With marijuana legalisation in the news, I see a lot of trash talk about booze.
People love to compare weed with alcohol. People think booze makes the weed look good. Binge drinking is often described as our national shame. The argument goes like this. Booze is bad but it's legal. Cannabis is illegal and not as bad as booze. So we should make it legal too.
But is booze that bad? Aren't we a nation built on drinking? Built by drinkers. When I look around New Zealand I see the greatest country in the world. A wealthy little battler with terrific people, infrastructure and values. Low crime, fantastic art, amazing sportspeople. Look at our cricket team. Those guys achieve against nations with many, many times our population.
We are also a country of drinkers. We have always been. We are some of the biggest drinkers in the world. So how come our country is so great? Are we great despite our drinking or on some small level because of it?
One thing is for sure, we wouldn't be the country we are without it. There's no denying it does some harm. But maybe it's time to show appreciation for the good booze does.
Ninety per cent of the people reading this article are here because of booze. Your mum and dad would never have met if it weren't for Dutch courage. Your very existence is probably the result of a few quiets.
How many times in history has a stoned person seen the love of their life and bucked up the courage to talk to them? Not often. Weed has produced very few children. Booze, on the other hand, has ignited nearly every love affair in the country.
If I hadn't had a couple of refreshments in Gisborne in 2006 I wouldn't have my son. I had been admiring the hot bass-player from Elemeno P for years. It took a lot of artificial courage to start that first conversation. Thank goodness for those refreshments. The world is a better place now my son is in it.
It's not just procreation either. What makes money at charity dinners and school fairs? What keeps the clubs going? What gets us out of the house and meeting people? What do you look forward to after a hard day's work? There is a lot of talk about the social harm of alcohol. What about the social good?
The first beer I ever had was handed to me by my father after a day's fencing on the farm.
It tasted like someone had soaked a ponga tree in a bath, drained it and mixed it with Vegemite. I hated it. But it was a reward. So many of the beers we drink in this country are rewards for the work we have done.
It's work that has made this country great. You can concentrate on the drinking or concentrate on the work that leads to the drink. But you would have to say a lot of the drinking done in this country is done by people who have earned it.
Obviously, there are downsides. The police deal with that every day. But as I have said in this column before, that's a dickhead problem not a booze problem.
Everyone I know drinks and none of them commit crimes. Why should their enjoyment be conflated with the bad behaviour of others? There's no doubt booze is incredibly bad for your health. It takes years off your life, makes you uglier, fatter and in some cases depressed. But it's so fun we do it anyway.
Marijuana legalisation is a big issue at the moment. New Zealanders will get to decide what they want to do at the next election.
But let's not rag on booze in the process.
There is no need to boost one poison at the expense of another. I think it's important to remember booze has its minuses but it definitely has its pluses too.