Froma Harrop

As many Californians reveled with unbridled joy over their new freedom to use marijuana for any reason, this writer felt the bit of mild disapproval tighten in her mouth.

Make no mistake. She fully supports the legalization of pot, as well as the decriminalization of hard drugs. The war on drugs has been a costly failure, and the right to smoke, ingest or bathe in pot is a fine thing to celebrate. But that should turn pot into just another legal substance to be regulated, taxed and, importantly, used with care. It's not the new Roman god.

Let me come clean. I spent New Year's Eve slightly intoxicated by a bubbly yellow grape product. There are times when I've had too much to drink and acted noisy and stupid — that according to observers. (I thought I was captivating.)

I have since reined in my use of alcohol and have also come to believe that nondrinkers can have a high old time with club soda. We've all noticed that heavy drinkers are not so interesting as they think they are.

Look, I believe in the right to get high on alcohol or on drugs, as long as you don't drive vehicles, operate on hearts or do other things prohibited while "under the influence." It's simply best to be disciplined in using these substances. That's why portraying inebriation as the gateway to the best times of your life can be problematic.

The wonderful Thin Man movies of the 1930s and 1940s have been criticized for glamorizing drunkenness. Debonair detective Nick and his rich wife, Nora, are seen lining up cocktails and dancing to the rhythm of a martini shaker. It's party time in post-Prohibition America.

These movies don't entirely obscure the downside of these nightly (and daytime) bacchanals. You hear the garbled speech and see pathetic fall-down drunks. And there are scenes of Nora moaning in bed the morning after, an ice pack on her head.

The charm of these movies derives from Nick and Nora's high style, sharp wit, unfailing kindness and, yes, willingness to break loose. One doesn't see their daily drunkenness taking its toll in lost looks, shortened lives and, ultimately, a sad existence. For more on that, consult another movie, "Days of Wine and Roses."

Again, the libertarian side of me supports the right to alienate one's family, suffer liver failure and die prematurely. But the humanitarian side heralds the many who could not control their drinking and broke their downward plunge through participation in Alcoholics Anonymous.

CNN has come under some criticism for seeming to deify pot in its New Year's Eve coverage. Much time was showered on a pot-themed party in Denver. (Recreational use of marijuana has been legal in Colorado for several years.) The slurring attendees were both boisterous and amazingly boring.

West Coast makers of fine wine were concerned that recreational use of marijuana, also legal in Oregon and Washington, would cut into their sales. Their worries have apparently eased.

"We haven't actually seen anybody who's laying down their glass of wine to pick up a bong," wine writer Tina Caputo was quoted as saying. "There's room in people's lives for both."

There's also room for neither. Driving under the influence of marijuana, as with alcohol, is illegal. In California, even passengers aren't allowed to smoke it. And the damage heavy pot use can wreak on health is just beginning to be understood.

Obviously, my preferred intoxicants are beer, wine and occasional spirits. Alcohol has been tested over millennia, and though a bong is interesting, it's not beautiful like a Champagne glass. That's one opinion.

But finally, hats off to all who worship neither Bacchus nor cannabis. Now go enjoy yourselves.

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