Alcohol vs. Cannabis

For some reason this topic of alcohol and cannabis popped into my head and I thought I’d post some thoughts and reflections. I tend toward very abstract ways of looking at things, so to me any small issue is a doorway into a larger, structural issue. So my intention with this post is to use this topic as a window into greater social and spiritual insights.

I find that there is a certain dichotomy between alcohol and cannabis, similar to the dichotomy between coffee and tea. Tea and cannabis are for liberals, artists, under rather than over-achievers… etc. etc. Maybe we could go so far as to say that alcohol and coffee are masculine and extroverted, whereas cannabis and tea are feminine and introverted. So it’s interesting to me that cannabis is illegal whereas alcohol is legal. Both have negative consequences when they are over-indulged in. The negative consequences of alcohol are obvious and usually outwardly directed–crashing your car, getting in a fight, becoming emotionally abusive, and so on. The negative consequences of cannabis are typically more internal–losing sense of purpose, loss of clarity and sharpness… If we want to look at it in terms of masculine and feminine, over-indulging in the more masculine alcohol weakens the more feminine qualities of restraint, kindness, compassion, receptivity, and gentleness. Over-indulging in the more feminine cannabis weakens the masculine qualities of assertiveness, drive, purpose, clarity, insight, and incisiveness.

I don’t want to stretch this classification too far, but it seems to me that cannabis is illegal not because it is more harmful than alcohol, but because our mass consciousness still favors the masculine over the feminine, and is in many ways afraid of the feminine.

The other obvious issue is the issue of abuse and prohibition. I think many of us realize that prohibition makes abuse more likely. I think we can look at this as another area of imbalance between masculine and feminine–the feminine nature is to explore, taste life deeply, and know abundance. The masculine nature, on the other hand, is to set boundaries and limits. When it comes to an issue like abuse and how we set limits and boundaries around these substances, we first have to examine how we are relating to this issue in ourselves. If we feel strongly compelled to restrain others from exploring these substances, it must be because we ourselves are in some way afraid of them, and have limited ourselves. Both alcohol and cannabis can be medicinal and enlightening in certain situations at a proper dose. For someone who is very assertive and out of touch with their feminine side, it can be a great thing to get a little high and experience life in a different way. For someone shy and introverted, having a little alcohol can be a great way to get in touch with their extroverted side, and see the beauty of their personality when it is uninhibited by fear. Ultimately, it comes down to not being afraid of experiencing life through the lense of a substance. The trouble comes when there is some emotional or mental issue that we don’t want to confront and we use the substance to escape that issue. That’s when it becomes self-destructive… but the problem lies with us, not with the substance.

I feel that neither alcohol nor cannabis should be illegal. In low, recreational doses they can be experienced and appreciated and may even have some lessons to teach. It seems very unfortunate to me that there is such a hostile relationship between drug users and police, who have to enforce prohibition laws. It is unfortunate that there is so much misunderstanding and miscommunication between those who are in favor of legalization and those who oppose it. Of course there are dangers in these substances. But as I see it, the way to deal with this danger–and any danger–is not to try to eliminate its possibility, but to face the fear behind it with a clear and open mind and a strong intention. I feel our social attitude should be one that encourages people to explore life and not have too many pre-conceived ideas about what is right and what is wrong. After all, if there truly is an objective right and wrong, then we will only find it by exploring life with freedom and clarity. At the same time, I feel that we should encourage people to be clear about their intentions in everything they do and be real with themselves about whether or not they are meeting the intentions they set out for themselves. From my own experience with drugs, I know that quite often my intention was simply to escape a feeling of boredom or restlessness, and my use of drugs simply resulted in exchanging one set of problems for a new one. But when you use any substance you identify with using it, and quite often you will resent it if anyone points out issues with your lifestyle. So we have to be real with ourselves, explore life without being afraid of what will happen if we cross an imaginary line, but also be humble enough to turn back if we find we are on a dark road that isn’t truly serving us.

Those are my reflections, and here are the questions: what is the difference between alcohol and cannabis? Why is alcohol legal and cannabis illegal? What does this tell us about society and ourselves? How should we deal with the problem of substance abuse?

Thanks for reading, many blessings, abundance, joy, wisdom and clarity.

-Tom

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