One of our nation’s most hotly debated topics is the legalization of marijuana. Unfortunately, personal emotions and anecdotal evidence often take precedence over actual facts in this discussion. Marijuana affects no two people the same, so the bigger picture needs to be viewed. What are the effects of legalization on society as a whole? Is legalizing this drug worth the risks our society would face? Despite one’s personal feelings about the matter, the total effects on all of society have to be considered before making such a momentous and impactful decision.
The first thing that needs to be said on the matter of marijuana legalization is that once society commits to this, there is no going back. It is much easier to keep something illegal rather than take something legal and ban it–prohibition proved this. Consumption of alcohol had been accepted social behavior ever since our founding, and the attempt to make it illegal proved completely futile. If marijuana is legalized within our society it cannot be undone. We have to get this right. Society must have an honest debate about the pros and cons of legalization, and the pros must heavily outweigh the cons in order for us as a society to take this risk.
Before delving further, an important distinction needs to be made. Marijuana has been widely reported to have fantastic medical benefits. This is not the type of marijuana legalization discussed in this writing. Legalization of marijuana for medical purposes should be a question for the medical community alone, and it need not even appear on our ballots. What rational person would oppose medical treatment that has been proven to be safe and effective? As long as marijuana is judged solely for its medical benefits, and is without a doubt proven to be an effective and safe method of treatment, its usage should always and everywhere be permitted in the medical field.
One very common argument for legalizing marijuana is that the government could tax the drug and rake in millions and millions of dollars. Besides the obvious fact that our government does not deserve another dime with its reckless spending habits, consider the implications of creating an incentive for the government to have people using marijuana. If money for the government is the end result of any action, the government will do everything in its power to increase the prevalence of that action. By legalizing marijuana, our government will have a vested interest in getting more people to use marijuana. Is this what our society needs–more drug users? One could only see this as a positive if they believed that marijuana was a harmless and even helpful drug. This leads to the next challenge.
Marijuana supporters could talk all day long about the purported benefits of using the drug, but why should they have to fight so hard for their beloved drug to become accepted in society? If Marijuana was clearly a good and useful drug, there would be no argument. The simple fact that there is so much discussion on the benefits or lack thereof of marijuana hints that there probably aren’t many benefits. One rarely hears arguments proposing to show how great spinach tastes. If it really tasted great, there wouldn’t need to be any arguments made for it.
There is also another problem with those in the pro-legalization camp claiming that marijuana is harmless. How do we know the long-term societal effects of the drug? If marijuana becomes just like alcohol and cigarettes will it cause as many deaths and accidents as those two drugs? There is no way of knowing until we actually put marijuana on the same level in society. At that point, if we find the drug to be causing a national disaster, it will be too late to reverse our decision.
Perhaps the strongest argument in favor of legalizing marijuana is that we should air on the side of more freedoms rather than less. This seems to be true on the surface, but a troubling thought comes to mind. Only a moral and virtuous people are capable of freedom. Americans are not as good as we once were, and we cannot be trusted with every freedom. A parent trusts an obedient, respectful, and well-behaved child with more freedoms than a rebellious and wild child. There is serious danger in permitting wildly immoral Americans to have legal access to a dangerous drug. Of course many will argue that there is no danger involved with marijuana, but a simple stereotype refutes the argument. The typical marijuana user is a worthless bum who’s brain rarely functions at its normal rate. Which scenario is more likely to occur upon legalization of marijuana, Americans take the high road, behave responsibly, and use their new freedom in a respectable fashion, or the number of unemployed, welfare-receiving bums skyrockets?
One possible solution to the problem of marijuana legalization is the dismantling of the welfare state. Marijuana users would then have much more incentive to use the drug responsibly and maintain a productive role in society. When potheads know that the nanny government will finance their junkie lifestyles they are perfectly content to give up on contributing to society and pursue their worthless hobby. As long as our government continues to promise to babysit every unsuccessful citizen, marijuana legalization simply cannot be an option. Dismantle the welfare state, force people to accept responsibility for their actions, and then we can talk about placing this matter on the table.
Marijuana legalization always makes for a heated an interesting debate, but the decision has to be well-weighed in a rational light before we do something that is irreversible. Many conservatives seem to instinctively lean towards being in favor of legalization because of their views on government intervention. But rather than focusing on the governmental side of the matter, it is much more effective to focus on society. “If men were angels, no government would be necessary,” so let us all focus on being angels. Once we reach that point, everything can be legalized.