Night Owl Mk. II

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Boldfaced statements are parts of the original essay (or a subsequent reply) to which the respondent has directed his comments.

Italicized/emphasized comments prefaced by (R) are those of the respondent and are presented unedited.

My replies appear under the respondent's comments in blue text and are prefaced by my initials (MB).

(R) Some comments in response to a very thought-provoking site...
(MB) Welcome aboard and thanks for the positive comment! Let's see what you've got to say...

(R) First off, my personal standpoint - I drink only occasionally ("socially" seems to be the accepted term..) and have, to my knowledge, only been drunk once (altho' I did also get a hangover from drinking some *really* poor red wine once - cheap wine is something I have since avoided) and tried smoking once - what a turn-off! To that extent I endorse your viewpoint that there are many other activities in life that will bring far more enjoyment than these... However, I have not yet had an opportunity to try any drugs yet... more on that later.
(MB) A good rule of thumb for choosing which cheap wines to avoid like the plague is to look at the price tag and compare the cost per gallon with that of gasoline. If you must drink something, choose the one that costs more. The more expensive of the two will taste slightly better and the effects on your health will be approximately the same.

(R) I think that your argument against "banning" alcohol simply because "its been around a long time" is a bit thin.
(MB) My point was that alcohol is too deeply ingrained into our culture because it has become such a standard part of our rituals, ceremonies, and activities. Now, if I had my "druthers", I'd say that we'd be better served to improve or modify our customs, but I can just imagine all the lost souls who wouldn't know what to do with themselves on New Year's Eve without alcohol. It would seem that our society has already determined that the benefits of our customs outweigh the potential hazards of alcohol.
    Also, it can be successfully argued that using alcohol in moderation produces little or no adverse effects upon the user. This cannot be said for Drug use.

(R) Certainly its possible to introduce laws that promote a "culture" of reduced drinking (and ditto for smoking). In my country (South Africa) the clamp-down on advertising such products, limiting their usage to private or licensed places, higher penalties and fines for abuse have all contributed to improving what was once a very poor situation...
(MB) The US, as well, has been doing much the same things for a couple of decades now. The alcohol manufacturers have recently begun to include admonitions to "Please drink responsibly" in their ads. Of course, this may be more of a response to public awareness than anything else. The concept of having a "designated driver" accompany friends who will be drinking is now widespread and popular. As I am a non-drinker myself, I do this often and many establishments provide free non-alcoholic beverages or other services to the designated driver in a group of customers.
    Smoking, of course, is under a major assault right now -- both by the federal government and from the state and individual levels. I doubt that this huge industry will collapse any time soon, but it is running very, very scared at the moment. Personally, I'm loving every new salvo fired at Big Tobacco.

(R) ...(in case you weren't aware, white South Africans have one the highest rates of heart disease/failure in the world - despite being a sports-mad nation - with high contributions from smoking and drinking).
(MB) I don't suppose that one does himself much overall good by celebrating a well-played game by getting drunk or using other substances. We have too many examples in American professional sports of top athletes who have all but ruined their careers through alcoholism and/or substance abuse. It sounds as if it's much the same story in South Africa, as well.

(R) The converse might also be true. At the moment there are people lobbying for the unbanning of marihuana.
(MB) There's a big grass-roots effort (no pun intended) going on to decriminalize it in the US, too. It's fun to listen to the arguments from the pro-pot lobby. They all boil down to whining about not being allowed to have their fun. Nobody has, as of yet, come up with a plausible reason for why smoking marijuana should be decriminalized for "recreational" use.

(R) "Hemp" as such is grown in quite large amounts in many parts of the country and at the moment is simply burnt where found.
(MB) Hemp grows wild in many parts of the US. While it can be used for making rope, the rope is full of splinters and is, therefore, less suitable for most uses than ropes made of other natural or synthetic fibers. In addition, wild hemp has very little THC content and will give the smoker a nasty headache long before it will get him high.

(R) Some have argued that the use of hemp for practical (eg. rope-making) and medicinal purposes means that it should unbanned in order to help grown the economy.
(MB) It's only through extensive cross-breeding to increase THC content that hemp plants produce Drug quality marijuana. But, such cross-breeding efforts completely invalidate the argument that the hemp "could be used for rope". That is clearly not the goal being pursued.
    The "medicinal use" argument may be valid in a small number of specialized cases. This, however, does not translate to a supporting argument in favor of wider use by the general public for recreational purposes.

(R) Others say the use of marijuana has long been part of local custom (along with the use of alcohol) and as such deserves a valid place in our culture.
(MB) It's only been within the past few decades that Drug quality marijuana has been produced from cross-breeding of hemp. While hemp has been around for much longer than that, its use for producing a potent drug is still fairly recent. The leaves have been smoked for centuries (as have the leaves of a great many plants), but the custom has never been as widespread or as pervasive within society as has been the use of alcohol.

(R) Again, it should be possible to legislate the extent and circumstance under which this takes place in order to limit its use.
(MB) Agreed. I think that the current US laws governing marijuana possession and use are adequate. I am not in favor of decriminalization.

(R) For younger people, one the "thrills" in life is engaging in activities "frowned on" by society or their parents... Hence the desire to try alcohol and tobacco at an early age. Most will outgrow this quite soon as the reward/risk ratio becomes apparent.
(MB) It depends on the crowd you hang around with. Peer pressure and the desire for acceptance can overwhelm any rational understanding of risks and rewards. The young person may well fall into a pattern of substance use/abuse while trying to "fit in" and may have difficulty escaping it in later life. How many smokers/drinkers do you know who complain about "needing to quit"? How many of them actually *do* quit? It's not easy. It would be better never to have started.

(R) Taking into account your own experience with marijuana, one could argue that most people, given the opportunity to try this, will not want a second experience. Trying to remove it from their reach simply increases the "curiosity" factor....To that extent I must admit that I would like to have "one try" and more than the likely that will be enough...
(MB) I'd say that most people's first experiences are bad. Yet, they continue on because they think they'll "grow into it" or they feel they must keep on in order to hang with their friends. If one first experiments with something out of personal curiosity, they probably won't come back for more. If some other reason compels them to try it, that same reason will likely bring them back again.

(R) More random thoughts as they occur!
(MB) Keep 'em coming! You've presented your points quite well.

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