external image marijuana-leaf.jpgexternal image alcohol.jpg

Differences in Substance Abuse: Alcohol Vs. Marijuana

Focusing on the effects that Alcohol and Marijuana have on the community, how they are represented in the media, and the government's efforts to educate against the use of the two substances. Discussing the history of the two substances in America, and why Alcohol was made legal while Marijuana remains a violation of federal law. The main institutions of society that are discussed are State and Public Policy, Media, and Family.

History of Marijuana
History of Alcohol
Media as an Institution
Social and Public Policy as an Institution
Family and community as an Institution
Consequences of using
Possible Solutions

=History of Marijuana=

Marijuana has not always been illegal in the United States and was not seen as social threat. Due to this many people took part in use of the herb. Marijuana now is one of the most abused drugs in the US. Marijuana has more street names then any other drug in the US and also has many different varieties. The idea of make marijuana be seen as illegal and as a Schedule I was due to the fact that the government felt that marijuana took part in altering the moods of the users. Nonetheless, marijuana has only been illegal for a short time in the US.

In 1545 the Spanish brought marijuana to America, when The English introduced it to Jamestown in 1611 it became a major crop that was sold along with tobacco, some of America's founding fathers took part and the growth and exportation of marijuana during this time some of them being George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin who made paper using the marijuana.en.5 Eventually, by the 1890 cotton replaced marijuana as a cash crop and marijuana was used for medical use.

During the 1920’s marijuana was used more for recreational use, becoming very popular among jazz musicians this allowed for Marijuana clubs to grow freely in major cities which allowed costumers to freely partake in smoking of the herb.8 By 1937 Marijuana uses and distribution was made illegal in America9 and by 1970 marijuana along with heroin and LSD became a Schedule I drug offense.8

=A Brief History of Alcohol in American Society:=

Alcohol is a popular drug enjoyed worldwide that has a long history in relation to the United States of America.


In the early days, particularly in the colonial days, alcohol was abundant. In fact, the pilgrims brought more alcohol with them than water. Pilgrims landed in what is now Plymouth, Massachusetts because they “were running out of supplies, especially of the alcoholic beverages” 7. Alcohol consumption was rampant. Drinking and enjoying alcohol was socially acceptable. Only drunkenness was looked down upon. Particularly if a drunk was supposed to be working, looking after family, or generally performing other activities that required the person to be sober.

Temperance Movement and Prohibition

Enter the Progressive era. The United States is growing and expanding economically. Progression is made towards making the U.S. focus on industrialization. The First World War is taking place and times are uncertain. It is at this time that the temperance movement has gained steam. The temperance movement called for moral people, such as those who abstained from alcohol, to correct the behaviors of those it deemed immoral, such as alcohol drinkers (Gusfield, 1986; 2). This movement called for America to go back to its initial morals and ethics, which it thought had been abandoned in a technologically advancing world.

Alcohol in particular was targeted as an evil that should be outlawed. There was a cry for laws to protect is citizens from this liquid immorality. At first, individual states passed laws banning alcohol. States such as Maine had already implemented their own laws into action 2. Then Congress caved into pressure from the public and passed the 18th amendment, which completely outlawed the manufacture, sale, and transportation of alcohol in the entire United States in December 1917. Thus, the era of Prohibition began.

Outcome of Prohibition
Prohibition was congress’ solution to what the perceived problem of alcohol. The unintended consequences of prohibition were many. Alcohol was so rampant prior to Prohibition, enforcing the new laws to ban alcohol proved difficult. Bootlegging (aka Rum-running), the act of smuggling alcoholic beverages illegally 3, grew in popularity Famous crime bosses such as Al Capone were mighty and powerful during these times through bootlegging organizations.

In February 1933, congress repealed prohibition by passing the 21st amendment to the constitution. The 21st amendment’s sole purpose was to nullify the 18th amendment.

Alcohol in Modern Day America

Since the end of Prohibition, alcohol has been legal. The only laws that have been passed in concern to alcohol have been to restrict its consumption in public. Some states have passed laws as to when alcohol can be sold and if you may have an open container of alcohol in a vehicle, but no more blanket bans.

Institutions effected by the use of Marijuana and Alcohol

There are a vast number of Social institutions when dealing with Social problems and issues. The three that effect the use of Marijuana and Alcohol the most are Family, Media, and Social and Public Policy.

Media is popular means of communication that can reach or influence a wide group of people [#]. As long as there have been ways to communicate and sell various things to many people, there have been advertisements for drugs. Alcohol and marijuana are two of the most represented drugs in the media today.
Alcohol has been advertised for ages, first as a tonic for many ailments external image maltnutrine.jpg and now to the perfect beverage to lighten up any party. It is common to see an advertisement for a brand of alcoholic beverage and to see a public service announcement warning you of the repercussions for violating any laws that come with drinking. For example, an advertisement for a Corona™ ad shows a couple out on the beach relaxing with their beer. The ad is serene and implies that drinking beer is a simple pleasure. In the same commercial break, you may also encounter a public service announcement reminding you that drinking and driving is against the law, and violators will be prosecuted. This seems fairly balanced for a legalized drug. The media for it lets you know it is ok to enjoy your drug, but to be responsible about it.

Marijuana however, although advertised frequently prior to it being made illegal, sees little time in advertisement today. It seems almost taboo to speak of marijuana in any way that may make marijuana be seen in a positive light. Most adverts dealing with the subject of smoking or consuming marijuana, are public service announcements that demonize its use. Above the Influence is a campaign that exclusively tries to shy youths away from using marijuana 12.

It has been only recently that there have been ads portraying marijuana as something more than an dangerous substance.

This advertisement was made in an effort to change public opinion on marijuana. It calls for the legalization and regulation of marijuana for medical and recreational use. It was made my the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. NORML has been campaigning for years to reform laws concerning marijuana. However, it has been only recently, now that marijuana is a hot topic subject in politics, that these ads have been aired.

===Social and Public Policy===

Social and public policy pertains all aspects of how society uses laws and consequences in an attempt to keep thexternal image DontDrink&Drive.gife population in order. The governing body of the society sets rules and regulations in place in order to protect the population from harming itself by becoming out of order. If an individual from the population decides to disrupt the order and disobey the rules and regulations they are usually punished. In American society, Marijuana and Alcohol have many rules around them that limit or completely deny the use in order to maintain order. Both substances, are known to cause physical and mental impairment which can effect how the individual functions while doing daily tasks. Alcohol for example, while legal in moderation, has limits on what the individual can do after a certain amount of consumption. To be legally considered intoxicated in all states the individual must have a blood alcohol content, or BAC, of .08 percent per deciliter of blood. At this point the individuals physical and mental condition are impaired. Laws passed for traffic safety dictate that driving and operating of machinery, and in some cases being present in public situations, external image marijuana-arrest.jpgare prohibited. Violations of the laws set in place by the government result in fines and possible imprisonment as well as other consequences.
Similar, but more restrictive rules are set in order for the use of Marijuana. Due to the fact that Marijuana is considered an illegal substance the possession and use is prohibited and would result in imprisonment and fines. Due to these restrictions on the substances individuals who use either tend to develop a certain animosity towards the governing body. In some cases, especially with younger groups in society, the laws inspire acts of rebellion by purposely disobeying the rules rather than the desired effect of limiting and discontinuing the use. Many groups in the society believe in legalizing certain aspects of both in order to reduce the desire to 'disobey the man'.

Family and communities

===Family and communities===
Many of the social issues which are spoken about today often effect many different institutions; drugs are one of them. Institutions relate to the causes and consequences of the problem because they help society determine how big of a social problem is in society. One of the biggest institutions that is affect by drug abuse is the family especially in the case of alcohol. Families can determine how big of a social problem the drug actually is for example: families that have someone who is an alcoholic have to deal with a great deal of metal and physical abuse sometimes 15 which often result in serious problems where as families who have to deal with individuals who smoke marijuana deal with a change in the person behavior. Nonetheless, it is also up to the government to be able to clearly find and correct any social problems that may threaten any institution. Therefore, it is important to understand how the family, as an institution, is effected to determine which drugs are more of a social problem.
According to the National Clearinghouse for Alcohol “alcoholism is responsible for more family problems then any other single cause” despite this information alcohol is still legal and is widely looked at as a social recreation. Alcoholism can even be seen in young adults under and below the drink age. In 2001 the highest percentage of binge drinking was conducted by adults from the ages of 18-25. This information is even more troubling then the fact that during the same year 17.3 percent of people drinking alcohol were youth between the ages of 12 to 17. 17 Do to these facts it shows that alcohol dramatically affects adults as well as children. Nonetheless, this does not change the fact the alcohol is still not seen as a major social threat.
Marijuana, however, is a different story. Many people see marijuana as a huge social threat and feel that it should not be legal. People who abuse marijuana often are not effecting the family as much as other drugs. Marijuana users are most of the time are greatly isolated from the rest of the family 17 and although this may seem harmful this is not as dramatic to the problem that are caused by other drug users.

Consequences of Using Marijuana and Alcohol

There are many consequences in using alcohol or marijuana. There are laws and social rules that help regulate the use of each and any violation of those laws or social rules come with their own repercussions. There are laws for alcohol that state you may not drive any vehicles or heavy machinery while intoxicated. A violation of that rule will not only put you at fault with the law, but also attach you with the negative social stigma that comes with it. Marijuana is still very illegal in most states. There are currently only 13 states that allow you to use it for medicinal use [13]. There is however, a general disgrace associated with using marijuana for recreational uses.

Each drug comes with its own health issues as well. Alcohol has been known to impair judgment, slow one’s reaction time, and be fatal if consumed in large quantities. Despite that having moderate amounts of wine (about a glass a day can improve your health 13, alcoholic beverages in general are known to be overall detrimental to one’s health.
Marijuana is a bit more complicated. While like tobacco, marijuana is not ideal for your lungs; it also has other effects on your health. Marijuana abuse can lead to addiction and other complications. Marijuana can impair you coordination, cause you to hallucinate, and speed up your heart rate. There are also many medicinal uses for marijuana. It can be used as a pain reliever and marijuana helps control nausea. Medical marijuana has many uses and has been endorsed by many organizations 14.

Possible solutions

Dealing with the effects that both substances have on society is a difficult task. With many rules and regulations restricting and controlling the use of either drug it is clear that prohibiting the drug altogether does not stop the usage. In order to reduce the amount of the substances that are used you must decrease the appeal that the substances have. In fact, in the case of alcohol, in 1919 when the 18th amendment was passed and alcohol prohibition was put into place the consumption did not stop and it cultured more crime. After Prohibition was lifted crime levels lowered as the appeal of drinking decreased. Many social groups argue that legalizing Marijuana would decrease the appeal and lower the amount of crimes associated with its use. Restrictions would still have to be set in place in order to prevent people from operating vehicles and machinery to limit the opportunity for accidents due to impairment.

As for alcohol related crimes, a commonly suggested solution is to lower the drinking age limit to 18 years. In most European countries the drinking age is set at 18 years or lower. This potentially takes the appeal of 'rebelling' by drinking underage because it would be available for them to drink legally in a shorter amount of time.

While neither of the solutions provides definite results, both offer ways to remove the appeal of the substances. The responsibility of removing the appeal also lies within the Media and the Families. For the appeal to be removed the drugs must be cast in a more acceptable light. Things that are legal and commonly accepted are less likely to be used in rebellion and thereby lose their appeal to many youthful social groups.

One soulutions could be to legalize marijuana and increase regulation alcohol. As mention before marijuana has not always been illigel. During the course of the time in which it was legal there were not many if any crimes that were related to the misuse of marijuana. By legalizing weed that will allow the government to place the need restrictions on the substance. By increasing regulation on alcohol this allows the government to closely examine who is using alcohol. If the US plans to demonize on and not the other than its only fair to make both legal.

  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rum-running
  2. http://www.mainehistory.info/history.html
  3. Miller, J (2004). Bad Trip: How the War on Drugs is Destroying America. Nashville, Tenn: WND Books.
  4. Payan, T (2006). The Three U.S.-Mexico Border Wars: Drugs, Immigration, Homeland Security. Westport, Conneticut: Praeger Security International.
  5. wikipedia.org/wiki/Legal_history_of_cannabis_in_the_United_States
  6. http://www.ajph.org/cgi/content/full/96/2/233
  7. http://www2.potsdam.edu/hansondj/funfacts/AlcoholTrivia.html
  8. http://www.narconon.ca/Marijuana.htm
  9. http://www.druglibrary.org/schaffer/hemp/history/mustomj1.html
  10. http://www.druglibrary.org/schaffer/hemp/taxact/mjtaxact.htm
  11. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marihuana_Tax_Act_of_1937
  12. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Above_the_influence
  13. http://medicalmarijuana.procon.org/viewresource.asp?resourceID=000881
  14. http://www.drugwarfacts.org/cms/node/54
  15. allspice.com/journal/alcoholism
  16. ncadistore.samhsa.gov/catalog/facts
  17. www.nebraskaprevlink.ne.gov/getthefacts/facts/marijuana.html
  18. Gusfield, Joseph. R. (1986). Symbolic Crusade: Status Politics and the Temperance
Movement. United States; Library of Congress-in-Publication Data.
13. http://bloodalcoholcalculator.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=2&Itemid=2