Canada is on the edge of legalizing marijuana, and every pointy-headed pseudo-conservative is coming out of the woodwork, touting all the evils of the demon weed. Without putting too find a spin on it: they’re talking bullshit, and this post is intended to clean up some of the hypocrisy.
First, I want to lay down some of The Bad Things ™ that genuinely come from marijuana:
Those things are facts. I’m not going to dispute their truth. What I will say is “so what” ? Those facts fail the “so what” test when used in the context of “marijuana should not be legalized.” Why? Because smoking tobacco, and probably vaping too, covers the first one, and alcohol covers the second. The truth is, as a society, we already permit these things, and there’s nothing special about marijuana in that regard. Now, as a society, we control alcohol and tobacco to minimize harm. Fine, we can control marijuana to minimize harm too, and that has to be a lot cheaper than putting people in prison because they choose to smoke one plant over another.
Here’s a table of common arguments against marijuana, compared with other substances.
|Leads to use of other (harder) drugs||There is no evidence of this, though it is highly likely that every person who uses “hard” drugs has used marijuana.||Nearly every person who uses “hard” drugs has consumed alcohol, and the gateway drug argument has never been used.||Nearly every person who uses “hard” drugs has used tobacco, and the gateway drug argument has never been used.|
|People will drive while high.||People already drive while high. There’s no reason to expect that suddenly there will be a wave of millions of new pot-heads.
Whatever we’re doing today for impaired driving should be adequate in a legal weed environment.
|People drive drunk so much we already spend great sums of money dealing with them, and tightening our laws.||N/A|
|Think of the Children||There is decent evidence that it should be kept away from children / teens. Nobody disputes this in a serious way. The laws are being crafted to restrict access to adults and will probably be moderately effective.||We have laws in place to restrict access to adults, and those laws are moderately effective.||We have laws in place to restrict access to adults, and those laws are moderately effective.|
|Think of the Children – Part 2 – Home growing||It’s not clear to me what the issues are about home growing plants that don’t exist with other types of gardening. A huge percentage of home garden plants are intoxicants or deadly poison and nobody seems to have a problem with them (Datura, for example).||The law trusts parents to keep their booze away from kids, including their home-brew beer/wine.||The law trusts parents to keep their tobacco away from kids, including home-grown tobacco.|
|Canada will turn into a nation of pot-heads||Canada already *IS* a nation of pot-heads. Even the most conservative estimates of how many people use marijuana, legal and illegal, peg the number between 20% and 30% of adults.
In most jurisdictions where marijuana has been legalized, use increases for a short term then falls off below the level of use during prohibition.
Contrary to what some people think, it’s not like nobody uses marijuana now, and suddenly when it’s legal there will be millions of pot-heads. There already are millions of pot heads.
|Alcohol use is declining because people are getting tired of the deleterious effects of alcohol, but there’s no shortage of drunkards. There doesn’t seem to be a big move to lock these people up simply for being drunkards.||Tobacco use is declining because of the cost and the negative health effects. Still, there’s no shortage of tobacco smokers.|
|Marijuana stinks, I don’t want to smell that shit.||Fair enough. So what? We don’t ban things because you think they stink.||Drunks stink too.||Tobacco smokers smell like walking death.|
|Second-hand smoke is/might be dangerous||Fair enough, but a lot of people aren’t interested in smoking their weed. In any case, it’s not obvious why there should be more restrictions than those that are placed on tobacco smoking.||Drunken assholes are dangerous to other people.||We control where people can smoke in public to reduce/eliminate this problem.|
|People can overdose and die||Maybe, but there’s never been a recorded case of that in 5000 years of marijuana use, so it seems highly unlikely.||People overdose on booze and die all the time, doesn’t seem to phase anyone.||N/A|
|People can become strung-out addicts.||No. There is no/weak evidence that marijuana is physically addictive, although it may be psychologically addictive like smoking and drinking (which themselves are also physically addictive).||There are a LOT of alcohol addicted people. Whole industries have grown up around dealing with them.
Somehow, we manage to survive as a civilization.
|Nicotine is one of the most addictive drugs on the planet. Even seen what happens to a chain smoker after a 6 hour flight with no cigs?
Clearly “strung-out” addicts isn’t a big societal issue.
|We already have problems with booze and smokes, weed will make it worse.||Every piece of evidence indicates people are already using marijuana in droves, so we must already have the weed related problems. By legalizing, we can stop spending money on putting people in jail for things like simple possession, and instead spend money more effectively on general harm reduction.
Nobody much smokes a joint and goes home to beat the wife and kids. For the most part, you smoke your joint, eat a pizza, giggle a bit and go to bed.
|Alcohol causes huge problems at all levels of Canadian society. It is a contributing factor in all manner of assaults, abuse, and damage. There’s a joke about people needing a warning label that reads “Instant asshole, just add alcohol”. You never hear that sort of thing with a weed user.||Tobacco kills tens of thousands of people each year and has been well-known to do so for half a century. There’s no evidence that marijuana will make this statistic worse.|
|Criminals will profit.||Criminals profit now. With legal marijuana we’ll be able to put a modicum of control on the stuff and tax it. That should be a win all-round.
Prohibition of anything always results in profit for criminals. Legalizing will put a big dent in, though not eliminate, the black market.
|There is a huge black market for alcohol, at least partly generated by a perception that taxes on alcohol are too high, but nobody freaks out about criminals profiting.||There is a huge black market for tobacco, at least partly but nobody freaks out about criminals profiting.|
The real issue is that generations of people have been brought up with the propaganda of Reefer Madness – a 1930’s vintage propaganda film put together by an American Christian group. The film is basically comedy by today’s standards, but it exists at the very foundation of marijuana laws through the 20th century and up until pretty recently.
So why is there so much hypocrisy around marijuana? Very few people are calling for re-banning alcohol (because history showed us how well that worked), nor tobacco. Nobody is going to be forcing other people to use marijuana – people who don’t want to use it won’t, just like people who don’t want to smoke tobacco don’t and people who don’t want to drink alcohol don’t. Except for a handful of beers, I haven’t consumed alcohol in 9 years. Whoop-de-do. Not using alcohol doesn’t affect my life or anyone elses.
A big argument from the NONONONONO crowd is that legalizing marijuana may strengthen the demand to legalize other drugs… That’s true, it might cause demand for that to rise… But the evidence seems to indicate otherwise. Guess what: Portugal tried exactly that, and here’s the result. Turns out, it might not be such a bad thing.
Personally, I think we get stronger as a people when there are less uptight moralizers trying to force me to conform to their view of how I should live my life.