Will Marino ‘25
Five of the most common arguments for the legalization of marijuana are as follows: Firstly, the legalization of weed allows for a controlled market and thus safer consumption. Secondly, incarceration or fines for possession of cannabis can ruin lives over a relatively low-level offense, next that marijuana is a relatively safe drug to consume. Fourth, that a hardworking American should be able to do what they want with their wage, and lastly, that a controlled cannabis market can be taxed and provide revenue for the government.
The first three arguments presented do not take the affirmative side of promoting a positive effect of legalization, but rather attempt to minimize damage in the wake of poor regulation. Essentially, while they admit that consumption of cannabis has negative side effects, they take the position that there is no effective way to humanely make it illegal. The first argument for the benefits of producing a ‘safe’ weed product ignores the danger inherent in all forms of weed. Use of marijuana in the short term passifies and provides an escape. As marijuana use is more common among people without college degrees and low wage earners, the proliferation of marijuana serves as an effective tool for the subjugation of the lower classes, as action is transformed into despondency. While incarcerating those using marijuana would no doubt serve the same purpose; however, making either the sale or growth of marijuana illegal while keeping simple possession or use legal would keep incarceration rates low while striking the root of the problem. In addition to this, marijuana use among teenagers has been shown to have long-term negative effects on cognitive function. Allowing the use of marijuana to become as common as the consumption of alcohol gives those under the age of 18 more opportunities to cause long-term damage to themselves.
The fourth argument, commonly made by libertarians, that a hardworking American should be able to do what they want with their money and we should not constrict their freedom or purchasing power ignores runs against a libertarians own internal logic. Take for instance a scenario in which a stoned driver hits a pedestrian, killing them. In the name of liberty of one citizen (the stoner) ultimately the liberty of another was taken away. The obvious counter argument would make the point that similar to driving while drunk, driving while stoned can be made a criminal offense without making weed illegal. Obviously, the legalization and proliferation of weed in general allows for a higher likely-hood of one driving while stoned (following this train of thought it is high time alcohol is made illegal as well).
The final argument presented makes the claim that controlled cannabis can be taxed and provide revenue for the government. This is true; however, this logic puts government revenue over the wellbeing of its citizens, a dangerous game to play and a stunningly hypocritical move for a liberal democracy to make.
For these reasons, the case of marijuana is one in which, as James Madison would put it, ‘liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty.’