Monday, November 30, 2009

States "Rights", States "Wrongs" & Marijuana

I enjoy reading George F. Will's columns, even though I disagree with him often. You can find his column archive here. His latest column, entitled "Rocky Mountain High" can be found here. The aptly named column deals with the legalization of marijuana, and while I could talk about that issue at length (and I may in fact do just that...) it also spurred another thought in my head, namely that there are more than a few "states rights" conservatives who seem to let their "states rights" convictions be more fluid than solid.

Now to be fair to Mr Will, he didn't come out in say in the column that allowing states to regulate marijuana sales was wrong. However there was definitely an undercurrent of "states shouldn't be allowed to do this" to the piece, at least in how I read it this morning (while on the elliptical machine, sweating profusely I might add). It makes you wonder: if you support "states rights" as a general principle, then shouldn't you support the right to states to regulate something like marijuana sales?

Now the cheap-n-easy response to my last question would go something like this: "Listen Albert, you bleeding-heart hippie sympathizer, marijuana is a drug, plain and simple. What's more, it is a gateway drug, leading kids to try things that are far worse!". Now since I asked myself a question, I'm going to answer myself:

Marijuana as a drug: Yes, it is a drug. So are caffeine, alcohol and nicotine. How many pot-heads have killed people on the roads at last count after binging on massive amounts of ganja? Now compare that the numbers killed by users of that legal drug alcohol. The worst I've ever seen a pot-head do was make peas to eat at 1:30 in the morning.

Marijuana as a gateway drug: I love this argument, mainly because it's so blindly absurd. How about this: the vast majority of people that try marijuana probably tried cigarettes. Does that make cigarettes a "gateway drug", by extension, for crystal meth or crack?

The bottom lining this from my perspective is that Marijuana is a drug, but it's probably not as harmful as alcohol is over the short term, and it's on par with tobacco in terms of it's long-term impact (as a smoked substance). It might have a negative brain impact over the long term, but then again so does alcohol. All things considered, net-net the same. As long as tobacco and alcohol are legal, I honestly can't see why the use of Marijuana should be criminalized.

Putting this all together, if you are a "states rights" kind of person, then you clearly believe that states should be able to set their own policies about the sale of alcohol. Why then would there be any argument about allowing states to also set their own rules about Marijuana use? Unless of course you simply cry "states rights" as a more palatable covering for the notion that government should try and control behavior (be it the use of certain products or services). Do not true conservatives stand in support of self-determination and less government interference?

By way of disclaimer, I want to note the following: I have NEVER tried Marijuana, nor will I ever try Marijuana. In fact, I don't smoke (never tried it) and I almost never drink alcohol. My opinions aren't those of a substance user, but rather those of someone who believes that adults should have the right to make asses of themselves and cause undue harm to their bodies if they so desire to, just as long as they keep it to themselves.

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