Should We Legalize Marijuana?

Recently, Washington and Colorado have voted to legalize marijuana for adults over the age of 21, and other states already had legalizing provisions for medical marijuana. In California, for instance, users could get medical licenses for marijuana rather easily, effectively making it legal in the state. And now, a political action group in Massachusetts is working to legalize marijuana in that state. It is likely this trend will continue.

One of the major issues for states who choose to legalize marijuana is that it is still a Schedule I drug as far as the DEA is concerned. Traditionally, federal agencies have utilized the Supremacy Clause to enforce federal laws in spite of contradictions at the state level. Because of this, the legality of marijuana even in “legalized” states is sometimes precarious, as the DEA chooses to enforce its laws arbitrarily. In spite of Obama’s promises that the DEA will honor state-wide laws concerning marijuana, federal agencies capitalize on the legal gray area to raid “medical” dispensaries and target growers, seizing millions of dollars worht of assets—both kinds of green—in the process.

According to a Gallup poll, 2013 marks the first year that the majority of Americans have supported legalizing marijuana. And if the majority of Americans are on board, it is likely that legislators won’t be far behind. But the question remains. Should the United States legalize marijuana? Why is it illegal, and what is our reasoning in keeping it so?

I think, at this point at least, the most major reasoning for keeping marijuana illegal is based on claims that it is socially destructive. Many people consider it the “gateway drug” while others see marijuana-users as shiftless, lazy, stupid, or otherwise useless to society. These same people think that social degradations associated with marijuana would only become worse if we were to legalize it.

In many people’s minds, if we were to legalize marijuana, we would be increasing the likelihood that kids got access to it, moved on from it to harder drugs, and eventually destroyed their lives.

But most if not all of these arguments were used during Prohibition against alcohol. And many if not all of them applied more aptly to alcohol than they do to marijuana. But, unlike marijuana, alcohol is legal, and most people either don’t know about or choose to ignore just how devastating alcohol has been to our society.

I’m not recommending then that we should illegalize alcohol. I am merely pointing out that our reasoning against marijuana seems a case of special pleading. Even its designation as the “gateway drug” isn’t entirely fair. The fact is that it is illegal. Being illegal, the only way to access it is through a drug dealer. Drug dealers, as the name would suggest, deal drugs, not just marijuana. And they have a financial incentive to deal more addictive and more expensive drugs. It actually may be the case that children and drug-users would be less likely to get access to harder drugs if we were to legalize marijuana.

I don’t really know. I have no personal horse in this race. If we lived in a decent and good society, there would be no question concerning regulations of this kind. We wouldn’t need them because people would generally police themselves. I take issue with the fact that so many proponents of marijuana legalization are just generally anarchical libertines with no moral compunctions. Freedom works only when people are generally good. It may be that our society, like a group of little children, cannot enjoy the privileges of liberty without hurting itself. We have seen what a perishable export our form of  democracy has been. And even in our own country, our democratic republic is perishing. Should we fight for a de-regulated society even when a society cannot regulate itself? That is one of the thorny questions currently plaguing the true conservative. I have not resolved the question for myself as of yet.