Monday, December 06, 2004

Column on Medical v. Non-Med Marijuana Use

Marijuana UseÂ?Medical vs. non-Medical

Tibor R. Machan

The late 60s and early 70s were my graduate school days, at U. C. Santa
Barbara, and there was then plenty of pot smoking going on. Some of it was
reckless, just as alcohol consumption or gambling or other peaceful
conduct can be quite reckless, but most of it was merely a bit
mind-numbing and consciousness-altering. Yes, many, many young people got
high yet few if any suffered greatly, certainly not by moving on to hard
drugs. At least no more so than the number of moderate wine consumers move
on to become alcoholics.

But while the United States of America was parading itself as the leader
of the free world during that Cold War era, it was mostly the champions of
patriotism and loyalty to the flag who insisted on making pot consumption
a crime. Their persistence led to the abomination we know as Â?the war on
drugs,Â? an immensely costly and vicious undertaking by government to
punish people engaged in the trade and consumption of a substance that
does not cause anyone to do anything criminal (even if it does lead some
people to become lethargic and temporarily confused). The policy also
resulted in making the USA a massive home to prisoners who have violated
no oneÂ?s rights at all.

>Nothing above even suggests that consuming pot is
OK. It is very risky to any users and as such extreme caution needs to be
exercised with it, just as with alcohol. Indeed, abstinence is probably
best, for most of us.

Yet here was a place where a dominant element of American culture turned
directly against the political principles on which the country was
founded. We all, individually, have the unalienable right to our lives,
liberty and pursuit of happiness, or so the Founders stated because they
learned it from people like John Locke, the English political philosopher,
and from their knowledge of the history of human community life. That
history showed them that government is to be the hired servant of people,
not their rulerÂ?ergo, the importance of asserting those rights. Sadly,
conservatives, who pride themselves on wanting to retain the principles on
which their communities are founded, completely jettisoned their
commitment to honor this countryÂ?s most important tradition and switched,
instead, to embracing the statist conservatism of Europe and the rest of
the world.

Of course, it is a problem of conservatism which of several competing
traditions to embrace, so the switch was not all that surprisingÂ?just look
at President Bush and his reversal of Ronald ReaganÂ?s efforts to cut back
the scope and size of government, all the while claiming to be a
conservative. The price of the witch, however, is staggering. Thousands of
lives have been ruined because these conservativesÂ?and by now even
othersÂ?take it upon themselves to disregard the unalienable rights of
individuals and impose their will on the rest of us.

At this time there is a little bit of an opening out of the morass of
this shameful tyranny in our Â?freeÂ? society. The US Supreme Court will
decide whether at least some people, those who are likely to gain health
benefits from consuming marijuana, will have their right to liberty
protected. If they judge in favor, they will uphold another conservative
ideal, namely, stateÂ?s rights, something that used to be partisan but now
is embraced not just by advocates of medical marijuana use but many
environmentalists. And they will also exempt a few folks from the tyranny
of the war on drugs.

Yet, sadly, they will also affirm a disgraceful policy of discrimination
by treating those who have a certain use for pot, leaving others with a
different but equally peaceful use as criminals if they persist.

The real answer is the abolition of prohibitionÂ?just as it was, once
again, with alcohol.

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