Smoke if you got ’em: An argument for the acceptance of the use of marijuana for recreational and medicinal puropses

THERE’S BEEN lots of talk about smokin weed, lately. There’s still this idea that some people, here in California have that, any day now, not only the legislature, but the federal government will legalize marijuana and every Californian will be legally able to enjoy the loco weed to his heart’s content. But until then, it’s perfectly illegal to smoke marijuana. but until then… You know, like Oprah Winfrey, whom I believe does not smoke dope, I can declare that I know things for sure.

 

  • I know that I should floss may teeth at least once a day.
  • I know that time travel is not (currently) possible. Sorry Coast to Coast fans.
  • I know that eating oleander leaves is not good for me, and I know this one thing absolutely for sure, I know to never, never get involved in a conversation with a person who is really into smoking weed.

 

arnold smokes da dope

 

Conversations with weed smokers are generally about as productive as actually eating a sandwich garnished with oleander leaves. They go nowhere and only end up giving you a stomach ache. I have learned, from many conversations with users of The Cannabis, that you can smoke weed, or eat it, or make paper out of it, or make clothes out of it, or use it for backaches, headaches, relief from the nausea associated with chemotherapy. You can use hemp (also illegal) to make hemp oil, or rope, blah, blah, blah. I’ve learned that the first president of the United States, George Washington, grew it on Mt. Vernon, and that Matthew Mc Conaughey, Alanis Morrissette, Natalie Portman, Woody Harrelson, Lady Gaga, and just about everyone else in show business smokes it. Marijuana has played a significant role in comedy — there’s not a comic or comedic actor who isn’t inspired by weed. I’ve been told that the Declaration of Independence was written on hemp paper, and that international traveler, Rick Steves, advocates legalizing it. I’ve learned that, without marijuana, the music of Bob Dylan, The Beatles, and not to mention Reggae would not have ever existed if not for marijuana. Well, maybe so far as reggae goes it would have been good if marijuana wasn’t so popular.

 

YES. EVEN RICK STEVES SMOKES WEED.

YES. EVEN RICK STEVES SMOKES WEED.

 

For the record, I don’t smoke weed. Personally I dislike those who do. But I realize that, in the case of human rights, the fact that some thing or someone’s personal choices offend me does not mean that that activity should be illegal. There’s no real reason why anyone (who is over the age of 18 and preferably employed) shouldn’t be able to smoke, wear, or eat marijuana. Furthermore, if I was suffering from a terminal illness (or even one that caused me discomfort) I don’t see any reason why I should not be legally allowed to use any substance that offers me relief from pain or suffering.

Furthermore, if I’ve just had a hard day at work and I want to relax in the privacy of my own home, I don’t see any reason why I should be legally barred from using a substance that a) works, and b) I can grow in the privacy of my own yard and not cost anyone one dime in health care costs. I know that the arguments against the legalization of marijuana are potent and often well argued. I understand that there are some people who say that their use of marijuana has had negative effects on their lives. I am not dismissing that the use (especially chronic use, no pun intended) of any mind-altering substance, legal or illegal, can be harmful. but, I understand that there are many people who use legal substances, like alcohol and food, to the same or similar effect on their personal lives. From what I have seen, many of the arguments against the legalization of marijuana are moral. And from what i’ve seen, many of these moral arguments simply are not justified.

 

Marijuana-Second-Hand-Smoke-marijuana-229994_284_425

 

If this is so, then the continued prohibition of marijuana may be immoral. For starters, American society is based on the concept of liberty, freedom of choice. The freedom of choice suggests that individuals are responsible for their own actions. Freedom of choice is linked to the idea of autonomy — individuals are rational, moral agents capable of acting according to their own rational interests. Yet, there is a prohibition on individuals acting autonomously in their choice to use a particular substance. This prohibition, on the grounds that certain behavior is harmful or dangerous to the individual, so it cannot be permitted is paternalistic. It denies the individual the capability to do what he believes is best for him, and to deal with the consequence of his own actions.

 

keep calm and smoke weed

 

I know that we prohibit drinking and driving because a drunk driver can cause harm or kill others, and such activity should be outlawed because of the potential to harm other people. But, despite the fact that we outlaw drunk driving, being intoxicated is not. An individual is allowed to damage himself with alcohol, so long as he is the legal drinking age. Also, paternalistic laws often don’t work. People grow resentful of being told what to do. Backlash against Prohibition during the 1920s gave way to organized crime, which was a greater harm to society as a whole than the consumption of alcohol.

There’s a funny thing about morality-based laws, morality changes. At one time in this country’s history, interracial marriage, homosexuality, and pornography were not only illegal, but were morally unacceptable according to many Americans. We permitted school segregation, child labor, and corporate monopolies, but now these activities are not only illegal but, more importantly, they are considered immoral. Americans, as a whole, are increasingly comfortable with the use of marijuana, not just for medicinal purposes but also for recreational use. Smoking marijuana bears little or no social stigma nor is it associated with a breakdown in one’s moral aptitude. Here are some stats for you:

 

  •  nearly 1/3 of Americans 12 years of age or older have tried marijuana at least once. * over 2 million Americans admit to smoking daily.
  •  nearly 61% oppose prison for non-violent offenders (esp. marijuana) many marijuana users report they use marijuana because it it less harmful than alcohol, which is legal. Here are some more stats:
  •  the US has 5% of the world’s population but 25% of the world’s prison population (that’s nearly 2 million people)
  • we spend on average $68 billion on corrections/ year
  •  the federal government spends nearly $4 billion annually on marijuana.
  •  1/3 of the prison population is incarcerated on non-violent drug offenses.
  •  47.5% of those arrests are for marijuana-related.
  •  approx. 90% of arrests are for simple marijuana possession. And some about California:
  •  marijuana, it is said, is California’s greatest cash crop.
  • annual revenues from marijuana are estimated at $14 billion/ yr. (this is money that the state itself never sees)
  •  an estimated 10% tax on marijuana would yield $1.4 billion for the state. (it won’t close the state deficit, but it would help)
  • 14 states (including California since 1996), allow marijuana use for medicinal use for conditions such as AIDS, cancer, and glaucoma.

 

james franco ad

 

Now, there are people who argue that it is wrong to allow people to legally smoke marijuana, but I ask, is it not morally harmful to keep people from using something that is beneficial?

 

marijuana billboard

 

Our first obligation, according to most ethical theories (egoism being the exception) and the Bible, is to do good for those who are in need. We are directed to help others, not just by God, but by our own common sense. Legalizing marijuana will help other people. It will help, not just those who need to smoke it for medicinal reasons, but if marijuana is legalized and taxed, revenues will benefit the state economically. If marijuana is legalized, less money will go to state prisons, thus freeing up revenue to be used for state projects such as roads, education, and state welfare programs. Still, there are people who argue that their opposition to marijuana use is not moral, but medical.

They argue that marijuana is dangerous to one’s health. Marijuana, like it or not, is safer than many OTCs on the market. There is no known lethal dose of marijuana, however, thousands of people were killed or harmed by FDA approved drugs such as Vioxx and Fen-Phen. Unlike cigarettes, science still has not drawn a direct correlation between marijuana use and cancer (one can simply bypass any risk of cancers, such as lung cancer, by consuming marijuana in a way other than smoking, like eating it or using it in tea). Marijuana, despite what was depicted in movies like Reefer Madness, does not cause insanity. Many marijuana users smoke as a form of relaxation, or in the case of those suffering from debilitating illnesses, to participate in the world without pain.

In the case of a (supposed) link between marijuana use and mental illness (such as depression), in the case of some of these marijuana users, their marijuana use is a symptom, not the problem. In the case of these individuals, it might do us some good to look at the societal and personal conditions that lead these individuals to self-medicate, or “escape” reality through the use of marijuana. How can we continue to keep marijuana illegal when the continued prohibition of marijuana clearly does more harm than good?

 

bureau-of-narcotics-anti-marijuana-ad

 

 

The philosopher John Stuart Mill argued that we cannot predetermine that some supposed harm is harmful to society before that “harm” is actually played out in society.

 

 

 

I'M NOT SURE IF MILL EVER SMOKED WEED, BUT I'M SURE HE WOULD HAVE SUPPORTED THE RIGHT TO SMOKE WEED.... THEN AGAIN, MAYBE HE WOULDN'T.

I’M NOT SURE IF MILL EVER SMOKED WEED, BUT I’M SURE HE WOULD HAVE SUPPORTED THE RIGHT TO SMOKE WEED…. THEN AGAIN, MAYBE HE WOULDN’T.

 

That means, how do we know that legalizing marijuana will be harmful to society if we haven’t seen how society be like with legalized marijuana? If our moral and legal objections rely on speculation instead of actual evidence, we cannot justifiably make claims to the “fact” that marijuana is harmful and should remain illegal. I’m just sayin’…..

 

 

smoke weed everyday

Give Me Furley Or Give Me Death!!!

When I was in my early 20s it was during the mid 90s. Body piercing was the thing to do. I had a friend who wanted to get her brow pierced, so we took a drive all the way down to Venice Beach to some hole in the wall piercing place (why she couldn’t get it done where we lived, I don’t know) so she could get her brow done.

Now, Venice has a bit of a rep, and that’s good. There’s nothing worse than waiting around for someone to get a piece of metal rammed through their face and there’s nothing else around to look at. Good thing that Venice has a dynamic array of weirdos and freaks year-round. Plus, there’s the dudes working out, and there’s that big mural of Jim Morrison, which is pretty interesting to look at for about 38 seconds, mostly to wonder why someone chose to paint a picture of Jim Morrison on a wall in the first place. Another thing to do while at Venice is to look for all the locations that appear in the opening credits of Three’s Company.

Looking for such exciting locals as the bike path where Jack fell over on his bike while ogling some hot chick enevitably leads to humming, then outright singing the theme to the show. The theme song sounds like the guy singing is drunk.

It’s weird.

But it’s not just the theme song, the show itself is a total mindf**k. Supposedly, it’s based on some Britcom called Man of the House. I’ve never seen the original show, but if it’s a trippy as the American version, I’m glad that I haven’t. Ok, the show is about 3 roomates: two chicks, the ultra-babe Chrissy, and the plain but feisty Janet (she has to bebecause she’s not as hot. She’s like Kate Jackson in Charlie’s Angels. Sabrina was the smart one. She’s the one who kicked ass because whe wasn’t so hot that a guy wouldn’t sock her in the face), and the one dude, a chef named Jack. Now, apparently the free love 60s had totally passed their landlord, Mr. Roper, by because he wouldn’t allow single opposite-sex people to live in the same unit, even if one of them is the pretty-in-a-plain-way Janet. So, in order to get Mr. Roper to allow Jack to stay, the 3 roomies had to convince Roper that there is ansolutely no possibility that Jack would ever bed either of his roomies premaritally. They tell their landlord that Jack is gay.

Jack isn’t.

This is where, as they say, the hijinks ensue, but after watching the pilot episode, it’s not so much hijinks as it is let the gay-bashing begin. This show is terrible! I don’t mean that it’s terrible in the qualitative sense, although there is a reasonable argument to be made that the show is an exercize in crap. But, this show is totally offensive. Mr. Roper’s incessant anti-gay remarks (he calls Jack a “fairy” and “tinkerbell”) are nearly cringe-inducing. Not to mention there’s the total demeaning depiction of women in the show. Chrissy is really nothing more than some guy’s whack fantasy — blond and stupid.

Did you know that there’s an episode where you supposedly can see John Ritter’s balls?

Really. He’s wearing really short shorts and he raises his leg and there they are. I heard that the episode had aired for years before some kid watching the episode on Nick At Nite saw it and told her parents. I don’t know how a kid saw it and all those adults that saw it did not.

What I kept thinking while I was watching was how politically incorrect the show is. The show debuted in the 1970s, and watching 70s TV is an exercise in spot-the-stereotype. You can pick virtually any show, and there’s bound to be some character who would never make it to air these days. Sometimes, in the case of shows like What’s Happening? or Good Times it’s the entire show that’s offensive. I often hear people lament that back in the 70s you could get away with alot more than you can get away with now. Some people say that movies like Blazing Saddles could never be made in our politically correct climate or that characters like Archie Bunker would never make it to air. That’s probably true (it’s also not true that the 70s were some magical no-holds-barred era of entertainment, either. you might not see Archie Bunker on TV but I certainly saw Dennis Franz’s bare ass in primetime). There’s alot of complaining about political correctness. If one spends any sizable amount of time watching Fox News, you’ll hear quite a great deal of bitching and moaning about political correctness.

But is TV today more politically correct than TV 3 decades ago? And if it is, does it really matter? What’s so wrong with being politically correct?

Political correctness, according to Random House is, ” marked by or adhering to a typically progressive orthodoxy on issues involving esp. race, gender, sexual affinity, or ecology”. Ok, that’s the formal definition. Others say that political correctness simply means that you cant say anything about anyone that might hurt someone else’s feelings (and those people are always hypersensitive about everything). They say that people are forced to be polite at the expense of telling it like it is — at the expense of telling the truth. Some say that political correctness is a form of obfuscation, especially when we talk about issues like race or one’s national origin or legal status. For example, if I want to say something like, “a lot of Mexicans use up social services”, I might be accused of being a racist. I might say (then) that that accusation is an example of political correctness. I might say that calling me a “racist” is a way that some people attempt to obfuscate the fact that many illegal individuals of Mexican decent use a great deal of social services. I might say that I’m just telling it like it is, and if what I say offends people, that’s too bad. The truth needs to be told no matter who it offends.

That’s what I might say.

The idea is, is that being politically correct, some say, is the habit of focusing so much on not offending people that an issue never gets discussed fully. Being politically correct, when you get down to it, is a kind of lie. The truth is often unpleasant or offensive to some individual or group. If we hold back because we’re trying not to appear to be racist, homophobic, sexist, ageist, classist, or anthrocentric, we’re not being completely honest with each others or perhaps more importantly, we’re not being honest with ourselves. All lies are insidious, but self-deception is a particularly damaging lie. When we lie to ourselves we distort how the world truly is. If we don’t see the world how it is, we cannot navigate in it successfully. If we fail to see the truth, we are deprived of the Good life (for more on the harmful effects of deception and not living in reality, see Robert Nozick’s The Experience Machine).

But some people may argue that the aim of political correctness isn’t to deceive people. The aim is not that people are harmed by not calling a gay man “tinkerbell” or by not making blatantly racist comments. The goal of political correctness is being respectful of people and appreciating the fact that any person, no matter their gender, ethnicity, or sexual orientation, is entitled to respect. It isn’t a lie, it’s being polite. The old attitude, that it was morally acceptable to call a gay man a “fairy” or that it’s ok to act like an Archie Bunker, denies the intrinsic dignity of people. Those who say that they do not like or want to practice political correctness, are, at heart anti-Kantian. Kant wrote that each rational agent is entitled to respect (of his choices and autonomy). Do fail to respect the individual is a violation of his rights.

The point (initially) isn’t to impose some sort of Orwellian thought police-esque you-can’t-say-that attitude on everyone (especially when we disagree with others) or to stop anyone from saying what they want to say. We are well aware that no matter what is said there’s a chance that someone or some group may be offended by what is said. Being “politically correct” is nothing more than a reminder than other people are entitled to the same kind of respect that we would desire for ourselves. That it’s just not nice to call a gay man tinkerbell…. unless he shows you his balls.

Then it’s perfectly ok.

Some Lies Really Aren’t So Terrible: On Socrates’ Noble Lie In American Political Thought

“If a prince wants to maintain his rule he must be prepared not to be virtuous” –Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince “Lie often enough and boldly enough, and people will find it difficult not to believe you” — Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf Unless you’re a very strange person, most people would say that they would perfer an honest politician to a dishonest one. We say that we don’t like lies or the people who tell them. We tell ourselves that “honesty is a virtue” and believe that it is a sin to spread false witness Our Congress impeached President Clinton, not because he recieved oral sex from a White House intern, but because he lied about it under sworn testimony. We say that people who have no capacity for honesty do not belong in politics and we often sour on elected leaders who are shown to have betrayed the public trust. The Founders advocated a system of open government. Jefferson believed that, if the people are well-informed, they will be able to use their rational judgment to render right decisions concerning how government is run. An open system is essential to securing democracy. But, the seeds of the Enlightenment and the American system are rooted in the philosophy of the ancient Greeks, including Socrates’ ideal city in The Republic. Both Socrates and the Founders sought to create a city based on the ultimate Good of the people. In his description of the ideal city, Socrates states that, in the interest of achieving a state of virtuousness (the Good), the loyalty of the people to the city must be secured. A state of loyalty must be created and maintained through the telling of stories or Noble Lies. These stories, Socrates claimed, would (if they are the correct kind of stories) ensure the undying loyalty of the people to the state. Socrates believed that lying has political usefulness. According to Socrates, a philosopher (who is by nature a lover of wisdom) loves Truth. The philosopher knows that, without Truth, man is unable to lead the kind of life that he is supposed to lead, which is, according to the ancients, the life of virtue and intellectual fufilment. Socrates also said that the aim of the state is the achievement of the Good and ultimately of the Happiness of the community as a whole. Like the Founders, Socrates believed that the city should be led by the wise. The goal of the wise ruler (in The Republic, the philosopher-king) is to create a city that promotes the public Good and wards off the threat of anarchy. However, a philosopher is a wise man, and a man who is wise is well aware of the value of a well placed lie. A wise man, unlike the garden-variety liar who may lie about trivial matters, knows how and when to lie. And, who is is lying to. The who is you and me. If the leader’s duty is to secure the public Good and to secure the loyalty of the people to the state, he needs to create the want to be loyal to the state. Socrates says the the leader does this by the telling of myths — what Socrates calls Noble Lies. Noble Lies, Socrates says, are no ordinary lies. Although Noble Lies are like ordinary lies in that Noble Lies are deliberate falsehoods that are told, unlike ordinary lies, Noble Lies are told for a specific purpose. Namely, Noble Lies are told to bind the loyalty of the people to the state. People, Socrates says, are prone to making bad political choices. Common people, according to Socrates, have a lack of knowledge of political affairs and are easily manipulated. People are incapable of making important political decisions without prejudice or impulsiveness. These lies are meant to command the obediance of the ruled. When it comes to matters concerning the obediance of the people, Socrates believed the there was no need to tell the people the exact truth.

Socrates says, “….could we… somehow construe one of those lies that come into being in the case of need … some noble lie, to persuade, in the best case, even the rulers, but if not them, the rest of the city?” (The Republic, 414 b).

Noble Lies are not pure fabrications, but are tales of the right sort that will most effectively make people feel loyal to the state. Socrates says that the public must be taught the right sort of art, music, gymnastics (physical education), and the right sort of general education. This right sort of education, Socrates says, should be the type that stirs up feelings of patriotism. People, Socrates states, should feel that the state is their mother and should feel stronger emotional ties to their homeland than they should feel towards their biological families, friends, or lovers. But why is this so? Socrates says that there are certain qualities that rulers possess that the average citizen does not possess, namely those who rule possess the right kind of knowledge and wisdom that the average person does not have and cannot comprehend. Our own Founders believed that the best rulers were wise men, and that wise men (when at the head of the state) were likely to pursue the Good and Happiness of the people. Although our system is democratic, it is not without Noble Lies. The American political system is (supposedly) based on the idea of open government. A democracy, if it is to survive, requires a free exchange of ideas. These ideas are what the people act on — we vote on ideas, we vote for particular candidates based on their ideas. We say that American “values” embody the ideas of fairness, tolerance, liberty, and equality. It is important, then, that these ideas be presented accurately. But, the Founders also held apprehensions about the ability of the people to make rational decisions regarding the state. The American system is based on the idea of citizen participation. Unlike Socrates’ ideal city that is ruled by a philosopher-king, the United States is governed by elected representatives who legislate on behalf of the people.

In Federalist 71, Alexander Hamilton writes that government should not be swayed by “every sudden breeze of passion… every transient impulse the people may recieve from the hearts of men”. Hamilton continued, when occasions present themselves in which the interests of the people are at variance with their inclinations, it is the duty of the persons whom they have appointed to be the guardians of those interests to withstand the temporary delusion in order to give them time and opportunity for more cool and sedate reflection.

What Hamilton is saying is that the people are prone to thinking with their hearts more often than they think with their heads, and that a group of people who are not swayed by the same petty passions should lead. Hamilton, like Socrates, calls these people “guardians”.

In Federalist 63, Madison writes, ….suspend the blow mediated by the people against themselves, until reason, justice, and truth can reagin authority over the public mind?

The Founders and the ancient Greeks liked the idea of the virtuous statesman who rules when the people cannot rule themselves. He has the authority to assume control over the state in the absence of wiser men. Now, Socrates says that the philosopher-king has the duty to tell Noble Lies to the people to secure their loyalty to the state. We would like to believe that our Constitution, which says that power rests in the will of the people, does not allow a ruler to assume control over government. This is not so. The Founders also believed that not only does the executive have the power over government, but that he should, from time to time, lie to the American public to secure obediance and loyalty to the state. In Federalist 70, Hamilton writes that the executive branch of government (the president) possesses certain duties that allow him to do his duties as president. These duties are: decision-making, activity, secrecy and dispatch. The ability for the executive to use decision and secrecy means that he possesses the right to lie to the people if the lie enables him to do his duty as president. If anyone believes that Americans do not tell themselves Noble Lies, here are a few ideas for you: we believe that this is the land of opportunity. We believe that any man, regardless of his station in life, his color, gender, or creed, can succeed and move ahead in society. This is a form of Noble Lie. Although it is true to an extent, we told ourselves this same “you can get it too, if you pick yourself up by your bootstraps” story when our society was not free and equal. It’s also worth noting certain patriotism-inducing myths such as George Washington and the cherry tree, Betsy Ross, and Uncle Sam.There is a reason why we call ourselves a “melting pot”– we’re supposed to see ourselves as “Americans” first, and as members of our own families or ethnic/racial group scond (or not at all). But, there are people who will say that lying, especially lies that rob a people of its ability to know what exactly its government is up to, is pernicious and that no good will come of lying to the people, be it noble or not. But, as Socrates observed, it’s not the lie that we need be mindful of, it is the intent of the lie and who is telling it. Socrates said that the ultimate goal of Noble Lies is to achieve the ultimate Good. Those who are telling the lies are not just kings but philosophers. Philosophers, Socrates believed, were virtuous men. So, a virtuous man wouldnot fell an inclination towards telling his people lies that are harmful, primarily because harmful lies detract from the common Good. Virtuous men do not tell unvirtuous lies. Lastly, as we’ve seen with the latest batch of released documents courtesy of WikiLeaks, telling the truth to everyone can have disturbing effects, especially in the realm of international relations. Everyone need not know everything. There are some things that people need not know. A world where all truth is told can be an unpleasant one at best and a dangerous one at the least. Lies are not all the same, and as Socrates argues, some lies are necessary. Lies are not pernicious because of their being lies, they are pernicious on account of their intent and to some degree, on who is telling them. A lie told for the sake of mere deception or to mislead is often wrong or even dangerous. But, a lie told to guide or to comfort, or a lie that is told for the sake of a greater Good can be conducive to achieving the greater Good. And this case, some lies really aren’t so terrible.