A California legislative committee has voted to tax and regulate marijuana in the same manner in which alcohol is taxed and regulated.
Ironically, this measure came from the public safety committee. A November ballot initiative will give Californians the opportunity to legalize or criminalize the sale and distribution of pot to those who are 21 and over.
Just before the California committee’s vote, the San Francisco Chronicle documented a group of “soccer moms” who want to legalize marijuana in California because they are worried about health and legal dangers of the laced and polluted marijuana their adult children are currently buying. Sadly, instead of addressing the real problem—the fact that their adult children are smoking dope—these mothers are attacking their state’s public policy. The moral problem is being ignored.
And never mind that pill forms of marijuana, like Marinol, are legal virtually everywhere. Pot fans continue to lobby for expanded forms of marijuana in the hopes that individuals could grow marijuana plants in their homes and purchase marijuana at cafes.
And make no mistake—what’s happening in California is happening across the country. New York legislators are thinking of legalizing pot so they can collect $15 million in licensing fees. USA Today notes, “Advocates of legalizing marijuana say generational, political and cultural shift have taken the USA to a unique moment in its history of drug prohibition that could topple 40 years of tough restrictions on both medicinal and recreational marijuana use.”
This quote reflects the increasingly relativistic tone that our country is adopting. Rather than advocate for legitimate or moral reasons to allow recreational use of marijuana, advocates are reduced to appealing to a culture’s declining moral compass (or shrinking state coffers).
To be clear, the only legitimate use of marijuana is when it is medicinally used in pill form. Why? The reason the Institute of Medicine concluded that “there is little future in smoked marijuana as a medically approved medication” is because inhaling smoke is one of the worst ways to administer a drug. Medical opiates are distributed in pill form—not smoked—for the same reason.
I have decided to do the pro-marijuana advocates a favor by addressing the worst arguments for legalizing marijuana, in the hopes that they will stop using them altogether.
Bad Argument 1: “Hard” drugs are the real problem.
Marijuana is not only a gateway drug, but it is proving itself to be highly addictive, and its potency has increased dramatically since the 1970s. While the number of people checking into clinics for addiction to alcohol and cocaine are decreasing, the number of people checking into clinics for addiction to marijuana is increasing.
Other than the fact that it is inherently wrong, a prime benefit to keeping marijuana illegal is that judges may offer as a sentence treatment for addiction, rather than incarceration. As the drug court system expands throughout the country, there is great promise that getting people to stay off drugs permanently is possible.
At some point, we must ask why fathers, mothers, and others are willing to go to jail for extended periods of time over a “non-addictive” drug with supposedly limited negative side effects. If broccoli were illegal, I would not risk going to prison over getting my fix. Unless I were addicted.
Bad Argument 2: The benefit of legalizing marijuana outweighs the consequences of criminalizing it.
As Christians, we can never embrace consequentialism—the idea that an act is good or bad depending on its outcome. The argument, therefore, that giving drug dealers and users a pass has fewer negative consequences than prosecuting them, holds no water for us.
If we legalized everything that was difficult or inconvenient to prosecute, then we might justify human trafficking as well. For all we know, going after human traffickers could be more detrimental to the people being trafficked than if it were legal. By that argument, legalizing human trafficking could be justified because government could monitor the well being of those poor souls being trafficked, and could hold the traffickers to “on the job” safety standards.
If marijuana were suddenly legalized, we would be justifying it on the basis of convenience, not principle.
Bad Argument 3: Alcohol hurts more people then marijuana.
This is a red herring. Rather than substantiating their claim that marijuana is safe, proponents direct our attention to the devastating effects of alcohol abuse. Would these people be satisfied if alcohol were made illegal alongside marijuana? In fact, even though alcohol is legal and regulated, we still have alcoholics and the tragic consequences of its abuse. So, why would legalizing marijuana be a step in the right direction?
Theologically, this is a weak argument as well. The purpose of the law is to preserve order and enforce justice. The law should resemble the moral consent of the society, as long as those laws accord with God’s law. Voicing his objection to drug legalization, Chuck Colson wrote that “this would be tantamount to society’s saying that drug use is all right, that we find no moral objections to it. To take away the law takes away the moral condemnation that the law reflects: that drug use and other publicly destructive vices are morally objectionable.”
The Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church (CCC 2291) presents an argument that I believe all Christians could agree with: “The use of drugs inflicts very grave damage on human health and life. Their use, except on strictly therapeutic grounds, is a grave offense. Clandestine production of and trafficking in drugs are scandalous practices. They constitute direct co-operation in evil, since they encourage people to practices gravely contrary to the moral law.” The Catechism does not differentiate whether or not recreational drugs are legally or illegally acquired, since their only legitimate use is on “strictly therapeutic grounds.”
Bad Argument 4: The war on drugs is too expensive.
Case in point: The Drug Enforcement Administration is the largest such organization in the world. Because much of the property owned by drug dealers is seized as a result of their illegal dealings, the taxpayer benefits greatly from a policy known as “asset forfeiture.” A considerable portion of the war on drugs has been funded by the forfeiture of houses, cars, boats, cash, businesses, jewelry, TVs, surveillance equipment, and countless other items. In 1991, for instance, the DEA seized over $208 million in marijuana related cases, which only accounted for 22 percent of total assets seized.
Bad Argument 5: Legalizing marijuana will run the drug cartels out of business.
Really? The very same hoodlums who are murdering thousands of policemen and rivals in Mexico will lay down their arms, put their machetes away, and ply another trade as soon as we legalize marijuana?
But what if they decide to run prostitution rings or gambling rings instead? Perhaps we will have to legalize those vices as well. It reminds me of the old joke about the exterminator who doesn’t really kill the termites; he just captures them and takes them to the next house.
Years back, Americans were infuriated with Nike because of its use of child labor in other countries. Rightly so. Yet the pro-marijuana crowd refuses to consider the murderous consequences of America’s appetite for narcotics.
If we can’t get ordinary citizens to stop funneling their money to the most violent and brutal degenerates in the world, then why would we expect drug dealers to change their ways?
Hope in a dark discussion
The greatest tragedy of the drug decriminalization movement is that they sympathize not with the farmers whose land is stolen, or the children who get caught in the crossfire of drug wars, but with the Americans who knowingly use and traffic drugs sold by the most ruthless and bloodthirsty criminal enterprises in the world.
In the end, there is no legitimate moral or pragmatic reason to legalize a drug that destroys the lives of those addicted to it and that fuels crime and corruption. Please pray for victims of the drug trade and the moral compass of drug users and supporters of illicit drug use.
And pray that the church will have the courage to speak the truth in love as the debate over legalizing marijuana grows hotter.
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