I found myself not too long ago in a circle of individuals discussing the ramifications of marijuana being legalized on a federal level. I’ve had this conversation many times before and was thankful that I was discussing this topic with a group of cultured, intelligent individuals with backgrounds in economics, history, physics and a myriad of academic topics from which people can draw unique perspectives on the matter.
Some cited the economic benefits, some cited ethical concerns and some even cited the medical benefits that THC has been shown to bring us when consumed in an isolated form. However, there was something missing.
As a philosophy major, I find myself, and will continue to find myself, in classes regarding some type of ethics. Whether it be the ethics of technology or the ethics of happiness or some other form of ethics, the perspective I find myself bringing to the debate is an ethical one: an issue of right or wrong. Medical studies supporting pot are fine and dandy, as well is the whole ‘tax and regulate argument,’ but I find myself continually bringing a simpler and perhaps more honest reason for the legalization of pot to the table.
The single most important reason why we all want marijuana to be legalized is so that we can get high without consequences. The kid who sits in his or her dorm all day sparking joint after joint after joint isn’t caring about children with epilepsy or the guy suffering from chronic nerve damage or some other ailment of which pot relieves the symptoms.
He’s not concerned about the economic benefits. He just wants to get high, and he doesn’t want to get in trouble for it. He believes it’s fundamentally wrong that we exist in a world where he can get punished for a habit that affects only himself. It’s an ethical argument, and that’s perfectly okay.
However, that is a very different type of argument. It’s essentially saying, ‘I want pot to be legalized for me, not for the farmers or the sick children or the unemployed people.’
Why pot should be legalized is a question of policy analysis. At that point, people who specialize in policy analysis can chime in and say, ‘These are the costs and benefits that pot would bring to us if it is implemented in this manner, and the benefits resulting from this policy will outweigh the costs.’ If you wish to educate yourself on these sorts of matters, by all means do, but I believe that there are far too many people who simply throw out rhetoric they don’t truly understand to justify their habits. This isn’t different than any other political belief. In the same way, somebody who supports gay marriage can’t really cite health or economic concerns that carry as much weight as the ethical argument, which is that it’s fundamentally wrong to tell somebody they can’t get married.
I think most people want marijuana legalized because we feel, not from a rhetorical standpoint but on a deeply heartfelt and impassioned level, that it is fundamentally wrong that the government says that we can’t get high if we want to, and it’s okay to campaign on that. In the same way, prohibition was a colossal failure because of its ethical opposition.
Did it hurt distilleries and pubs and everybody else involved in the liquor industry? Yes, but what people were really bothered by was the government telling us that we couldn’t get drunk if we want to, and that’s okay. When it comes to marijuana, we should just be more honest as a constituency and tell our lawmakers that we want to get high because it feels good, and we don’t want to get in trouble for feeling good, not because of the economic or health reasons we continually fail to understand. Our lawmakers need to cater to our wants and needs, and will understand the rhetoric behind the pot debate better than any of us would, thus bringing the real policy issues surrounding pot to the table. All we need to do is raise our voices and let them know we want it to happen.