To view Denton Dubbels response to this article click here.
This November, an initiative to legalize and regulate marijuana in California in a similar fashion as alcohol will be on the ballot. It would allow persons 21 and older to buy, cultivate and possess marijuana. It caps personal possession at one ounce, permits taxation and regulation by state and local governments and prohibits its use in public and driving under its influence. In addition, it allows local government to regulate the amount you can grow and prohibits its usage in the presence of children.
This challenges a tradition that has criminalized the cultivation and use of marijuana in America. Like many traditions, it is grounded in an ideology so full of apparent contradictions, that my deliberate reason suggests the burden of justification lies with those in support of the status quo.
The trend toward prohibition and framing marijuana as a “menace to society” was not derived from any societal standard of health, morality or public safety. Early in the 20th century, Mexicans were importing hemp plants and undermining government authority by trafficking cannabis, cultivating it in many states that resulted in wide spread use, as reported by the National Bureau of Narcotics. Yellow journalism also invoked Mexicans and Negros with “reefer madness.”
In addition, anti-marijuana reports composed by bureaucrats, lawyers and law enforcement officials claimed even moderate use incited violent crime and insanity. At that time marijuana use was associated with the fringes of society, but its use became pervasive in the counter-culture of the 1960s among the white middle-class that instigated pressure to reform America’s highly selective “war on drugs.”
The “Schafer Report,” issued by the National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse in 1972, among many other studies, refuted original government propaganda by concluding marijuana does not constitute a major threat to public heath, and that marijuana policy had become more damaging to American society than marijuana.
Opponents typically emphasize one of two stands: Marijuana’s “heath” and “societal effects.” Neither pass any rule of accuracy or consistency. Surpassing AIDS and cancer as the number one cause of deaths annually is tobacco, which is massively subsidized by the federal government. Alcohol and caffeine are the main proprietor of millions of deaths. Marijuana’s count is zero. Amnesia, rectal bleeding, stroke and thoughts of suicide are potential side effects of numerous FDA approved prescription drugs that kill 100,000 annually. Simply because you have a doctor’s note or government permission for your drugs doesn’t suggest it is safer than the illicit drugs you detest.
You may sneer at “pot culture,” find the drug to be juvenile and its usage a nuisance. But your personal aversion—or esteem—for it bears no weight over its legality.
It is also argued that because of California’s dire financial situation and overpopulated prisons, this justifies, in and of itself, the decriminalization of marijuana. This kind of argument is a non sequitur. Either criminalizing marijuana in the context of a civil society is just, or it is not.
Anyone arguing that the status quo is at all justified, including my colleague, runs the certainty of being inconsistent at best, hypocritical at worst. If you oppose this proposition, you may have an unhealthy trepidation to change, and a world of work ahead of you in justifying the infinite scenarios that contradict your position—one that subjugates a society rooted in ignorant fallacies with a sickly attachment to contrived norms of the past.