Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Reefer Madness 2.0

Walton Brown has made his opposition to in any way loosening Bermuda's Marijuana laws quite clear in his opinion post published today in the Royal Gazette. But do his arguments hold up under scrutiny?

Let's identify what his arguments actually were:

  1. "My objection in this respect has little to do with moral outrage and everything to do with health: smoking anything is simply not good for you. No government that cares about its people should want to validate the use of something that is so clearly destructive." A.K.A. The government has a right and a duty to stop you from doing anything that is unhealthy.
  2. "It is far more important to think about the example being set for impressionable young people, some of whom already consider it normal to get high on ganja, influenced as they are by the power of parental practice" A.K.A. When something is legal it is obviously encouraged.
  3. "I am unmoved by the juvenile juxtaposition of alcohol's legality and marijuana's illegality. The research is clear: moderate amounts of alcohol consumption can actually enhance one's health, notwithstanding the conclusions just reached by the UK Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs." A.K.A. Apart from the studies that show it is more harmful than Marijuana, Alcohol is less harmful than Marijuana
On the first argument, it comes down to whether or not you have the right to make your own decisions regarding health or not. The government gives you the right to drink yourself stupid, eat yourself to death and smoke (Tobacco) until your lungs curl up and die. Why then should it prevent you from smoking a relatively harmless (compared to Alcohol according to a study that Mr. Brown would have you ignore) drug which is generally believed to be impossible to overdose on (unlike Alcohol)?

Oh dear, there I go being "juvenile". How dare I make logical comparisons that don't support Mr. Brown's argument! Ah well, the damage is done, I might as well come out and say it: How can you justify the illegality of Marijuana considering legality of Alcohol?

Concerning Mr. Brown's third point (which basically says: Alcohol isn't harmful, except that it is), one must wonder why we should put the conclusions of UK Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs aside. Considering it is the only study Mr. Brown actually referenced it seems strange that we are then told to ignore it... But lets refresh ourselves on what this study actually says, in the hopes that we may be reminded why it is to be ignored.

It says: Alcohol is the most harmful drug when its effects on the user are combined with the effects on those around them (beating out Heroin by 17 points) and is the most harmful drug when effects on those around users are considered alone (beating Heroin again by 25 points). In total Alcohol scores over 70 while Cannabis scores just over 20 according to the BBC article on the study.

Ah... I remember why we were supposed to put it aside now, because it basically disproves the core argument of Mr. Brown's case. Oops!

Now lets get back to that second argument. That the legalization of something equates to an encouragement to commit that act. Well that doesn't really makes sense does it? There is a basic presumption of legality in all things and a need to prove there is a clear benefit from making something illegal that outweighs any potential costs before doing so. Legality is no encouragement and is in fact the natural state of things, any argument otherwise simply cannot be justified. Consuming large amounts of alcohol to the point where one is in danger of alcohol poisoning is legal, but not encouraged. Committing suicide is legal, but not encouraged. Smoking is legal, but not encouraged etc. The world simply does not work as Mr. Brown suggests.

The reality is clear. Unfortunately it seems to have a bias that leaves Mr. Brown's arguments without a leg to stand on. Getting beyond Reefer Madness... Ha!

Try Reefer Madness 2.0. 

It's time to accept that society is not going to collapse if Marijuana is legalized, time to accept that legalization doesn't mean that suddenly the island's youth are replaced by an army of stoner zombies and time to accept that the social costs of Marijuana are simply too low to justify an outright ban. If we can trust an adult with Alcohol, we can trust an adult with Marijuana. Either way they hurt no one but themselves. You and I may turn our nose up at it and fear the negative effects it could have on our lives, but we have no right to impose those fears on others in the form of a ban.

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