"Mistrust those in whom the urge to punish is strong." Friedrich Nietzche

"Any and all non-violent, non-coercive, non-larcenous, consensual adult behavior that does not physically harm other people or their property or directly and immediately endangers same, that does not disturb the peace or create a public nuisance, and that is done in private, especially on private property, is the inalienable right of all adults. In a truly free and liberty-loving society, ruled by a secular government, no laws should be passed to prohibit such behavior. Any laws now existing that are contrary to the above definition of inalienable rights are violations of the rights of adults and should be made null and void." D. M. Mitchell (from The Myth of Inalienable Rights, at: http://dowehaverights.blogspot.com/)

Monday, August 09, 2010

California's Proposition 19

Proposition 19 is yet another attempt to legalize marijuana in the state of California. My question, one that I have asked for decades now is this: By what legitimate constitutional power can the government forbid its adult citizens from full and complete use of the property of their bodies and their minds when such use does not physically harm other people or their property and when such use does not immediately and directly threaten to harm other people or their property?

It is provable fact that marijuana, along with all the other illegal drugs, cause far less harm than alcohol or tobacco do separately. Yet, both of those drugs are legal to adults.

If the basis of the present drugs prohibition is to protect individuals from their own bad choices and to protect society, in general, from the negative consequences of some people’s drug use, then wouldn’t it be logical for the government to go after the most harmful drugs first?

Tobacco use is by far the most harmful drug, or rather, substance, that is legally available to adults. It’s use causes in the neighborhood of 435,000 premature deaths per year. That number doesn’t take into account the disease and incapacitation prior to death by tobacco use, or by those who don’t die directly from tobacco use but are still in poor health because of its use, or the amount of taxpayer money that is consumed to pay for the medical bills of smokers.

Alcohol, by definition, is a narcotic drug. A narcotic drug is one that benumbs you, makes you go to sleep. Drink enough alcohol in too short a period of time and you will go to sleep, permanently. The use of this drug is also responsible for at least 85,000 deaths per year. Also, alcohol is the drug that is most likely to cause violent behavior. The Bureau of Justice Statistics, for 1996, stated that 3 million violent crimes involving alcohol occur each year; that two-thirds of the victims know their assailant; that more than 17 thousand traffic fatalities are alcohol-related (which does not touch on the fact that many, many thousands more people are injured, some seriously, but not killed by alcohol-impaired drivers); and that about 36% of all convicted offenders had been drinking at the time of their offense.

And don’t forget the lost productivity caused by the use of tobacco and alcohol. And I’m not just talking about missing work, or not being able to work efficiently because of a hangover. The long term effects of heavy drinking is disease, destruction of health, and death.

Now, up against that, there is this great wall of opposition against making—rather, re-legalizing—marijuana in the State of California. (It was legal until the 1930’s with no criminal justice problems related to its use . . . until, for political reasons, powerful people wanted to make it illegal.) There has been no known death from the use of marijuana: none, zero, zip, nada. Can you get diseases from smoking pot. Yes, chronic smokers will have more problems than occasional or non-smokers. But, most pot smokers are not the all-day-long, chronic smokers that tobacco users are. Ergo, fewer health problems from the smoking issue.

It is also well-known that almost all the violence related to the presently illegal drug trade, including marijuana, is directly related to the illegality of that trade. When the presently illegal drugs were legal—in 1900, for instance—there was no criminal justice problem associated with their use.

Who opposes the legalization of marijuana? Some, but not all, police officers. (Check out L.E.A.P.—Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.) I rather imagine that prohibitionists—or, as I like to call them: anti-rightists—see their narcotics squad budgets being cut and loss of revenue from property confiscation. Prison guards are naturally opposed to any legalization of any drug. With drug offenders they get maximum length sentences of non-violent prisoners. That’s job security and job safety. Violent street gangs definitely don’t want any drug legalized. Illegal drugs makes lots of money for them. Legalized marijuana would cut into their profits. Ditto for violent drug cartels in Mexico supplying much of the marijuana used in America. Then there are the Humboldt County growers. They don’t tend to be violent, per se, but legalized marijuana would pretty much put them out of business.

What we have in the present drug war, especially with marijuana, is a disconnection between logic and emotion. The so-called war on drugs is fueled by emotion: The use of these substances are immoral, therefore they should be illegal. But the immorality issue is really a religious issue and not suitable for a secular government to interfere with. It is not appropriate for such a government to pass laws regarding morality issues that do not violate the rights of others. A secular government is supposed to protect your rights and to go after those who violate them. You, sitting in your house drinking a beer or smoking a joint do not violate the rights of others, nor are you an immediate and direct threat to the rights of others. A police officer who arrests you for your non-violent use of pot is violating your rights. That makes the police officer the real criminal, as well as the politicians who pass such rights-violating laws, and the judges who sentence people to fines and prison for their non-rights-violating behavior.

Are there drug addicts? Yes. Are there tobacco addicts? Yes. Are there alcoholics (just another word for a drug addict)? Yes. Do all these people have personal problems that need to be addressed in a logical way? Yes. But why do we not arrest an alcoholic unless he harms someone or someone’s property, or is a direct and immediate threat to same? Why is there not equal justice for the use of all drugs?

If marijuana is immoral and, therefore, should be illegal, then how much more immoral is the use of tobacco and alcohol because of the immense amount of harm the use of those two substances cause? How much more illegal—in terms of punishment—should they be? But it all comes back to who really owns the property of your body and your mind: You or the government? If your behavior does not violate the rights of others—the vast majority of marijuana users—then, if you do actually own yourself completely, the government has no legitimate power to stop you from smoking marijuana. It does have—or uses—an illegitimate power, but then all rights-violating, tyrannical governments work that way.

For a greater dissertation on the tyranny of legislating morality, go to Myth of Inalienable Rights.

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