Critical thinking question: why is alcohol legal in the United States while pot is illegal? Alchohol is stronger and more destructive than marijuana, yet the government doesn’t seem to recognize this. The estimated annual tax revenue on the sales of marijuna is $10-14 billion dollars, and the government needs the money. Who is the government to tell rational thinking adults what they can and can’t do in the privacy of their own homes? Independent thinkers started this country and we’re the only people strong enough to take it back. We need to take a hard look at governments expanding role in our daily lives and decide whether we need these people telling us how to live our lives. I’ll look forward to hearing your comments.    Steve Siebold    (9:00)

Steve Siebold
Author and Professional Speaker since 1997. Past Chairman of the National Speakers Association's Million Dollar Speakers Group. Author of 11 books with 1.4 million copies in print.

30 thoughts on “The case for legalizing marijuana”

  1. To Ken,

    Of course laws account for intent. They are determinative of the punishment for the guilty. If I accidentally break your arm playing softball no lawsuit. If I intentionally break it….

    I used to smoke pot, and I can just offer this personal observation. I never, never smoked pot without the express intention of getting high.

    I suspect this is the case with pretty much all pot smokers. I could be wrong on that, but I don’t think people would pay the money for pot that they do to feel a gentle sensation of calmness or peace. They smoke it to get high.

    Alcohol is different. Suppose I mow the yard. I might reward myself with a Beer while I sit down and watch the game. I might even have 2. But I don’t sit down with the intention of getting drunk. Again this is my experience, but I think it is representative of the vast majority of folks.

    Which is why I made the distinction between pot and alcohol. One naturally is more disruptive in the real world than the other…

  2. To Bert,

    That is a great point I will have to agree on that. On the other hand its hard to base an argument based on a persons “intent” of smoking or drinking. Your point its primarily true, although isn’t it just as much someones decision to take one puff than it is to take one drink? Its all dependent on how often they use it also. Its also possible thats someones casual “buzz” is more mind altering than someone’s “high” because the person who drank is used to drinking all the time and the amount of alcohol to intoxicate other people doesnt even phase him. Even if most people smoke to get high as possible, there are people who smoke casually in the same manner someone who drinks does.

  3. To Ken,

    When people drink alcohol, they don’t always drink it to the point of being drunk. The whole reason for smoking marijuana is to ‘get high’. The more fried the better.

    That’s not exactly what we ought to be encouraging now is it?

  4. Great points everyone. This is topic that no matter what time were in there will be enough evidence to legalize in addition to not legalize marijuana that will keep a seperation between the both.
    Although there are consequences to legalizing them, I am under the strong beleif that if someone is going to make a bad and life threatening decision they will do it whether or not it is legal or not (even though we are giving more freedom if its legal). There are enough ways for someone to easily purchase and use marijuana in today’s society that legalizing it wouldnt make it more accessable, if anything it would just make the process faster if that.
    Two points I would like to make. One being that in Amsterdam last time I checked Marijuana is still ILLEGAL. Whats different in Amsterdam is that funding for law enforcement on illegal substances, primarily marijuana, is so low (purposely) that enforcement on that issue is virtually non-existent.
    Secondly, the autobahn has no speed limit yet there are less accidents on that roadway then on any other. Yes you could make the argument that when there is an accident its more futile than any other freeway, but if you could reduce the amount of TOTAL accidents your doing more good than harm. Although legalizing it would definitely have adverse effects, the overall safety in highly regulating it could provide more good than harm as well.
    People have the idea that if we legalize marijuana then at every street corner, restuarant, movie theater and school there will be potheads lighting some doobies, but thats not the case with alcohol. Yes there are exeptions but they regulate alcohol so you cant drink till a certain age, you cant drink and drive and regulations on public drinking. I think if we regulate it the same way or more as alcohol and tax it heavily we’re doing our country justice in the long term.

  5. Steve,

    The only issue worth debating is whether we should legalize marijuana use and at same time financially benefit as a society from it?

    Let us agree that legalization will lead to more widespread use/abuse.

  6. Bert,

    It’s easy to criticize the government and suggest we “fix” it. But what does that mean? As a generalization it means nothing. Making specific changes one by one is the only way to move beyond complaining to actually getting something done. If you have a marriage problem, you don’t say “just fix it”. If you have a financial problem, you don’t say; “just solve the problem”. In any major change there are specific steps you take, one by one, consciously, until you eventually solve the entire problem. In your last comment you say “If people’s desire to escape is the problem, educate them as to the benefits of sobriety and the healthy alternatives which allow escape and diversion.” Bert, lets not be naive. If solving drug and alcohol abuse was that easy do you really think it would still be a major problem for millions? Education is a wonderful thing, and people are still going to drink,do drugs, have sex outside marriage, and every other imaginable activity educators believe they can stop. People will always find a way to get what they want, whether it’s legal or not. History proves this again and again. I’m not condoning any of these behaviors, I’m simply suggesting people have the right to do what they want in the privacy of their own homes as long as they’re not infringing on the rights of others. And since America is in serious debt, why not legalize and tax all these activities and collect the billions of dollars currently being paid to the drug cartels. The savings in enforcing these outdated laws would also be in the billions every year. Your quoting Antoine de Saint-Exupery is perfect; a frenchman who’s greatest claim to fame was writing a fairy tale. This is 2010, Bert, and the world is a far more complex place than it was 60 years ago when de Saint-Exupery was walking around. Your inferences regarding my state of mind when writing this post are amusing, but irrelevant. My position on this has nothing to do with any personal interest in mind altering substances. This is about our rights and personal freedoms being slowly taken away by a government that treats us like adolescents. A government that can’t even balance it’s own budget. It’s time to grow up, get tough, and start using critical thinking in place of emotion. That’s my stance. I’ll look forward to hearing your reply.
    As always, I appreciate your comments, whether we agree or disagree. That’s what critical thinking is all about.

  7. If we had laws like the laws in Singapore we’d have little drug use or crime or the other anti social and criminal issues that illegal drugs bring about.

    Question: has any country with “liberal” limited and relaxed drug laws – call them libertarian drug laws – the same high level absence of anti social and criminal issues that accompany the repressive drug laws of Singapore?

    Flying into Malaysia and riding the metro in Singapore, I remember reading the signs posted in bright red saying in effect severe punishment or death for carring drugs. I knew I’d never take one joint into these countries.

    We’ve wasted billions of dollars and solved nothing. So do we open the gates and allow all drugs or just pot? Let the drugs flow – with a combination of perscription and illegal now made recreational drugs maybe that will dramatically improve our culture in every way – 300 million stoned citizens floating drifting flowing shifting life away.

    Critical thinking thoughts?


  8. Bert,

    You hit the nail on the head! Really the question of legalizing Marijuana is not even a responsible question, once you understand the bigger picture.


  9. Steve,

    Based on the fact that you misspelled marijuana, are we to guess as to your condition when you wrote this blog post? 🙂

    Perhaps we will just assume that you are so unfamiliar with it that even its spelling is not understood by you.

    The revenue problems our country has are a result not of neglecting to tap the cash cow of drug taxation, but of rampant delusions about the role of government. This delusional belief leads to things like debt and deficit.

    Why not focus attention on dispelling that flawed thinking model instead of picking on a subject which has little correlation to the problem we face.

    One poster nailed it in saying that all these substances we take are irrelevant to the greater issue, which is that people want a diversion from reality.

    If government is the problem, fix government. It is just a tool and can be used wisely or unwisely.

    If people’s desire to escape is the problem, educate them as to the benefits of sobriety and the healthy alternatives which allow escape and diversion.

    “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”
    – Antoine de Saint-Exupery

  10. Everyone picks and chooses what he and she wants the government to control and regulate and how for personal reasons and they sometimes change over time. Most of our conclusions are based on fleeting and long held impressions with biased incomplete information but what we have at the time.

    Do something or do nothing; change something or change nothing; continue to study the problem or begin to implement immediately, those are some of the questions mental toughness and world class thinking would address in a compartmentalized, objective discussion.



  11. Many of you are forgetting that there is virtually no one in our country who wants to smoke pot, but can’t because it is illegal. Even people in prison can get pot, heroin, cocaine and alcohol. If we can’t even keep these drugs out of supermax prisons, how do we ever realistically expect to keep it out of our country. The laws in place only serve the purpose of making the people who write and maintain them appear to be “doing something”. It costs a TON of money to run all of these programs and we get nothing in return, not even something so trite as results.

    What if we lived in a world where all the people who wanted these things and get them now, could still get them, but they paid us for the privilege. On top of that, we would have one less really big bill (the “war” on drugs). Just think of the starving people we could feed with all of that money, or the realistic, well funded treatment programs we could maintain with all of the “war on drugs” money. Think of the money saved by not putting simple pot offenders in prison, imagine the taxes they could generate if they were out of prison and working at something.

    People get addicted to things for a number of reasons. I can’t begin to judge them for this, but the common denominator is always that getting what they want is NEVER the problem.

    Making the things illegal never seems to solve the underlying problem. People will sniff glue or markers, huff spray paint or hair spray, whatever they have to in order to get what they want, and we can’t just start criminalizing every thing that could be used to get high.

    I was on an Indian Reservation once, they can tightly control what goes in and out, of course they don’t sell alcohol on Sunday because Jesus only likes them to sell boat-loads of cheap rotgut booze the other 6 days. Anyway, the drugstore is open on Sunday. Inside the drugstore, on Sundays, they move the regular displays out of the way, and make room for an entire pallet of Aqua Net hairspray. It all sold by the end of the day. Everyone was huffing it at home, they would buy 6 or 7 cans at a time, and be back in a few hours to buy more.

    This is what we are up against, it is a worthless endeavor to fight, and the rewards in going the other way are immeasurably better.

  12. Steve,

    The government’s control of peoples’ behavior and what people can or cannot have access to is never a solution. But I don’t believe the problem is the alchohol, marijuana or cocaine either.

    A mid-sized town in a Scandanavian country has an intersection where 7 or 8 roads converge. There were numerous accidents between cars, bicycles and pedestrians every month and at least one fatality every year. The government kept adding directional signs, warning signs, blinkers, and traffic lights but none of these controls reduced the accident rate and in fact it slowly increased until… the government went the other way and removed all controls and signage from the intersection.

    Suddenly, drivers, cyclists and pedestrians were faced with the immediate dangers (and consequences) of moving through an uncontrolled intersection. Since no one really wanted to smash their car or kill a pedestrian everyone slowed down and started to look at each other, make eye contact and cooperate to get through unscathed. As a result the accident rate was reduced by 75% and fatalities were eliminated.

    But the point isn’t the removal of government regulation… the point is the immediacy of negative consequences. The people could see that if they weren’t careful they might be involved in a horrible situation they helped create, but absolutely did want to be in.

    But unfortunately the negative consequences of long term alchohol use, drug use, and even obesity are not as immediate as the above example. People ‘see’ others developing troubles but don’t really ‘see’ anything happening to them. This kind of delusional thinking is what I call the, “no me mon” mentality and USE frequently becomes ABUSE.

    I agree that legalizing pot and cocaine will raise money we desperately need but it will also exchange one type of ‘downside’ for another. Legalization won’t “make it safe” (unless you were talking about being arrested) won’t reduce what we spend on law enforcement because those resources will just be rolled over to enforce the new laws and regulations, and won’t stop smuggling because if the people can get it cheaper on the black market they will.

    Be Well,


  13. There is an absolute difference between marijuana and alcohol: marijuana is strongly mind altering while alcohol is far less effecting the psyche. Alcohol is more poisionous, yes, but it effects the mind much slower. Alcoholics need many years of heavy drinking to develop the symptoms which drug users can exhibit in an early stage.

  14. Mental toughness and non delusional thinking – world class thinking, Steve – the things you teach and preach and write on, should be what any discussion of this topic involves.

    Discerning facts from opinions, from personal truths, from random impressions, from unsubstianted conclusions, from theory AND putting each in the proper compartment – also compartmentalized thinking as you write about it – to be truly world class thinking has to be the goal of your paradigm for this kind of discussion.

    So to be very precise about that we’d have to take each post here beginnign with yours and analize each to do what I suggest.

    THAT would be a world class exercise, Steve.


  15. May 13, 2009, Gil Kerlikowske, the current Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, signaled that the Obama administration would not use the term “War on Drugs,” as he claims it is counter-productive and is contrary to the policy favoring treatment over incarceration in trying to reduce recreational drug use.

    This topic goes much deeper than is alcohol stonger than pot, more addicting, or more dangerous, or any other drug for that matter.

    The so called “War on Drugs” is a tactic that the U.S. government has been using for years to gain military presence in countries where they have no business. Always an ulterior motive with the U.S. government? I don’t know the answer to that, but it doesn’t look like it will be legalized any time soon, even with Obama’s softer, gentler take on treatment for substance abuse over jail time.

    P.S. The nation’s pot laws have historically put more people in jail than the laws on rape and murder combined. That to me is sickening, and a sad commentary on our judicial system which is a whole other topic in and of itself.



  16. I’ve debated this with myself for 40 years and haven’t yet made up my mind. I’d decriminalize users caught with a lid or two on them. What about larger amounts? What about medical use? I’m not sure. I’ve known personally many pot users who would find a way to get medical documentation to buy pot.

    Libertarians differ on this and other drugs but the thrust is legalizing all or most of them. There’s government taxes from legal farming, distributioin and sales to consider. There’s reducing costs to try and control a situation that can’t be controlled. There’s other considerations.

    In Singapore you get twenty to life or executed depending on the drug crime and because it’s stiff and absolute consequences people don’t mess with it much AND there’s few social/criminal problems.

    Legalize every vice, let the government expand to control it and derive money from it – like gambling – casinos and the lottery – and take it out of the hands of a failing law and order system, that is the question many contemplate.

    Everyone has an opinion a quick knee jerk impression. I could do that too but after 40 years of thinking about this I’m still not sure.

    Being mentally tough doesn’t mean clear cut absolut conclusions – it means analysis, on going thought, action, and not giving in to a trend unless you conclude the trend is a trend of world class thinking.

    This question/solution you post, Steve, is addressed from all mind sets from poverty to world class each with their conclusions and considerations like mine as you know.

    To control or not to control; what to control or what not to control; how to control or not to control the use of pot, those are some of the questions.


    Best to all.


  17. Why don’t we simply challenge the use of alcohol and marijuana? Why are we as nations not applying mental toughness and discipline towards the use of these substances? Why are we not being critical about all of this? Why are we not looking at making a better world based on continual improvement of skills and healthful practices without making it ideologically-driven?

  18. Whether it’s alcohol or marijuana, somebody’s running from something internal. They’re just cover ups for turmoil inside. Mental health is what really needs to be addresses or shall I say mental toughness.

  19. Anyone stupid enough to alter the way their mind works by taking drugs of any kind should be closely monitored, especially if a stoned person is allowed access to a motor vehical or a hand gun. mariguana is a mind altering drug and does affect the way a person normally acts and reacts. We put traffic lights at dangerous road sections to stop people killing other people as well as themselves in motor cars. many of the accident which uccur are due to peopl who are either drunk or stoned. many young children who would be tempted to use marijuana if legalised would think nothing about stepping up to Heroin and crack, speed and cocain. most violent crimes whether it is criminal robbery or home abuse is created with the aid of either drink or drugs. There is no compromise with marijuana, no way to prove that a person is in his right mind when he has had a couple of joints. forget about the laws, just use your common sense. Do you want to spend your days stoned in a stupored haze created by being stoned or do you want to save your brain cells and your own life logevity by leaving the drugs to the crazies.

  20. Ben Franklin said, “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

    Let me make it clear that I am very anti-drugs, but I believe that the government has no rights to tell anyone what they can or can’t do in their household. Unless there is harm passed on to others.

    As for the point made about letting religious leaders tell you how to live, I have “chosen” which religious leaders I will listen to. But it is my decision on how I live my life. Mentorship and accountability does not take away independent thinking.

  21. I agree with you that marijuana should be legalized. In my opinion one reason it has not already been legalized is the type of plant that it is. My point being that you can not grow a tobacco plant in your house or yard that you can make into cigarettes. With marijuana you can. Another nickname for marijuana is “weed” and it has the characteristics of just that. I believe that the government does not allow it because they know they can not control the private market, as with tobacco. They make more money over arresting people for it, and more jobs are created and tax dollars spent to keep us from this evil plant that grows naturally on our planet. Also medical companies do not profit from a medicinal plant that can treat may ailments and can be grown simply, they want you to be addicted to their “drugs” and continue to go to their drug dealers aka-doctors. Great one Steve, keep it up!

  22. Steve,

    So obviously we know, that most systems, example; Religious, government, school, law, are put in place to protect us. Now I know that I make my own decisions, and am responsible for my beliefs, but the purpose of these systems, are to teach the law before we understand the belief. Children, and most adults live there life governed by laws. As a member of society, I feel responsible as a global citizen. We need to educate, and get children and adults, to challenge all of these harmful, life destroying beliefs in society. Alcohol does in no way enhance our life. Marijuana does nothing of value (with the exception of chronic pain relief) to enhance the lives of anyone. Prostitution, wearing a gun to work, sex with children… If you are to challenge the reason why we govern anything, why not live in a society where we have no rules or laws. As a member of society, every action you take has an impact on society as a whole. If you get stoned and drive, then that is affecting many people in ways unimaginable. The cost of insurance, health care, lost productivity, domestic abuse, rehab, crime… and the list goes on. Now for people like us who try and operate under objective reality, we know the reason and benefits for not partaking in activities which hurt ourselves and society, but society also needs a system which has laws, because everyone does not have the understanding of why one should not do that. For example, I was protected from the harmful effects of drugs as a teenager, because of the belief system that was programmed in my head, while other friends were protected, because their religion had forbade drugs and alcohol. Yes, they need to question that belief later on with objective reality, separating truth from fact, but none the less, the “law” served its job. Please read this a couple times so you truly understand what I am saying. Please send me your feedback.

  23. I believe you are correct in questioning the government-expanding role in our private lives. I do agree that alcohol is more destructive. Do you think, however alcohol is more destructive due to the fact that it is legal? If it were illegal most people would not be able to get their hands on it. That would mean less divorce, child abuse, sickness and death. So, if marijuana were legalized then perhaps it would be a race of what drug could cause the most harm to Americans, marijuana or alcohol.

    For me personally I do not believe the $10-$14 billion dollars the government would make in taxes would be worth sacrificing even one additional life or having one child abused. On the other hand, if our society were all rational thinking adults they would not abuse drugs, which leads them to their destructive behavior.

  24. I’m with you Steve! We spend so much money in the “fight against drugs” when we should legalize it and tax it. People are going to use it anyway. We could use the money spent on fighting against drugs for other purposes. I also agree that we don’t need the government to tell us how to live our lives. But then we also need to hold ourselves accountable for what we do with our lives and not blame anyone else for how our lives turn out. “Oh, I blame the tobacco company for my lung cancer”. Did the tobacco company stick the first cigarette in your mouth and light it? No. You did it. Take responsibility for the good, and the bad, in your life. Because you really did create it all…but that’s another can of worms for another time.

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