In 1920, marijuana was legal in British Columbia, but alcohol was not. What if that was still the law today?
Can we imagine a parallel world where alcohol prohibition never ended, and marijuana prohibition never began?
In that world, perhaps the RCMP have vapor lounges in their headquarters, where officers relax and enjoy using some marijuana after a busy day raiding brew-ops and busting illicit drinkers.
In that world, provincial politicians promote B.C.'s vibrant marijuana industry, posing with brand-name joints of B.C. bud, while also calling for longer sentences against brew-ops and wine dealers, to protect youth against the dangers of liquor.
LIQUOR: THE KILLER DATE RAPE DRUG
Police and journalists in that parallel universe would always refer to alcohol as "the date rape drug" because of its inebriating effects. Newspaper headlines would trumpet the latest brew-op bust, and police would report on how many gallons of the dangerous date-rape drug, liquor, had been taken off the streets.
In that world, high-quality marijuana products would be grown on farms and sold in a store, so most people wouldn't bother growing their own. Some families would have a few plants in the backyard garden, and the occasional dedicated hobbyist might grow a small garden indoors under lights, but it would not be a public concern.
Instead, neighbours would be worried about brew-ops in their communities. Police would warn about the risk of fires, molds and toxic fumes coming from home stills. Brewing equipment would be banned, and precursors like yeast, barley and hops would be tightly controlled and monitored to avoid diversion into the underground market.
While marijuana would be clearly labelled and regulated for potency and safety, people who choose to enjoy beer or wine in that parallel world would have to put their health at risk whenever they took a drink. Sure, it would probably be fairly easy to get your hands on some good beers if you knew who to ask, but you'd never know exactly how it was made and if it might be dangerous to imbibe.
Newspaper stories would recount sad tales of kids going blind or dying from drinking a bad batch of liquor. Police would refuse to release details on which batch was tainted, instead just telling the public "there is no safe dosage of alcohol."
If you took the risk of brewing up your own batch of artisanal beer, you could be looking at serious jail time - in that world, the Conservative government just passed a new six-month mandatory minimum sentence for brew-ops over 20 litres! If your tiny brew-op is in a rented home then you're looking at an even longer sentence, and if you're brewing in a house you own then the government will probably seize it.
Yet despite those stiff penalties, with the street price of decent home-brewed beer at $12 a bottle, and up to $25 a bottle for the really good stuff, there's plenty of people willing to risk a small brew-op in their basement.
Police say they can't even keep up with the mom and pop brew-ops, and focus on the big wineries that operate throughout the Kootenays and across Vancouver Island.
Athletes in that world are a little better off, because they can use marijuana for medicinal purposes, without being given huge fines or ejected from their sport. But woe to the athlete who toasts their victory with some illicit champagne! Athletes would of course be urine tested for alcohol, and even an athlete photographed sipping on some bubbly during the off-season would be punished, lose endorsements and be seen as a bad example.
In that world, because alcohol costs so much more, alcoholics often become homeless or resort to crimes to get their booze. Before and after photographs of ravaged homeless alcoholics are used to scare kids away from ever even trying a beer. Anti-liquor campaigns in schools tell kids "Liquor kills quicker!" and "Just one sip is a deadly trip!"
Because alcohol is so expensive in that world, desperate alcohol addicts sometimes even inject their liquor, to ensure that they get the most possible effect from their tiny liquor stash. Sadly, in that world, the trend of injecting liquor is becoming more common as alcohol prices rise, leading to even more liquor overdose deaths.
LET'S BE SENSIBLE
Now don't get me wrong. Even though marijuana is safer than alcohol, that's not the world I want to live in. I want to live in a world where adults are free to make their own responsible choices - a world where people who make the choice to use marijuana instead of alcohol are given equal treatment under the law.
Alcohol can be fun and enjoyable, and so can marijuana. The best way to maximize the benefits and minimize the harms of either substance is with reasonable rules and regulations to protect public safety and personal health.
British Columbia can lead the way to a sensible marijuana policy. Come find out how at SensibleBC.ca