Tuesday, October 03, 2006


C2H5OH vs C21H29OH

Congressman (well, now former Congressman) Mark Foley has played the alcoholism card:

Former Representative Mark Foley of Florida has checked himself into a rehabilitation facility for alcoholism treatment, as Republican leaders in Florida and Washington spent today trying to contain the political damage of reports that the congressman engaged in sexually explicit communications with Congressional pages.

Glass of whiskey, and pot smokerNow I understand that alcoholics need help, and I urge them to seek it out. Notwithstanding that, alcoholism turns up as an explanation for all manner of antisocial behaviour, from getting off on email with teenaged boys, to wife-beating, to driving like a bat out of hell and verbally abusing the cops who stop you, and even to killing people. Some really are in a situation where treatment will help them put their lives back together and right their wrongs. For some... well, it's not clear when "I'm an alcoholic" is just easier to admit than, "I'm a disgusting paedophile who wants 16-year-olds to send me their penis measurements." In any case, it's clear that there are two problems there: alcoholism may be one, but there's another, and fixing the one doesn't fix the other.

George Michael, on the other hand, was arrested for possession of marijuana. Again.

But then my colleague Nathaniel brought up a point, which we discussed for a bit: No one blames homicide, or wife-beating, or aberrant sexual behaviour on weed. Where alcohol tends to make one aggressive, even nasty, pot tends to make one mellow and relaxed. Cheech and Chong didn't play the stoner as a half-asleep "Oh, wow, man!" kind of dude for nothing, but it's scary what we attribute to alcohol abuse.

Of course, we know which of the two drugs is illegal.

We did try making the other illegal for a while, but that didn't stick — too many people (and too many prominent people) liked it, and the prohibition wasn't enforceable. And so we accept that this chemical that sickens and kills so many people, both directly (cirrhosis) and indirectly (drunk driving), remains a cozy part of our society. Yet the other, which produces little or no harm (debunked "reefer madness" scares notwithstanding), and which may do some good for some diseases (glaucoma, aid for chemotherapy) remains illegal even in medical contexts.

Go figure.

Don't get me wrong, though: I don't want the drinking of ethanol to be made illegal. Quite the opposite.

And anyway, it might interest you to know that "inhaled contrary to ban" is an anagram of "tetrahydrocannabinol".

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