Josh Marshall confesses that although he despises our drug laws, he probably would have voted against Prop 19:
I just don't know if I think marijuana should be legalized at all. Maybe it's that I'm getting into my 40s. And maybe I'm a hypocrite... But do I think it should be like alcohol? Anyone over 18 or 21 can buy it?
I remember, many years ago, talking to my father about the idea of legalization. And bear in mind, my Dad, God bless him, smoked a decent amount of grass in his day, said he didn't like the idea. One reason is that he was already a bit older by that time. But he had this very contradictory and hard to rationalize position which was that he was fine with people smoking pot but keeping it at least nominally illegal kept public usage in some check. Again, how to rationalize that in traditional civic terms? Not really sure. But frankly, I think I kind of agree.
How to rationalize the irrational? From the post cited, I'd say Reason One is: I'm older. Reason two: er, see Reason one. What Josh seems to be saying is that he wants pot de facto legal but closeted. But like most closets, this one requires a shame that simply isn't there any more - and has not been for decades now. And any illegality is bound to end up hurting the poor and minorities to a disproportionate extent. It's not unenforced. It's enforced brutally upon hundreds of thousands of people. It's okay to sit there mulling how uncomfortable fully legal pot makes you, as long as none of your friends is thrown into jail, or forever barred from employment, or fired for no reason related to work performance. Josh's view reminds me of the argument of those who backed sodomy laws but didn't want them aggressively enforced. They didn't want to throw people in jail, but they wanted the stigma to remain. Yes, stigma. For one kind of pleasure (being stoned) as opposed to another (being drunk).
Of course, Josh is not a libertarian. My view - regardless of the arguments back and forth about the effects of marijuana - is simply that it is absurd for any government to prevent people from growing a naturally-occurring plant that requires no processing to provide humans with pleasure. It's pretty basic, actually. This is a core freedom for human beings and requires an insane apparatus of state control and police power to prevent it from occurring. All you have to do is burn a plant and inhale the smoke. If humans are not free to do this in the natural world in which they were born, what on earth are they free to do? My premise is freedom; Josh's is not.
Should we ban roses because they give us pleasure with their beauty and their scent? Should we ban herbs, like rosemary or thyme, because they give us pleasure and encourage us to eat more? Should we ban lawn-grass because maintaining it consumes too many people's weekend afternoons? Should we cut down trees because the beauty of them can sometimes distract someone from the road? I could go on.
The point is the government has no business regulating how its citizens derive pleasure from a naturally occurring plant. Period. The whole idea is preposterous. And yet it is taken for granted.
(Photo: U.S. Marines from India Battery, 3rd Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment patrol through a marijuana field in a village near Forward Operating Base (FOB) Zeebrugge on October 10, 2010 near Kajaki, Afghanistan. Yes, that soldier appears to be smiling. By Scott Olson/Getty Images)
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