Marijuana So, recently, inspired by these fine articles sent
courtesy of Mildly Piqued Academician:

I mused:


A higher class of potheads, perhaps, given that there is at least one room in the house you might not mind hanging out with them regularly in, but potheads none the less…

However, also good arguments for legalization: once again, pot is the drug that doesn’t make you crazy, aggressive, or hyper—just kinda stupid and laid back…

Well, around here, such a statement is viewed by some Angry Folk as tantamount to declaring war on Truth, Justice, and the American Way (or Mom, Baseball, and Apple Pie for you America-hating Lefties out there)!

(Actually, when I say “some”, I really mean “one”, as you might discern from the exchange below. *Ahem*, it’s not really fair that I get to editorialize, but such are the perks of editing, I suppose. Let the games begin!)

Angry Midwesterner
And while we’re at it lets legalize prostitution, and all kinds of other social ills. I mean let’s face it, Amsterdam is a great place to live! High times, high crime, and slavery, FTW!!! And hell while we’re at it, let’s legalize selling rat poison to folks rolled up in cigarettes, let people buy a nice little dose of death for themselves!

Mildly Piqued Academician
Um, right.

It’s simply not sensible(or even ethical, I’d argue) to regulate all things that people do that may be bad for them.

So you need to weigh costs vs. benefits.

I have no problem making crystal meth illegal and marijuana legal, not because I think smoking pot is a good thing—I have consumed enough in the distant past of a quasi-misspent youth to understand personally—but because I think that the current path of criminalization costs way, way more than it benefits. (NB: I was never “into” MJ but I’m man enough to say that I did, in fact, inhale. If Bill Clinton really meant to say “God, pot smoke is some awful stuff”— supposedly he always coughed—he should have been man enough to say that, but as we all know….)

Angry Midwesterner
But it’s much more sensible to regulate things which:

  1. Folks sell which is bad for you. Profiteering from misery and death is a bad business and is unethical.
  2. Folks doing crap which impacts my health. I can have a beer in the same room as you without you suffering any effects. The same is not true for Mary Jane or Tobacco.

[Editor’s Note: Okay, now things fork off covering both of AM’s points, and the whole debate gets way, way too long for one article, so we’ll just cover the first point above, and get back to the second later!]

Mildly Piqued Academician
Folks sell which is bad for you. Profiteering from misery and death is a bad business and is unethical.

Ah, well it’s back to Prohibition, then: Alcohol kills a lot of people. I wouldn’t be surprised if the rate of serious negative outcomes due to alcohol consumption is on par with MJ, if you adjusted for rate of usage, possibly more.

There are many activities that are more dangerous than MJ usage that are not just allowed, but indeed encouraged and heavily subsidized, by the state, high school football being an example. Sometimes it’s in the public interest to regulate a behavior, but that doesn’t mean that making it illegal is the way to go most of the time.

For instance, I’m quite happy to treat MJ use as a public health problem, but legal prohibition has done more to damage civil liberties in this country than nearly anything over the last forty years. A large chunk of the people in jail are there because of the draconian drug laws. Law enforcement has had major distortions of its incentives over the years because of dubious removal of property: look up forfeiture sometime.

The price of MJ is high not because it’s expensive to grow but because of its prohibition. Much of the violence in that sort of market happen because it’s a black market. If you could buy Philip Morris’ manufactured Rasta Man Ganja down at the Circle K (with a nice big tax funding public health measures) you’d see the prices go down, the violence and criminality sucked out of the market, the cops being able to go back to what they should be doing, etc.

I will leave any religious/ethical arguments to others more qualified to make them.

Angry Midwesterner
Alcohol in moderation improves your health with no ill effects.

Smoking “in moderation” permanently impacts your health negatively.

Mildly Piqued Academician
As I said, so do a lot of things that society actively subsidizes.

My general principle is this: The state has to be very, very careful about what it regulates of the behavior of consenting adults.

Angry Overeducated Catholic
Really, is there any evidence, any at all, that MJ has worse societal effects than alcohol? Given the incredibly lethal effects of drinking and driving, the role of alcohol in domestic abuse, assault, and manslaughter, I suspect the public health case can very easily be made against alcohol.

People can take cocaine, MJ, tobacco, heroin, and a wide variety of other drugs in a way that impacts their health less than contact sports, skiing, or most extreme sports. And some do. Many, of course, abuse those substances and come to a bad end. But far, far more abuse alcohol and destroy their lives.

Along AM’s lines, the Temperance movement was 100% correct, and Prohibition was the correct and proper thing to do. And, in fact, it was successful, in that it massively reduced alcohol consumption and, especially, public drunkeness (which was the point). It also, of course, built criminal and political empires.

In both respects, just like the War on Drugs.

Angry New Mexican
Or, to paraphrase Dennis Leary:

They say marajuana is a gateway drug. As far as I’m concerned, marajuana only leads to one thing: carpentry. Because once you start smoking you want to turn everything into a bong.

Angry Midwesterner
My concern is the following:

  • Can it be done in moderation?
  • Does its use necessarily impact those around you?

So temperance was wrong.

Mildly Piqued Academician
Given the incredibly lethal effects of drinking and driving, the role of alcohol in domestic abuse, assault, and manslaughter, I suspect the public health case can very easily be made against alcohol.

Of course it can.

Alcohol (like many other drugs) can be used in a totally responsible fashion, but is frequently abused to varying degrees. The question of whether this is something we put up with, treat as a public health issue (education, rehab) or as a legal matter (these are not exclusive, of course) is a different matter.

The cost of legal prohibition, as AOC correctly notes, is a giant increase of the state’s coercive power and a giant increase in criminal enterprise, in fact in a vicious circle. Sure, it reduces consumption…But At What Cost?

Angry Overeducated Catholic
Can it be done in moderation?
For over half of all drinkers, the answer is no. For MJ, cocaine, and heroin the answer is yes (for at least some). So?

So temperance was wrong.
Then how is the anti-drug movement right? MPA is right, the ridiculous efforts to stop drug trafficking have destroyed more lives and done more harm to liberty in this country than any other aspect of the 20th Century, including the Red Scare and the Political Correctness nonsense. They have also doomed many to lives of brutal criminal assault or to lives of crime to support habits. In fact, the effects are far, far worse than Prohibition, which was benign by comparison.

Angry Midwesterner
Taking cocaine and MJ always gets you high, so the answer is no, it cannot be done in moderation. The answer for alcohol is yes, it can be done without getting you high.

Mildly Piqued Academician
Cocaine I won’t comment on—I wasn’t crazy enough to try that and it holds no appeal to me at all—but it is most certainly possible to consume MJ without getting high, very much in the way that one can drinking a few beers.

But this is all beside the point: My primary argument against prohibition of most currently illegal substances has to do with what it’s done to our police forces and how much crime its bred. Whether or not the use of MJ is a dumb idea (I think it is) is separate from whether the state should generally prevent you from doing it. I think joining Scientology is far, far more damaging than most drug use (don’t get me started on those bastards) but don’t think that the state should be able to prevent someone from doing so.

Angry Midwesterner
Here I have to side with Germany. Scientology should be destroyed.

Mildly Piqued Academician
Oh I hate Scientology (and have been personally affected by it quite adversely, as close relatives were early Scientologists) but think that it and other cults of its ilk are the price of the First Amendment.

Angry Overeducated Catholic
Alcohol always has effects, but those effects don’t become pronounced with a small number of doses. So does moderation mean “absolutely no effects at all,” “a small effect,” “a moderate effect,” or “does not impair one’s ability to lead a full human life?”

Angry Midwesterner
Fair enough. We’d need to define this further.

Angry Overeducated Catholic
Agreed. Or simply agree that society should, generally, allow people to engage in moderately self-destructive or risky behavior, if it’s not a great burden on society or others. Otherwise we rule out not only drug use, but also motorcycles, jet skis, high school, college, and professional football, mountain climbing (esp. free climbing), base jumping, skydiving, etc., etc.

After all, even tobacco, nasty as it is, doesn’t reduce lifespan in every case. So, despite its harmful physical effects, one can’t say that it’s always self-destructive, just really, really risky.

Unless the mood-altering effects are themselves opposed by you, but if so, then we’d better ban prayer, meditation, television, and mass assembly as well, as all of those have been known to alter the mood. Hell, I’ve been high from sleep deprivation…though if you wanted to ban that, I wouldn’t object too much…

Of course unrefined cocaine has been used socially for a very long time in South America without ruinous effects, and the refined version has been used by productive, (otherwise) law-abiding members of society. Is it a dangerously addictive drug? Sure, but so is alcohol, and it combines physical dependency and ease of access with psychological addiction, so by that measure it’s probably worse.

Under what conditions should private use of a drug which causes no unwanted effects on other citizens be banned?