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Distortion 1: Drug Use After Prohibition Ends

Distortion 2: Drug Use Estimates

Distortion 3: Needle Exchange

Distortion 4: Harm Reduction

Distortion 5: Methadone Treatment

Distortion 6: Emergency Room Visits

Distortion 7: Gateway

Distortion 8: Ecstasy

Distortion 9: Cannabis As Medicine

Distortion10: Young People and Drugs

Distortion 11: Marijuana Potency

Distortion 12: Cannabis and Driving

Distortion 13: US Crime Rates

Distortion 14: Cannabis and Drug Treatment

Distortion 15: People Only Smoke Pot To Get High, Whereas They Drink Alcohol To Be Sociable

Distortion 16: ONDCP's 'Open Letter on Marijuana' & the AntiDrug Media Campaign

Distortion 17: Cannabis and Drug Treatment Part II

Distortion 18: Cannabis and Mental Illness

Special: NORML's Truth Report 2005, An Analysis & Response To The Drug Czar's Open Letter About Marijuana

Special: Debunking The Myths — Chronic Pain & Opiods, by Frank Fisher, MD

Distortion 19: Estimating the Size of the Illicit Drug Market

Distortion 20: Methamphetamines

Distortion 21: US Crime Rates & Arrest Rates

Distortion 22: Marijuana & Violence

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Distortion 15: People Only Smoke Pot To Get High, Whereas They Drink Alcohol To Be Sociable.

This argument gets cast in a number of ways. It was expressed rather well in this conversation between the late President Richard Nixon and entertainer Art Linkletter. A tape of the conversation is available at the National Archives and Records Administration in Greenbelt, MD. The transcription below was done by CSDP Research Director Doug McVay in 2002. A fuller transcript from this and other Nixon-era conversations regarding marijuana and drug policy is available by clicking here.

AL: "Yes. [unintelligible] Really. But, but another big difference between marijuana and alcohol is that when people s- smoke marijuana, they smoke it to get high. In every case, when most people drink, they drink to be sociable. You don't see people --"
RN: "That's right, that's right."
AL: "They sit down with a marijuana cigarette to get high --"
RN: "A person does not drink to get drunk."
AL: "That's right."
RN: "A person drinks to have fun."

Source: Oval Office Conversation No. 500-17 -- May 18, 1971, 12:16 pm - 12:35 pm -- President Richard Nixon met with Arthur G. (Art) Linkletter and DeVan L. Shumway; Oliver F. ("Ollie") Atkins was present at the beginning of the meeting.

The distortion here is the notion that people aren't impaired by alcohol unless they feel drunk. The reality is much different. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration of the US Department of Transportation notes that "Burns and Fiorentino (2000) examined the relationships of drinkers' ratings of their own intoxication and driving impairment in an alcohol experiment with 48 men and women, ages 21-54 years, who were light, moderate and heavy drinkers. The subjects rated their degree of intoxication at BACs of .000 to .125. The authors found that heavy drinkers rated their intoxication levels lower than either moderate or light drinkers, a finding that was said to reflect their acquired tolerance to alcohol effects. Heavy-drinking men generally had lower intoxication ratings than women, but driving ratings between heavy-drinking men and women did not differ.
"In a study of drinking practices and attitudes of pub patrons in Israel, Shinar (1995) found a pattern of "alarming ignorance of the effects of drinking, total disregard for the risks of driving when under the influence of alcohol, but coupled with relatively conservative amounts of alcohol consumption." This was seen as particularly troubling, given a trend toward increasing alcohol consumption by Israeli youth."
Source: "Chapter 4: Drinking Drivers, Pedestrians and Bicyclists," from the web at http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/people/injury/research/AlcoholHighway/4_drinking_drivers.htm , part of "Alcohol and Highway Safety 2001: A Review of the State of Knowledge," US Dept. of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (DOT HS 809 383), November 2001, on the web at http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/people/injury/research/AlcoholHighway/index.htm"> http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/people/injury/research/AlcoholHighway/index.htm , last accessed Jan. 2, 2003.

Indeed, alcohol users are frequently cautioned that they can be impaired without being aware of it, for example in this US military presentation on "Irresponsible vs. Responsible Use of Alcohol" at http://www.csdp.org/research/responsible.ppt, as accessed March 9, 2005, from http://www.22asg.vicenza.army.mil/sites/directorates/img/responsible.ppt, and this Los Angeles Police Department standards document at http://www.ci.la.ca.us/LAPD/traffic/dre/certgls.htm, last accessed Jan. 1, 2003.

In terms of cannabis and a user's perception of impairment, it has been noted in driving studies that "Drivers under the influence of cannabis seem aware that they are impaired, and attempt to compensate for this impairment by reducing the difficulty of the driving task, for example by driving more slowly."
Source: Sexton, BF, RJ Tunbridge, N Brooke-Carter, et al., "The Influence of Cannabis on Driving," Prepared for Road Safety Division, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, UK, by Transport Research Laboratory, Ltd., TRL Report 477, 2000, p. 4.

In other words, people who use cannabis may be more aware of the fact that they're impaired after they have used, compared with people who drink alcohol and who do not feel impaired after just a drink or two, even though their driving ability has been lessened. Any use of a controlled substance, even just one beer or other social drinking, can impair driving ability for a short time afterward even though an individual may not perceive themselves as impaired.

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Updated: Wednesday, July 15, 2009   ~   Accessed: 51419 times