryland NORML

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