Australian professor: legalize marijuana to curb binge drinking


An alcohol awareness poster in Sydney, Australia.

Legalizing marijuana can protect Australia’s youth from the dangers of binge drinking.
That’s the message from Robin Broom, director of the Centre for Alcohol Policy Research, Australia’s primary, government-funded alcohol research group.
Room, a professor at Melbourne University, tells the (Melbourne-Victoria) Herald-Sunthat Australia needs to be progressive with this issue and work towards a legalized and controlled market for cannabis. He says that it should be sold through state stores, not unlike how some U.S. states handle alcohol sales.

“I think we need to have the discussion and it makes a lot of sense in terms of, among others, cutting down government costs to have a fairly highly controlled legal (cannabis) market and, while we are at it, tighten up the legal market of alcohol in the same way we tightened up the market of tobacco,” Room told the Sun.
Room said that he would prefer teens not smoke cannabis or drink, but he’s a realist and understands that isn’t every going to be the scenario. So instead of having teens simply binge drink, he says that allowing cannabis use would help them cut back on the alcohol imbibing.
“Cannabis is not without harm but it’s substantially less than alcohol and tobacco in terms of social harm,” he said. “If you are adding the cannabis to an equal amount of alcohol, then in some ways you’d be probably less likely to be aggressive but it’s a bad idea to add it on if you want to drive a car.”
As a personal aside, I was in Australia last year and couldn’t help but notice the massive campaign to help curb youth binge drinking and the subsequent problems and violence it helps cause. Many bars had signs up about cutting people off and there was an active public campaign in print media, television and the radio about being safe and responsible when you drink. Some studies have shown that Australia, with a drinking age of 18, has more than twice the number of alcohol-abusing teens as the U.S.
We’re not sure if Room’s logic that allowing cannabis will drastically reduce drinking on it’s own necessarily adds up, but we applaud his bravery in bringing up the difficult discussion of legalization in Australia.