Archives for posts with tag: marijuana

I have no personal interest in marijuana. Can’t smoke it; don’t want to eat it.

But the idea of persecuting people for their simple pleasures strikes me as obviously unjust, and bespeaks of a busy-bodyism that I loathe.

Besides, the first obvious failure of Progressivism was Prohibition. The attempt to destroy America’s alcohol culture was mostly a disaster, and cost many, many innocent lives, and helped criminalize whole classes of people, including but not limited to the reactively ruthless supplier sector. Prohibition is called the “Noble Experiment,” but I deny to it any nobility — just as I deny to communists their comfy moral cushion that their favored forms of forced cooperation is “a good idea at heart” or “in theory.” Just as “sharing” that entails theft is evil, so, too, is “protection” that entails persecution.

Jacob Sullum, in his recent Reason Hit&Run piece, notes that Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) is the sole U.S. Senator to support marijuana decriminalization. My trouble with Merkley’s support is twofold:

1. He says that “both sides” of the debate have good arguments, while ultimately siding with decriminalization. In the context of Prohibition and the War on Drugs, I believe that this is utter nonsense. All my life I’ve heard the “case” against legal recreational drugs. It all rests on the goofy premise that, since one can ruin one’s life by over- or misuse of some drug, it is the business of “society” or “the state” to ruin the lives of dealers and users to prevent them from . . . ruining their lives. Yeah, right. It’s a brain-dead argument that thinks that coercion running counter to the normal division of responsibility (every person responsible first, for himself or herself) can end in more personal responsibility.

2. He’s so hesitant. Politicians are such cowards, unless they think they have a groundswell of tribal anger on their side. Have a little backbone!

Sullum ably addresses this problem, and Merkley’s singular status on the subject:

On the face of it, Merkley’s status as the Senate’s sole legalizer is puzzling, since recent polls indicate that somewhere between 48 percent (CBS News) and 58 percent (Gallup) of Americans think marijuana should be legal. You would think that more than 1 percent of the U.S. Senate would agree by now. The picture is similar in the House, where many members seem to agree with Roberts and Alexander that states should be free to legalize marijuana but very few are prepared to say it’s a good idea.

Legislators are much less shy about taking controversial positions on other contentious issues. When it comes to, say, abortion or gun control, there are plenty of senators and representatives on both sides of the debate, even though they are bound to alienate many voters by taking a stand. But on the subject of marijuana, politicians seem terrified of saying anything that could be portrayed as soft on drugs, even when dealing with reforms, such as legalizing medical use, that have had solid majority support for years. Presumably that’s because they think prohibitionists are more passionate than legalizers and therefore more likely to vote based on this issue. The only way to really test that hypothesis would be to follow Merkley’s lead and see what happens.

But he may be off in his conjecture. I think the reason is not one of prohibitionists’ passion, but of endemic statism. Both pro- and anti-abortion positions have a strong component of The State As Savior mentality, endemic, in their different ways, left and right in America. Gun control is a tribal issue for liberals, and one for conservative gun proponents as well. But marijuana decriminalization just seems too . . . individualistic.

And, at base, that’s neither conservative nor progressive. So it doesn’t fit in with politicians’ usual narrative voice and mythic stance. It’s basically a libertarian position, and that makes people who enter politics uncomfortable, because government these days assumes a great deal of power and a very small commitment to freedom.

In an addendum, Sullum takes up the case of Patty Murray, one of the two women senators from my state. She has expressed some vaguely “I am with my fellow state voters” sentiments about legal marijuana. But she’s more hesitant and cautious than her Oregon counterpart, she doesn’t count, yet, as a full supporter.

She just seems like another coward to m. And a progressive who distrusts freedom. But, even if compelled by the votes of her fellow Evergreen State citizenry, at least she’s less of a coward than most on Capitol Hill. Maybe there is hope for this airhead in tennis shoes yet.

Again, I have no personal interest in marijuana. But I support justice and the division of responsibility of a free society. So all drugs must be decriminalized. The war must stop.


New Hampshire’s House of Representatives just passed a law to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana.

The Senate has nixed such bills in the past, and the governor promises to veto it.

One can be forgiven for having mixed feelings about the whole thing. Some of my ambivalence comes from having no dog in the fight. I never use marijuana, and have no interest in starting now.

It is great, though, to see the states begin to reassert their power over the federal government.

After all, there is scant constitutional warrant for Congress to regulate or prohibit the cultivation, use or sale of any plant. When alcohol was prohibited, Congress felt the need to push through a constitutional amendment; when Congress gave up on the quixotic task remaking society through Prohibition, it repealed that amendment. Unfortunately, previous Progressive-Era anti-drug legislation had been enacted without much constitutional consideration, and was allowed because only a small portion of the population used the drug in question, heroin. It should be no surprise that much of the animus against the newly forbidden opiates was driven by racism. (The “Yellow Peril” nonsense especially. Early 20th century America was creepily and endemically racist.) Marijuana prohibition began after alcohol Prohibition ended, and much of the animus regarding the “weed” was also based on racism, this time against blacks and Mexicans.

And, of course, much of the anti-marijuana propaganda amounted to lies.

Now, billions of dollars and thousands of ruined lives later, increasing numbers of Americans are seeing the whole “war on drugs” idea as a botch job. Some even now view self-medication as a right, not a privilege.

A right “retained by the people”?

Well, most legalization arguments today rely more on the Tenth Amendment than the Ninth, frankly pushing local state power (“let’s tax and regulate!”) rather than our rights. And not every attempt to regulate will be as peaceful as simple decriminalization combined with allowed home cultivation.

Current New Hampshire pro-legalization advocates talk darkly of the dangers of illicit markets, especially their susceptibility to capture by organized crime.

But it’s always worth remembering: our governments routinely behave like criminals, too. (Just this week the feds raided Colorado medical marijuana operations, in a new “biggest bust ever,” alas.) Too much regulation is no better than too little, and maybe we should take our progress from marijuana prohibition through decriminalization to full legalization slowly.


A rights-based rather than powers-based advocacy for drug legalization would be firmer ground for reform than sub rosa state-mongering. The way some marijuana legalizers talk, with their incessant whine for “taxing and regulating” cannabis, I catch a whiff of something goofy in their agenda: are they hankering to get their fixes paid for by Obamacare?

If it is determined to be a “medical” drug “regulated” by government, and if we have a “right” to medicine (as says every prog-under-a-rock), then their notion follows . . . I prefer a right to self-medication. And an obligation to pay for your own darn drugs.