A couple of weeks ago a friend of mine asked me for my thoughts for a paper she was writing on whether on not we should decriminalize marijuana. I sent her to a couple of my past blog posts on smoking vs. alcohol, and functional drug use.
My general point was that marijuana is far less dangerous than alcohol, cigarettes, and even caffeine, and if we allow those drugs why would we not allow a much more innocuous one such as marijuana?
She took what I was saying and went in a whole different direction. Basically, her argument was that because we already had these legal “bad” drugs there was no reason to add any more drugs, because people do things like drive when using them. And if we had the choice now, alcohol and cigarettes would be illegal.
Well, I promised that I would get around to discussing those points and I finally have. First of all, I can understand the basic motivation. If you believe “drugs are bad” then we want to do everything we can to make sure we have as few as possible that we can legally access. Frankly, I don’t think all drugs are bad, and that as with everything else, moderation is the key.
So, let’s discuss the argument in its two main points:
1. We don’t want to add any more drugs. I don’t think that legalizing marijuana would add more drugs. Marijuana already exists, and many, many people use it. If marijuana is legalized I really don’t think the numbers of users will increase. Yes, there may be a few law-abiding people who wanted to try it but wouldn’t break the law to do so BUT these people will not start driving high or breaking the law due to drugs because they are so law-abiding to begin with. I cannot see a situation in which legalizing marijuana will increase crime.
It will reduce the amount of resources wasted on needless marijuana possession and buying arrests (yes, there is still a lot of money going in to sting operations set up to arrest those “terrible” marijuana purchasers). It will regulate marijuana sales, allowing the government to tax it, and reduce the negative impact of drug trafficking. In fact, it could reduce marijuana usage among a certain population – the population who use it because it’s “cool” to try illegal drugs and defy their parents. I have no evidence to support this assertion but you never know.
2. Alcohol and cigarettes would never be made legal today. This is an interesting assertion, one which we can’t really prove either way, but evidence from the time of prohibition may sway me to the side of not agreeing. Humans appear to have a need to some sort of mind-altering substance. Actually, not just humans, many animals do to. Even if alcohol and cigarettes were banned I can assure you we would have something else we could use, maybe even marijuana as it is far less dangerous that those two drugs.
Overall, while I understand the argument, I feel like it doesn’t work in the world we live in. I’m not even arguing to legalize marijuana. Frankly, I don’t really care. I don’t think it’s bad, I don’t think it’s a gateway drug, and most importantly, I don’t think that the police should be wasting their time and resources on catching “those marijuana users”.
I think that alcohol is far worse than marijuana, and I honestly cannot comprehend how anyone can sit back and drink their beer while talking about the evils of marijuana.