While a recent report out of Florida, in which a man by the name of Curtis Reeves shot someone in a theater for texting, may have some of us thinking: "man, if only pot was legal in Florida, for if Curtis had a dubbie then things wouldn't have become so heated, and instead of the other guy throwing the bag of popcorn at him they would have just wolfed it down together and asked for another." Yet, despite the calming effect that marijuana has on its users as well as the limited health risks associated with its recreational use, though as marijuana use has become more prevalent more health risks are being discovered to be associated with its use, including schizophrenia; many still oppose the legalization of marijuana. So the question becomes, should the use of marijuana be decriminalized?
As I'm sure you are aware, with the recent legalization of marijuana in Colorado, there are various short-term arguments for or against decriminalizing marijuana use; from health reasons, to child-protection from exposure, to polls, and so on. Yet, what is lacking in this conversation is a constant and robust systematic argument from principles on the issue of legalizing marijuana.
Arguments for the Short Term
A constant in every part of the world, is that everyone when they become an adult wants everyone else to stay out of their business, unless the other has been given our permission to be in our business. Even the communist, socialist, and progressive, who enjoys meddling in other's affairs, does not want an authority to rule over them and all their decisions, for that means one less person whose affairs they are able to meddle in. Nor does the communist, socialist, and progressive, who simply wants the government to provide them with everything, want that; for they do not want financial freedom so that they can work for the glory of the state and do the state's bidding, but so that they are free from ever working and can do whatever their heart so desires. In other words every human being yearns to be free, and wants it to be only out of their own free will that they commit themselves to relinquishing some of their freedoms in order to allow society to operate cohesively and enjoy the benefits that arise from that. And it is this principle of freedom that makes slavery, even benevolent slavery (soft tyranny), a violation of human rights. Since to be a slave is to deny a person an essential part of what it is to be human, namely their ability to exercise their freedom. Not only that, but it is also the principle that under-girds our belief in representative government, whether it be a democracy or an American Constitution style Republic.
A second constant that goes hand in hand with the first, is that because people yearn to be free by their very nature, they are also equally equipped in their very nature, by God our creator or by nature through evolution, with the ability to prosper in freedom. With the cornerstone of the belief in our ability to prosper in freedom, being the belief that we all have the ability in our very nature, unless severely handicapped in some way, to make our own decisions in an informed manner. An ability to make our own decisions as we see fit, that when coupled with the fact that our nature demands we be free, means that we all have the right to suffer the consequences, whether good or bad, that go along with our informed decisions.
Moreover, not only can these two principles; that all men, given their nature, have a right to be free, and that all men given their nature have the ability to exercise their freedom for themselves and not for anyone else, because "all men are created equal," and thus have the ability to suffer the consequences of their decisions, again whether good or bad, as they themselves see fit; be seen as being acted upon by every person around the world, but they are also laid out by our own founding fathers in the Deceleration of Independence and the Constitution, and thus is at the heart of what it is to be American. Thus these two principles, which can be summed up in the maxim, Maximum Freedom, With Maximum Personal Responsibility, are the two principles that must be kept in mind when deciding whether one should be for or against legalizing marijuana in the short term.
THE ACT OF SMOKING MARIJUANA
Thus because the maxim, Maximum Freedom, With Maximum Personal Responsibility, which is based upon the two principles that all men are born to be free and all men are given the capacity to be able to exercise their freedom as they see fit and thus suffer the consequences of exercising their freedom as they see fit, with the only limitation in the Constitution being that they must give up and limit certain freedoms to avoid anarchy and allow for a cohesive society and union to materialize; is at the heart of what it is to be American. This means that under an American understanding, what is considered illegal, are not simply acts that have negative consequences, but specifically acts whose negative consequences interfere with the rights of others to enjoy their right to freedom and the free exercise thereof. For example, murder is illegal and we do not murder, for this act involves hindering another's ability to enjoy their freedom. Yet, alcohol consumption is legal and we are allowed to poison our kidneys with alcohol, for this does not hinder another's ability to enjoy their freedom.
Thus, with that being said, marijuana use is a very different type of act from murder and a very similar act to the ingestion of alcohol. Since it involves consequences that affect no one but the user themselves. Thus, because the use of marijuana in and of itself does not effect anyone else, it is not a freedom that must be given up and the exercise of this freedom enforced against by society in order to maintain a cohesive society and the union. Moreover, it is especially hypocritical for true conservatives and libertarians to say that we are for small government, and yet in the same breath that we need the government to regulate our lives to prevent us from doing anything that has negative consequences to it; such as advocating that the government enforce the illegality of marijuana use.
Since the entire reason that conservatives and libertarians are for small limited government is because, not only do we believe even benevolent slavery is still just as evil, because we were all made to be free and we are all created equal; but also because we believe big government is not necessary because man also has the capacity in his very nature to exercise his free will in an informed manner and thus suffer the consequences, whether good or bad, of his free exercising of his will. In other words we believe people are intelligent enough to run their own lives, and that whether they run it poorly or not is completely up to them.
Since we believe as the founders did in the maxim, Maximum Freedom with Maximum Personal Responsibility. Meaning that if people smoke marijuana it is because they themselves wanted to and in their hearts and minds believed it was moral to do so; not simply because government all of a sudden approved of it. Same with people who currently live in Colorado, who choose to continue to not smoke marijuana. They do it because they don't see the point to it, they view it as morally wrong, and/or they view it as a risk to their health. Either way people do what they believe is right based on their own convictions, not because government agrees with them or not. A principle that is necessary if we want to say that people can be held responsible for the consequences of their own actions, instead of allowing people to shift the blame and responsibility of their decisions on to society, as the left seems want to do all the time, with the best example being the Left's desire to turn every criminal into a victim.
THE FREEDOM OF THE STATES
Lastly, as the Constitution clearly states, any powers not found to be given to the Federal government are reserved for the states, and thus legalizing Marijuana is a state issue, never a federal one. Since as the founding fathers, especially Thomas Jefferson, clearly articulated. Local government and government at its smallest level having the most amount of power possible, within the limits of holding the union together, is not only the most effective government, but also the system that ensures the people the most freedom. Thus, when conservatives look at the state of Colorado as a boogie man that is going to come for every other state next and legalize marijuana, I think this is not just over the top but nonsensical.
Since, while there is certainly legitimate concern that legalizing marijuana in Colorado will help remove the substances stigma across the nation and make it easier for groups in other states to push for legalization. This is a sign of weakness by conservatives not an actual argument against legalizing it. Since if marijuana is bad and thus why you believe it shouldn't be legalized, then the data out of Colorado will bear that out and actually strengthen the case against the legalization of marijuana in other states. Moreover, if conservatives have the correct arguments and the best ones by far, then legalizing marijuana in Colorado will not sway the people, especially in conservative states, to suddenly abandon their convictions and jump on the marijuana band wagon simply because the government of Colorado approves it. Since that is non-nonsensical, especially since most conservatives are staunch anti-big government proponents and have very little trust in any sort of government, period.
In conclusion, when one examines the short term arguments for legalizing marijuana, not only is it American to do so, for the principles behind our founding demand it; but from one conservative libertarian to another, to be against it is as a true conservative or libertarian is simply hypocritical and pathetic.