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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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?
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.
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’…..