Despite all the predictions it was going to be a slam-dunk, California didn’t get the legalization of marijuana passed on their last ballot – and by a good margin. Someone asked for the reason I wouldn’t vote for it if a similar bill if it came up here in Oregon and I decided to respond. Personally, I could care less about the legalization/non-legalization of weed for the most part. I find dedicating yourself to it’s cause seems kinda juvenile to me – but hey – to each their own. But on to the arguments I hear most often:
Argument #1. “Everyone is smoking it – marijuana should just be legalized already”
Well, I don’t smoke marijuana. I thought it was a stupid way to blow $60+. I got a lot more fun out of other things for the same price such as going to a concert or a great dinner out with friends. And just because everyone is smoking marijuana doesn’t mean that the practice should be legalized. Making that argument is like telling your mom that everyone else is jumping off a bridge so you’ll be joining them. This argument feels more like a peer-pressure play than making a fact based, logical decision based on empirical data.
Argument #2. “Marijuana has all kinds of medicinal uses”
To this argument, I would say you should petition to get it legally approved and regulated by the FDA as a helpful drug. I’d probably support that position. By claiming that it is a powerfully helpful drug AND safe for lifelong recreational use doesn’t seem to hold in common experience. No other substance has the precedent of being a powerful medicinal agent AND being totally safe for daily recreational use. You could make the same arguments about alcohol; but it is also frequently cited by the legalization crowd as worse than marijuana (see next item). I find the argument that smoking marijuana is safe for lifelong recreational use and at the same time be a powerfully helpful drug to be hard to swallow without more evidence. I’d like the FDA to decide which category it should fall in.
Argument #3: “Alcohol is worse, and it’s legal!”
This bill for the legalization of marijuana doesn’t have anything to do with the legal/moral/ethical standing of alcohol (which has it’s own problems). Legalization of marijuana would not change anything about alcohol use, so the argument is kind of invalid. Go pass a law to outlaw alcohol if you feel that strongly. There’s nothing in this argument that shows how marijuana smoking is a benefit to our society other than kind of pointing at the neighbors (alcohol) and saying “Well, THEY’RE doing it”.
Now that I’m in my late 30’s I’ve personally seen too many of my own friend’s lives apparently affected negatively by long-term smoking. I had the experience at the place of my work that several coworkers ask what was wrong with the two guys who are regular smokers during/after meetings because they are pretty slow on the uptake and becoming more so each year. This slowness is becoming an issue for their employment. These effects might just be a correlation but behavioral and addiction medicine psychologist do see higher correlations of marital and personal problems from regular users. Just check out any of Dr. Drew’s comments about this from Loveline on the matter.
Rarely is it a good idea to escape into a substance to deal with stress or issues in your life. It often leads to you not actually learning how to deal with them in a constructive, adult way. The result is that years down the road you may find yourself less developed/mature than others in your age group.
Argument #4: “Isn’t it a terrible/social justice problem that so many (African-American) people are in jail because of casual use? It should not be a crime to casually smoke.”
Yes, the problem of jails full of people who have not committed any crime other than smoking joints is problematic; but it doesn’t logically follow that we should legalize something. What about speeding? Lots of people get those tickets – but we don’t legalize that. I’d support minimally criminalizing it like making it a misdemeanor with a hefty fine/ticket – but the argument of legalization is still falling short. Tickets/fines would raise money – which brings us to:
Argument #5: “Legalization and taxation will raise much needed money for California”
Almost every major study of the financial effects of proposed legalization/taxation plans show that the amounts raised would be far too small to make any significant difference to the California budget. California’s budget is in the top 10 LARGEST budget in the WORLD. Its budget is bigger than most countries. I think it’s safe to say that California’s budget problems are not caused by the non-legalization of marijuana.
I actually believe that it would end up COSTING more money to legalize (at least initially) because you’ll likely have all kinds of new legal problems. Is marijuana a drug that needs FDA testing/regulation? If it’s a drug, then can it be grown and sold by anyone for recreational use? Do medical plans need to cover it? What are the covered conditions? Are there new government agencies that need to be staffed to regulate growth/distribution/safety? I’ll argue there will be lawsuits from these issues that might take years and tons of money to work out.
Argument #6. “We’d all be better if we could just smoke up baby. Peace and love will surely follow for everyone!”
Reduced capacity does not solve problems. Lighting up a dried weed and inhaling chemicals into your body has not scientifically been proven as a good way to deal with problems. That argument makes as much sense as drinking fermented corn squeezings to deal with marital problems.
I could honestly care less about marijuana legalization but I find almost all the arguments in favor to be logically flawed or do not make a good case for why it SHOULD be legalized. I just don’t see how legalization really adds something valuable, beautiful, and noble to our society.