What to do about weed

David Brooks and Ruth Marcus both oppose the legalization of marijuana, but for somewhat different reasons. Marcus opposes legalization (which has occurred in Colorado and Washington State) because our society, and in particular our children, will be less healthy with another legal mind-altering substance. She cites the American Medical Association, which has recommended against legalization because:

Cannabis is a dangerous drug and as such is a public health concern. It is the most common illicit drug involved in drugged driving, particularly in drivers under the age of 21. Early cannabis use is related to later substance use disorders.

Brooks focuses on moral, rather than, health considerations:

Laws profoundly mold culture, so what sort of community do we want our laws to nurture? What sort of individuals and behaviors do our governments want to encourage?

I’d say that in healthy societies government wants to subtly tip the scale to favor temperate, prudent, self-governing citizenship. In those societies, government subtly encourages the highest pleasures, like enjoying the arts or being in nature, and discourages lesser pleasures, like being stoned.

I agree with Marcus and Brooks. The law should send the same signal about marijuana that most parents want to send their kids — don’t use it; don’t even try it.

But while most parents don’t want their kids to use marijuana, neither do they want them incarcerated for such use. Nor, parental feelings aside, does such incarceration seem just.

Thus, while I oppose legalization because it would send a bad signal, I also oppose aggressive attempts to enforce the ban on pot, including more than de minimis punishment for violating the ban.


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