A recent NewsOK.com story noted that Oklahoma ranked twelfth per capita among states in the number of people who died from alcohol poisoning over a two year period.
It was a typical “reportitis” story, which means it summarized yet another negative report about the state, an occurrence all too familiar to people who live here and want to improve the quality of life in Oklahoma. In all, 37 people died directly from alcohol poisoning here from 2010 to 2012, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The number, of course, doesn’t account for other types of deaths caused by alcohol, such as cirrhosis of the liver or in car accidents when drinking impairs a driver. It also doesn’t include drug-alcohol combination overdose deaths when drinking contributes to bad decisions about ingesting pain pills. Oklahoma has as much of an over-drinking problem as it does a prescription drug overdose problem.
All these factors about the relationship between drinking and needless deaths are well known. Yet liquor stores do business as usual. I’m writing this on a Friday. Most liquor stores will be busy or busier until the state-mandated closing time of 9 p.m. today. Most people, of course, do drink responsibly, and if drinking helps to relax people during a weekend after a week at work or enhances their lives, then so be it. Wine, after all, has been around for thousands of years. Drinking alcohol is pretty much intrinsic to life and the human experience.
What does bear pointing out, though, against this information is that there has not been one recorded death from marijuana “poisoning” in history nor does cannabis lead to cirrhosis. In fact, marijuana has medicinal value as well, according to droves of people and some medical experts.
That information doesn’t seem to faze Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, pictured right, who recently filed a taxpayer-funded lawsuit against some aspects of Colorado’s new marijuana legalization law. Pruitt wants to shut down that state’s marijuana cultivation and distribution system because he claims some of the pot is making its way into neighboring states, including Oklahoma. In essence, he wants the federal government to step in and shut down what Colorado voters approved in 2012.
I criticized Pruitt’s lawsuit decision here because he’s not fully proven that Colorado marijuana is flooding into Oklahoma, where it remains illegal, or that it presents any sort of problem if it is. I also criticized the decision because it contradicts Pruitt’s obsession with states’ rights when it comes to the Affordable Care Act, which he opposes with a legal vengeance.
So let’s add this further criticism about Pruitt’s decision: It’s widely established in the health care and scientific community and to those people who just believe in common sense that marijuana is less harmful physically to people than alcohol. (I’m not saying pot is completely harmless.) One might argue that pot is a gateway drug or that it’s often combined with alcohol in abusive ways, but it’s not as bad for you-in the strictest bodily sense-as drinking alcohol.
This is yet another reason why Pruitt’s decision is baffling.
Another interesting point to stress in this argument is that even if it’s true that Colorado-cultivated marijuana is making its way into Oklahoma for use or sale then at least the pot is NOT coming from a violent drug cartel. It removes a major criminal component from the use or sale of pot here. Wouldn’t it be better for Oklahoma, in general, that its pot comes from a legal, regulated market than from a bunch of armed criminals who also sell harder drugs like crystal methamphetamine and heroin?
Better yet, why not just at least decriminalized marijuana here and take care of the matter entirely? Right now, 27 states and the District of Columbia have legalized or decriminalized marijuana to some extent. Alaska and Oregon recently joined Colorado and the state of Washington in full legalization of cannabis.
Obviously, there is a growing trend in this country to legalize marijuana, which makes Pruitt’s lawsuit seem even more pointless and misguided. Alcohol poisoning and alcohol-related deaths here are a far more important issue than meddling in the marijuana law of another state.