I work in a wine cellar. Five days out of the week I oversee and care for over 100,000 bottles of wine in this cellar. For the short time I have spent with these wines, I have come across bottles that even most restaurant aficionados will hardly, if ever, see in their entire lifetime. Wine is an area of human sensuality which has its commendable qualities and even religious connotations (Benjamin Franklin once said that wine is evidence that “God loves us and wants to see us happy”) which is soft for the palate of the soul.
We see Man and Nature interact in such a way where God’s grace extends even to some drops of water falling onto grapes and making wine to fit Man’s liking (that is, should he choose to intervene). Marijuana is different in this reverential regard.
Whereas wine attempts to cultivate aesthetic experiences by synthesizing a wine regions unique terroir with human sensations, marijuana is the manipulation of man’s already pre-functioning faculties for the sake of “mental obstacle courses for couch potatoes” (Stephen H. Webb).
Let’s first ask, what relation does marijuana have to the overall public good? While pot smokers may very well agree that the drug comes with an implicit sense of community with other smokers, the very nature of the relationship between marijuana and the social good is a sad one:
Getting high. . . is not so much antisocial as it is indifferent to the good that comes from being social. Marijuana plays with time and space in ways that make conversations amusing but rarely memorable or constructive. That is why most pot stories are pretty predictable and end up sounding like inside jokes. Marijuana is fun when it is shared, but it creates a collective narcissism that leaves those inside the group unable to explain themselves, and even uninterested in doing so. (Stephen H. Webb, First Things)
A Few Thoughts More
Marijuana is wrong in the sense that it commits one (implicitly) to thoughtlessness or to a renunciation of man’s rational capacities as a free-acting person. Marijuana comprises our abilities to make judgements and deliberate coherently, ranging from the words we choose to verbalize during conversations to driving a vehicle. However, an over excess of alcohol can lead to serious psychiatric disassociations (Google “Elpenor Syndrome” when you get the chance) and damage to the kidney’s. It is, to remember, the world’s most abused substance with a track record longer (let’s say) than that of marijuana’s.
However, the quest for decriminalization must somehow be similar to that of attempting to end prohibition back in the early 20th-century if we consider the “ups” and “downs” of pot and alcohol. Certainly, this isn’t so. Marijuana and alcohol are by no means in the same moral class so as to be judged by similar standards. Consider the following observations:
- (a) Marijuana has over 400 compounds, 80 of which are unique to the cannabis plant. Wine (or alcohol) is for the most part a far more “natural” part of our lives than marijuana is. While some wine makers may add sulfites or brandy’s or etc. to affect taste, preservation and so on, wine for the most part is not only a natural process mediated by man but also (according to Webb) more “naturally apart of our moral lives” than pot.
- (b) Marijuana in popular culture is rather shallow and uninteresting. Movies such as Half Baked, Cheech and Chong, Pineapple Express, and even popular artists such as Wiz Khalifa, Chief Keef, Schoolboy Q, etc., express the culture’s basic interests and archetypes. Pot culture shows little substance in pop culture.
- (c) Marijuana’s contribution to the intellectual spirit is something to sit back and watch in amusement, rather than invite to the table seriously. Alcohol lubricates the civil atmosphere and approaches the human’s empirical reality in an intimate manner through taste. Perhaps that is why in Plato’s dialogue the Symposium (which in Greek means “drinking party”) the characters never actually speak of the wine they are drinking. They just go on, drink, and reason together (supposing that their wine was probably not all that good, especially when eaten with olives or grapes – so, there was probably not much to talk about).
- Alcohol invites self-reflection into close company when used responsibly. This is what I would consider virtuous or “intelligent” drinking, in which one can discern and detect various elements in the wine, analyzing the drink and even the drinker (*see my note below). Marijuana also invites self-reflection but in the form of a kind of detachment. Marijuana’s interesting warp of time and space transcends one above the rules for just a little while; one can think about these rules and how he plays in them, but what brought him to this point resides in the activity he initiated with a cigarette (or a pipe or vaporizer, etc.).
* – For those interested, see Fritz Alhoff’s Wine and Philosophy (Wiley-Blackwell, 2007).