Let’s talk: Why do we approach marijuana so differently to alcohol?

Marijuana and alcohol arguably have similar affects, and yet we treat one substance wildly different from the other. So let’s
Let's Talk

Marijuana and alcohol arguably have similar affects, and yet we treat one substance wildly different from the other. So let’s talk, does something need to change in our approach?

Excessive alcohol consumption can have severe health impacts, on both a mental and physical level. Alcohol has been linked to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, liver conditions, obesity and even certain cancers.

From a mental health perspective, excessive alcohol can lead to depression, anxiety and self-harm in extreme cases. Australians have seen a rising tide of alcohol-related violence throughout pubs and clubs, with one coward puncher even targeting a 60-year-old man last year.

Despite these health concerns, Australians seem to have a ‘booze culture’. The average household spends over $32 per week on alcohol. Over 40% of Aussies will drink on a weekly basis, with beer, wine and spirits being most popular.

When it comes to marijuana though, our national response is markedly different. ‘Weed’ can also damage a person’s physical and mental health over time, and for these reasons the substance is illegal for recreational purposes. However, even Australians who require marijuana for medicinal purposes will face countless roadblocks.

As a country, we’ve seen desperate parents launch petitions to access medicinal marijuana for their children. “Decriminalise the use of medicinal cannabis for people with terminal cancer like my son”, begged mother Lucy Haslam via Change.org.

“Our 24-year-old son has a terminal cancer diagnosis. He is receiving great benefit from using medical cannabis to manage his nausea, vomiting and poor appetite. He is also using cannabis oil in a bid to halt the progression of his disease”, Lucy explained.

Late last year, the Federal Government announced it would consider legalising medical marijuana crops, but stopped short of allowing patient use. At the time, politicians like Richard Di Natale from the Greens expressed their frustration at this slow progress.

“We’re seeing legislation that would license growers, but really ignores the most important part of the equation… That is making sure that people who need this drug can get access to it”, Di Natale told the ABC.

Doctors in New South Wales have already endorsed the use of medicinal marijuana, for “people in specific circumstances, and under the supervision of medical practitioners”. In a country where alcohol abuse runs rampant, it seems bizarre that a plant which could help people is still demonised.

As one person commented via Facebook, “Keeping alcohol legal and marijuana illegal just sends mixed messages. Taken with the help of a doctor, medicinal marijuana could actually help people. We see so much damage come from alcohol, but booze is still socially accepted. These contradictions don’t make sense, do they?”

Should Australia change its approach to these two substances? Does our stance on alcohol need to be tougher, to curb alcohol-related violence? Or should marijuana be legalised, for medicinal use?

  1. Thank god I live in Victoria where it has already been legalised for medicinal purpose. The Government have done a great job in convincing people just how bad it is for you, and that alcohol is acceptable. Have you ever asked yourself why that is? It’s called TAX and make no mistake that is all any GOVERNMENT is interested in. And by the way I grew up in a house with an alcoholic father and it was bloody hard to come home and find your mother had been abused by him.

  2. Malcolm Kyle  

    The following text is taken directly from the US government’s National Cancer Institute website: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/cam/cannabis/healthprofessional/page4


    One study in mice and rats suggested that cannabinoids may have a protective effect against the development of certain types of tumors. During this 2-year study, groups of mice and rats were given various doses of THC by gavage. A dose-related decrease in the incidence of hepatic adenoma tumors and hepatocellular carcinoma was observed in the mice. Decreased incidences of benign tumors (polyps and adenomas) in other organs (mammary gland, uterus, pituitary, testis, and pancreas) were also noted in the rats. In another study, delta-9-THC, delta-8-THC, and cannabinol were found to inhibit the growth of Lewis lung adenocarcinoma cells in vitro and in vivo. In addition, other tumors have been shown to be sensitive to cannabinoid-induced growth inhibition.

    Cannabinoids may cause antitumor effects by various mechanisms, including induction of cell death, inhibition of cell growth, and inhibition of tumor angiogenesis and metastasis. Cannabinoids appear to kill tumor cells but do not affect their nontransformed counterparts and may even protect them from cell death. These compounds have been shown to induce apoptosis in glioma cells in culture and induce regression of glioma tumors in mice and rats. Cannabinoids protect normal glial cells of astroglial and oligodendroglial lineages from apoptosis mediated by the CB1 receptor.

    In an in vivo model using severe combined immunodeficient mice, subcutaneous tumors were generated by inoculating the animals with cells from human non-small cell lung carcinoma cell lines. Tumor growth was inhibited by 60% in THC-treated mice compared with vehicle-treated control mice. Tumor specimens revealed that THC had antiangiogenic and antiproliferative effects.

    There is far more there on anti-tumor effects but I’m limited here due to commenting restrictions.


    In addition, both plant-derived and endogenous cannabinoids have been studied for anti- inflammatory effects. A mouse study demonstrated that endogenous cannabinoid system signaling is likely to provide intrinsic protection against colonic inflammation. As a result, a hypothesis that phytocannabinoids and endocannabinoids may be useful in the prevention and treatment of colorectal cancer has been developed.


    Another study has shown delta-9-THC is a potent and selective antiviral agent against Kaposi sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV), also known as human herpesvirus 8. The researchers concluded that additional studies on cannabinoids and herpesviruses are warranted, as they may lead to the development of drugs that inhibit the reactivation of these oncogenic viruses. Subsequently, another group of investigators reported increased efficiency of KSHV infection of human dermal microvascular epithelial cells in the presence of low doses of delta-9-THC.


    Many animal studies have previously demonstrated that delta-9-THC and other cannabinoids have a stimulatory effect on appetite and increase food intake. It is believed that the endogenous cannabinoid system may serve as a regulator of feeding behavior. The endogenous cannabinoid anandamide potently enhances appetite in mice. Moreover, CB1 receptors in the hypothalamus may be involved in the motivational or reward aspects of eating.


    The understanding of the mechanism of cannabinoid-induced analgesia has been increased through the study of cannabinoid receptors (endocannabinoids), and synthetic agonists and antagonists. The CB1 receptor is found in both the central nervous system (CNS) and in peripheral nerve terminals. Similar to opioid receptors, increased levels of the CB1 receptor are found in sections of the brain that regulate nociceptive processing. CB2 receptors, located predominantly in peripheral tissue, exist at very low levels in the CNS. With the development of receptor-specific antagonists, much additional information about the roles of the receptors and the endogenous cannabinoids in the modulation of pain has also been obtained.

    Cannabinoids may also contribute to pain modulation through an anti-inflammatory mechanism; a CB2 effect with cannabinoids acting on mast cell receptors to attenuate the release of inflammatory agents, such as histamine and serotonin, and on keratinocytes to enhance the release of analgesic opioids.

  3. They both kill u.. booze r bar person will feed u this stuff till you no longer resemble a healthy intelligent person then when u behave irresponsibily they evict u. And u die young

  4. Bruce Taylor  

    Medical marijuana administered by doctors is fine by me but when you have seen like I have the results of the continued use of marijuana for supposed recreation you will know the reason it is illegal.

  5. We don’t need another legal and damaging drug in this country.

    • sorry Noel, you have no idea what your talking about, it’s not a drug, the FDA decided to call it a drug, knowing it had healing effects…big pharmac will lose billions of profit if they legalise marijuana…but somehow they are passing man made drugs that are killing youth..work it out.

  6. It does seem strange to me. I have enjoyed a drink in my time not a big drinker but enjoy it when I do have one but have never had the weed, but being a plant and therefore a natural thing that has been around for eons I can’t see why it can’t be used for medicinal purposes as is opium, another natural plant source, it’s not legal to grow I your back yard but is grown for medical use. Can’t see the difference.

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