Originally published by the Future of Freedom Foundation.
Pot smokers aren’t the only ones disappointed by the rejection of Proposition 19 by California voters. Freedom lovers were just as dissatisfied with the outcome.
Proposition 19, the Regulate, Control & Tax Cannabis Act, would have made it legal for individuals to possess, and authorized retailers to sell to those twenty-one and older, up to one ounce of marijuana.
The ballot initiative lost with almost 54 percent of Californians voting no. This despite arguments that it would generate tax revenue to help with the budget shortfall, reduce crime and violence, cut the profits of drug cartels, ease racial inequities and violations of civil liberties, redirect law enforcement resources, and lower law-enforcement and incarceration costs.
Both the California Republican and Democratic candidates for U.S. senator and governor in the recent election opposed Proposition 19 even though many California county Democratic Parties supported the measure.
I suspect, however, that most of the same people that voted down Proposition 19 would go ballistic if the state of California outlawed alcohol and smoking even though alcohol abuse and tobacco smoking use are two of the leading causes of death in the United States.
The defeat of Proposition 19 does not mean that no one in California can legally smoke pot. California, like fourteen other states, has legalized the medical use of marijuana, albeit with certain restrictions. According to the California Health and Safety Code: “Seriously ill Californians have the right to obtain and use marijuana for medical purposes where that medical use is deemed appropriate and has been recommended by a physician who has determined that the person's health would benefit from the use of marijuana.”
Still, marijuana use for any purpose remains illegal according to federal law — as it has been since 1937. In fact, the defendant in the Gonzales v. Raich (2005) case that confirmed the power of the federal government under the Constitution’s commerce clause to ban the medical use of marijuana was Angel Raich of California.
The statist case against legalizing marijuana, whether uttered by liberals or conservatives, is that marijuana is a gateway drug, overall drug use would increase, the wrong message would be sent to young people, pot smoking is immoral, and marijuana is much more potent today than it was a generation ago.
If you dare to call for the full legalization of all drugs, then you are just dismissed as a crackpot because what you are advocating is, as former drug czar Bill “I lost millions in Vegas” Bennett said, “stupid and morally atrocious.”
Some statists are incorrigible, and reject even the medical use of marijuana because pot smoking is immoral no matter what the purpose, people will just lie about their medical need in order to get the drug, marijuana is just too dangerous a substance to sanction its use for any reason, and, of course, because everyone knows there are no real medical benefits to smoking marijuana.
But many who reject sane and logical arguments — like some studies have found that smoking marijuana is less dangerous than drinking alcohol and the costs of drug prohibition far outweigh the benefits — are nevertheless willing to make a medical exception when it comes to marijuana for those who are seriously or terminally ill.
They recognize that the smoking of marijuana is thought to provide medical benefits for Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, cancer, muscle spasms, pain, loss of appetite, muscle spasms, stomach cramps, nausea, multiple sclerosis, inflammation, epilepsy, AIDS / HIV, cachexia, and glaucoma.
How nice, how compassionate, and how benevolent are those who are willing to make a medical exception to their aversion to marijuana legalization — and how wrong.
How tyrannical it is that in America — where thousands of people every year have elective or plastic surgery — governments prevent people from using marijuana except for medical reasons. How cruel it is that in America — “land of the free” — people have to suffer with some sickness because they don’t meet some arbitrary requirement to obtain the medication they want. How authoritarian it is that in America — “sweet land of liberty” — people need to have a government-issued medical card before they can purchase certain medications. How dictatorial it is that in America — with its Bill of Rights — people can only have a government-approved medical treatment. How repressive it is that in America — “where at least I know I’m free” — people cannot have access to medication without first paying to see a doctor.
The paternalistic, nanny, regulatory state is at its worse when it comes to the war on drugs. As C.S. Lewis remarked:
Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.
How hypocritical it is that in America — “God bless the USA” — the government demonizes marijuana even though millions of people get lung cancer from smoking cigarettes and cirrhosis of the liver from drinking alcohol. The sin taxes on these substances mean that the government needs people to use them even while discouraging their use. This is especially true in the case of cigarettes, whose advertising on television and radio has been banned since 1971. And although alcohol is a factor in many car accidents, boating accidents, and child abuse cases, there are nine states where it is the state government that operates the liquor stores.
How tragic it is that in America — with its caring liberals and compassionate conservatives — the majority of the American people fully support their government’s restrictions on the use of marijuana.
The libertarian case against medical marijuana is straightforward. There should be no laws regarding the buying, selling, growing, use, processing, or possession of marijuana for medical reasons. This is because there should be no laws of any kind regarding the medicinal, therapeutic, or recreational use of marijuana. And that’s not all. The only honest and consistent libertarian position is that there should be no laws regarding the buying, selling, growing, processing, use, or possession of any drug for any reason.
“The only freedom which deserves the name,” said John Stuart Mill,
is that of pursuing our own good in our own way, so long as we do not attempt to deprive others of theirs, or impede their efforts to obtain it. Each is the proper guardian of his own health, whether bodily, or mental and spiritual. Mankind are greater gainers by suffering each other to live as seems good to themselves, than by compelling each to live as seems good to the rest.
Pot prohibition is the cornerstone of a police state. No country can be described as a free society when its government demonizes a plant and arrests over 750,000 of its citizens a year for possessing it.