Denver Mayor Michael Hancock last week announced his opposition to Amendment 64 — the regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act — citing fears that Colorado may lose valuable tourism money if Denver is perceived as a “marijuana capital.” He then waxed emphatic about the link between marijuana, hard drugs, and the cost of legalization on society:
“You can argue that with a lot of the things that are illegal, right — if you know that it’s occurring and where it’s occurring and where it’s allowed. The realities are this: I think the cost to society with people who graduate from marijuana to harsher drugs is exponentially higher than any benefit that someone may try to calculate that you’ll get from a…regulated marijuana industry,”he said. “I just find it very hard. Those of us who grew up where the advent and introduction of some of the harsher drugs, whether it’s heroin, whether it was PCP, crack cocaine, we know a lot of our family members and neighbors started with recreational use of marijuana.”
Hancock’s anecdote on the topic is compelling, and his personal history probably should inform his professional take on drug policy. But it’s hard to reconcile his belief in the pitfalls of marijuana use with some of the most prominent content on his city website.
Hancock dismisses comparisons between alcohol and marijuana use, telling Westword that “We’re talking marijuana, so I’m not going to talk about the comparisons with alcohol.” Fair enough.
Still, for someone who’s proud to showcase his pride in Denver’s beer, Hancock would do well to remember some of the arguments made in favor of prohibiting that substance.
Here are a select few quotes from temperance leader Billy Sunday:
Listen! Seventy-five per cent of our idiots come from intemperate parents, 80 per cent of the paupers, 82 per cent of the crime is committed by men under the influence of liquor, 90 per cent of the adult criminals are whiskey made.
Archbishop Ireland, the famous Roman Catholic of St. Paul, said of social crime “that 75 per cent is caused by drink and 80 per cent of the poverty.” I go to a family and it is broken up and I say, “what caused this?” Drink! I step up to a young man on the scaffold and say, “what brought you here?” Drink! Whence all the misery and sorrow and corruption? Invariably it is drink.
The saloon is the sum of all villainies. It is worse than war or pestilence. It is the crime of crimes. It is parent of crimes and the mother of sins. It is the appalling source of misery and crime in the land and the principal cause of crime. It is the source of three-fourths of the taxes to support that crime. And to license such an incarnate fiend of hell is the dirtiest, low-down, damnable business on top of this old earth. There is nothing to be compared to it.
It is the moral clearinghouse for rot, and damnation, and poverty, and insanity, and it wrecks homes and blights lives today. The saloon is a liar. It promises health and causes disease. It promises prosperity and sends adversity. It promises happiness and sends misery.
There’s nothing wrong with Hancock’s opposition to Amendment 64 — there are a few compelling reasons, practical tourism interests included, to keep marijuana illegal at a state-level in Colorado.
Hancock, however, shouldn’t be blind to the irony in preaching “slippery slope” talking points about marijuana and other drugs while at the same time highlighting Denver’s beer culture on his government website.
There are other practical realities at play, but that doesn’t change the fact that many of the arguments he uses against marijuana, after all, were first employed to prohibit the beer he’s holding in his hand.