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The world is a confusing place at the best of times. Full of hypocrisy, contradictions and nonsensical logic everywhere you look. Perhaps one of the greatest examples of this is the fact that alcohol and tobacco are both legal, but weed is not. Of course, in some countries, this is not the case. In Amsterdam for example, where people cycle on clouds and dreams, weed, alcohol and tobacco are all legal and available for purchase. However, the majority of the world do not feel the same way as the Netherlands do. But why is this? Why is it that alcohol and tobacco are legal but weed is not? Today we are going to be delving into the reasons why this might be, and taking a look at whether there’s any justification for it. Whilst alcohol and tobacco-related deaths skyrocket, it’s weed that remains illegal. Interesting. Anyway, strap yourself in. Let’s go.


Before we look into the legality and history of alcohol, tobacco and weed, it’s important to realise what ‘legalization’ actually means. Literally, of course, legalization means that a government has allowed something. However, it’s common that governments will legalize things in some forms but not others. For instance, CBD weed is legal in the UK, whilst THC weed is not. They both come from the cannabis plant, yet one part is legal, and one is not. It’s also important to consider the message of legalizing certain substances. The UK government often worries about the precedent they would set if they were to legalize marijuana and what that could mean for the future of drug legalization. Often these things are more about the political message than they are about the actual substance itself. 

Here are two key terms that may come in handy when considering weed legalization:

  • Recreational = Using marijuana for fun.
  • Medicinal = Using marijuana for medical reasons.

Without further ado, let’s take a look at why alcohol and tobacco are legal but weed is not. 

What is Alcohol?

Alcohol, like weed, is a psychoactive substance. That means that it causes alterations to the mind. Alcohol is a drink that contains ethanol, which is produced by fermentation of grains, fruits or other sources of alcohol. Alcohol has endless variants. Beer, wine, spirits, and many more. Alcohol inventors have never stopped thinking up new ways to drink it. Perhaps that is because consumption of alcohol is a huge part of many cultures around the world. The French drink wine with dinner, Russians enjoy a glass of vodka and the English love a beer. Not to sound too stereotypical. 

Around 57% of the UK drink alcohol and in 2019, 7.5 thousand people died from alcohol-related illnesses. These include: liver disease, cancer, pancreatitis, ulcers and many others. Over use of alcohol can be detrimental to someone’s health.

History of Alcohol

Alcohol has been drunk since the dawn of time…essentially. There is evidence to believe that human ancestors began drinking some sort of alcoholic drink over 10 million years ago. According to historians, it was early human’s capability to digest and break down rotting and fermented fruits from the floor that allowed for humans to live on the ground, rather than in the trees. According to Guiness, the earliest signs of wine creation was in Georgia in 6000 BC. By the mid-eighteenth century in Britain, everyone was essentially an alcoholic. Kings, Queens, peasants, all drank alcohol daily; It made life just that little bit more bearable. It wasn’t until the 1920s in America that alcohol was actually illegalized. The government deemed it too dangerous and banned it. In retaliation, the illegal alcohol market boomed and by 1933 it was made legal once more. This example has been used as a benchmark for why illegalizing alcohol is so very difficult. 

Alcohol Now 

Nowadays alcohol is literally everywhere and is a legal substance. lt can be split into 3 sections: beer, wine and spirits. Within each is an endless range of alcoholic drinks. Variety is definitely very strong within the alcohol world. Each country has different rules on when people can start drinking. For example, in the USA you have to be 21, in the UK you have to be 18 and in some of Europe you have to be 16. Lots of European countries allow for children to have a drink with dinner at an early age, which often means when they get older they aren’t gagging for their first drink, but instead have a much more relaxed approach to alcohol. Unlike many of us Brits who countdown the days to reach 18 and get pissed in Magaluf. 

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Why is Alcohol Legal?

Alcohol kills thousands of people a year. It makes people depressed, aggressive, and sometimes very dangerous to themselves and others. Does weed make people aggressive? Almost certainly not. No one gets aggressive after vaping bud from a dry herb vaporizer. So why is alcohol legal? As you can see, the truth is that alcohol is and has always been ingrained firmly into society. Alcohol has been drunk for centuries, and has been enjoyed by all different classes. As the USA discovered in the 1920s, banning something that is so historically used, does not end well. People will always find a way to sell and purchase it; illegal or not. 

However, isn’t that the same with marijuana? They’re both natural creations of the Earth, they’ve both potentially been around before human beings. Both are sold and bought regardless of if they are illegal or not. The difference is, historically alcohol has been enjoyed by the upper classes. Still to this day, there’s certain spirits and champagnes which only the top 1% of society can afford. Whereas with marijuana, there have been many cases where governments have strategically linked crime and minority groups with the use of weed in order to find reasons to ban it. 

Therefore, perhaps alcohol is legal, whereas weed is not, because the top 1% want it that way. 

What is Tobacco? 

Now we move on to tobacco. Another historical substance used and abused by human beings. Whether it be chewing tobacco, smoking or even vaping, it’s been around for a very long time too. Tobacco comes from the dried leaves of a range of plants within the Solancanae family. The most common one is N. tabacum. The dried tobacco leaves are taken from the plant and are used in: pipes, cigarettes, shishas, chewing tobacco, snuff and others. Within tobacco is nicotine, which is a highly addictive substance. When tobacco is burned it releases dangerous and cancerous carcinogens and toxins which can cause long-term illnesses. Smoking or using tobacco has been known to cause: lung cancer, leukemia, cataracts and pneumonia. 

History of Tobacco

Tobacco was first discovered by the native people of South America and Mesoamerica. Archeologists have discovered its use as far back as the first century BC, as it was used in religious ceremonies. It was Spain who then introduced the magic of tobacco to the rest of Europe, and it caught on quickly. As the new-world boomed and advertisement became globalised, America in the 1920s was the smoking capital of the world. The fact of smoking being seriously bad for you was not common knowledge, or at least, it wasn’t listened to. Until, in the 1960s, the truth behind the dangers of smoking became more mainstream knowledge. Advertisement was banned in Britain and the US, and the rest of the world.

Tobacco Now

Tobacco now can be smoked in a cigarette or a vaporizer. If you want to know the difference between a dry herb vaporizer and an electric cigarette then click here. Nowadays, if you purchase a packet of tobacco, it’ll cost a heck of a lot more than it used to. Back in the day, you could buy a 12.5 gram 3 in 1 B&S tobacco pouch for about £2.49. In 2021, the minimum amount of tobacco you’re able to buy is 30 grams, and that costs around £12-20. The price has increased a great deal. Furthermore, each packet not only has the usual ‘smoking kills’ label, it also has an image of a loved one dying and very bland, grey packaging. Essentially, any sort of advertisement methods or techniques have been deemed illegal when it comes to tobacco. Nonetheless, tobacco itself is still legal. 

Why is tobacco legal? 

Tobacco kills around 78,000 people a year in the UK. Those are the facts. But here’s another fact for you, the UK government made £9.96 billion from taxing tobacco in 2020-21. So, that’s the reason why tobacco is legal. Whilst the government tries to deter people from smoking by taxing it hard, what ends up happening is they get lots of money through taxation. Because, at the end of the day, it’s very very hard to stop smoking if you are addicted. Which, of course, the government knows. Therefore, are the government trying to stop people from smoking, or are they trying to make money from people’s addictions? You can make your own mind up. Nonetheless, tobacco is legal, and so is alcohol, but marijuana is not. 

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What is Weed?

Weed, ganga, marijuana, cannabis, bud, dry herb – these are just some of the many phrases that describe this plant. Weed is a psychoactive substance, like alcohol or coffee, which people inhale, digest or even rub into their skin. There are a lot of reasons why vaping weed is a lot healthier than smoking weed. Weed comes from the marijuana plant by extracting the buds (most commonly) or other parts of the plant to be used. There are many variants and uses of cannabis. For example: cannabis bud, cannabis concentrates, edibles, creams, oils and others. All of these have different intensities of high and different purposes. Some contain high CBD, and some contain high THC. These are two of the most prominent cannabinoids within marijuana. THC is what makes weed psychoactive, and it is responsible for the well-known high feeling that you get from weed. Alternatively, CBD is not psychoactive, but can make you feel relaxed and help with certain medical issues. CBD has been known to help with: sleep deprivation, anxiety, depression, chronic pain, cancer symptoms and much more. 

History of Marijuana

Marijuana was not first used to get high with, but as herbal medicine in 500 BC in Asia. It was also used for sacred rituals and as hemp fiber; which was great for making materials and clothing. Like with much of the world’s useful ideas, this was then stolen by imperialists and brought to the western world. By the 19th century, marijuana was a common drug used all around the world, and was very much legal. It wasn’t until the selling of marijuana began to bother the government. By the mid 1900s, most countries had banned marijuana. The governments began to link weed culture to minority groups and crime in a racist and unfair attempt to take back control of the weed industry. Thus, weed was illegalised. And it has stayed that way for many decades. 

Marijuana Now

After years of stagnancy, only now are we starting to see the legal stance on weed change. Whilst weed is still very much illegal in lots of countries, places like the US, Spain and the Netherlands are showing varying signs of positivity. Even the UK legalized medicinal marijuana in 2018, which in the grand scheme of things, is a pretty optimistic change. However, that’s only medicinal. The government doesn’t seem to be coming any closer to legalizing high-THC, recreational weed. Furthermore, even the medicinal marijuana that is legal is extremely expensive and hard to get ahold of as the NHS don’t offer it. It’s only privately prescribed. Some people have to pay as much as £50,000 a year for it. Thus, whilst the UK government might be slightly turning their heads to the benefits of CBD, they certainly aren’t taking massive strides. The Cancard is trying to tackle these unfair fees, if you want to learn more about that click here.

Why is Weed not legal?

If alcohol, tobacco and weed have all been around for centuries, and they’re all natural, then why are they not all dealt with the same? According to statistics, in 2019 31 people died from cannabis-related deaths. If you compare that to the alcohol and tobacco numbers, it’s very slim. So why is weed not legal? Well, for some reason, weed is seen as a drug. Whilst alcohol and nicotine are also both, technically, drugs, they are seen as their own entity. Whereas marijuana often gets thrown in with the likes of cocaine, MDMA, ketamine and others. But why is this? With marijuana being, evidently, safer than alcohol or tobacco, the only logical reason for its illegalization is because the government simply doesn’t want it to be. That could be because they’ve unfairly linked cannabis to crime, and anti-establishment type thinking. At Woodstock in the 70s, people smoked a joint and shouted to end the Vietnam war. In Hyde Park, every year, on the 20th April, thousands of people turn up, enjoy weed and protest against the world’s injustices. So maybe this is why weed is illegal. Weed is illegal because the government is illogically, and ridiculously scared of it and what it stands for. However, the truth is, weed will be legal again one day. It’s only a matter of time.