I was reading Jonathan Caulkins’ piece, Against a Weed Industry, his latest for National Review. It argues for severe restrictions in the legalization of marijuana because otherwise people will smoke more of it and bad things will happen.
The problem, y’see, is that marijuana legalization makes it cheap and accessible and then adults go and smoke more of it. There are now 7.9 million people like me, who use cannabis daily or near-daily, he warns. The weed these days is super-potent and the price is below eight bucks a gram, “so the cost per hour of intoxication has fallen below $1, cheaper than beer or going to the movies,” he writes.
Goodness, we can’t have the poors enjoying themselves for less than a dollar an hour!
There is so much condescension, paternalism, scaremongering, and disregard for the reality of what’s happening in legalization states that I could write a piece as long as his debunking it. I’ll save that for the show.
However, there was one paragraph that I could not let pass without comment.
The pro-marijuana movement celebrates legalization as a triumph following in the footsteps of civil rights, women’s rights, and homosexual rights. That is juvenile. Although most marijuana users have no problems with the drug, most sales and profits flow from people who consume so much that it interferes with their lives. The typical session of marijuana use is part of a bad habit, if not a diagnosable substance-use disorder.
Says someone who’s never had their home ransacked, children taken, dogs shot, and sat handcuffed in the back of a cop car facing years in prison for the crime of growing a weed.
I said it to Kevin Sabet, I’ll say it to Jonathan Caulkins.
I am that marijuana addict you’re demonizing.
I consume marijuana every damn day. Multiple times per day.
Marijuana not only doesn’t interfere with my life, it enhances my life. Given that I have dedicated my research and broadcasting skills to legalizing marijuana, marijuana is my life.
But even if marijuana was interfering with my life, even if it was “a bad habit, if not a diagnosable substance-use disorder,” the choice of what I do with my mind, body, and life is as much my natural right as the alcoholic’s right to drink himself to a blackout.
There is nothing juvenile about fighting for the right to be sovereign over our own selves; it is the ultimate civil right. In ending criminal prosecution for adults who choose to get loaded on something safer than alcohol, we have indeed triumphed for civil rights.
Is the triumph on par with achieving victories in civil rights, women’s rights, and (ahem) gay rights?
Not equal to, but, it’s similar to a lesser degree. We’ve been beaten down by cops and jailed for doing nothing but being ourselves. We’ve worked jobs for lower pay than our counterparts because employers don’t like the way we pee. We’ve had to hide who we are at work for fear being outed would cost our job.
Caulkins trots out that strawman argument as away to dismiss the moral argument behind commercial legalization – marijuana smokers deserve the same treatment and rights as alcohol drinkers.
Bringing up the struggle of African-Americans, women, and (ahem) gays is meant to demean pot smokers as people engaged in a recreational frivolity, not people being denied a civil right. You’re born black, female, or gay, goes the argument; you’re choosing to smoke pot.
I’m more than willing to concede that our pot smoking lifestyle is a choice if, in return, we concede that somebody’s Catholic lifestyle is a choice, as well.
Of all the protected classes* covered by civil rights laws, one is an absolute choice – religion. We hold in great esteem the principle that a person who chooses to smear ash on their forehead on a certain day shouldn’t be discriminated against. If that person decides to attend symbolic rituals of cannibalizing their deity, we can’t treat them differently under the law. If they go into a little box every weekend to admit their behavioral mistakes and mental errors to a celibate man in order to avoid an immortal consciousness of pain following their death, they still enjoy the same rights as everyone else.
But nobody is born Catholic. One chooses to be Catholic. Yes, you can be born into a Catholic family, but as an adult, one makes a decision to be Catholic just as much as one makes a decision to pick up a joint.
In what manner does worshiping a god differ much from pot smoking, aside from the fact we can prove marijuana exists? Both have holidays, rituals, sacraments, music, art, cultures, traditions, ceremonies, and revered elders living and dead. Both have everyday fundamentalist adherents as well as once-a-year agnostic dabblers. Both address a core drive in humanity and are responsible for some good, some evil, and a lot of bullshit.
If it is “juvenile” to reject calls for marijuana policy that even further restricts access and raises price, then I encourage Caulkins to propose for beer drinkers those same policies and watch just how “juvenile” they get.
*You can’t be discriminated against on the basis of your race, religion, national origin, age, sex, pregnancy, citizenship, parenthood, disability, veteran status, and genetics are specifically protected by various civil rights laws. You might say pregnancy, parenthood, and veteran status are lifestyle choices as well, except for the existence of rape and the draft.