In the Arena

Marijuana Next

Why I'm for legalizing marijuana.

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Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

A bowl of medicinal marijuana is displayed in a booth at The International Cannabis and Hemp Expo April 18, 2010 at the Cow Palace in Daly City, Calif.

With Republicans in a chaotic retreat on social issues like gay marriage and immigration, some conservatives are looking for places to set up a skirmish line. Pete Wehner proposes marijuana as the bright line today in the Washington Post. 

I’ve been for legalization for years. But I think Wehner’s argument deserves a respectful read because he raises at least one crucial question for our society. Most of his arguments against dope come from a different era. He assumes a bright line between alcohol and “drugs.” He assumes that marijuana is the entry drug on an inevitable path toward addiction. (He also seems to infer that marijuana is addictive.)

Most of these arguments seem ridiculous to anyone who has inhaled. Alcohol is a more controllable drug than marijuana—you can pace yourself according to consumption; pot strength is unpredictable—but when used to excess it is far more problematic, more violent, more dangerous. Pot is peaceful, contemplative, fattening.

Does marijuana lead to harder drugs? No more than alcohol does. Back in the 1930s, smoking dope was a leap into a sometimes dangerous underground culture. That’s not true any more, especially in states like Colorado and California. Alcohol is as likely an entry point to the world of mind-altering substances as pot is. Those who move on to harder drugs—and the infinitesimal minority who get hooked on harder drugs—would do so if marijuana were legal or not.

Would more people move on to drug-addled dissolution if marijuana were legalized? Wehner thinks so; I’m not so sure. But here’s where Wehner has a point: legalization of marijuana would compound the cascade of society toward unlimited individual rights—a trend that can be catastrophic if there isn’t a countervailing social emphasis on personal and civic responsibility. It might well accelerate the trend toward the couchification of American life; it certainly would not be a step toward the social rigor we’re going to need to compete in a global economy.

I’m for legalizing marijuana. It is a relatively mild, non-addictive drug. It is simply illogical for alcohol to be legal and pot not. But I’m also for searching out some civic rituals—some form of national service—that will inoculate young people with the understanding that they are part of something larger than themselves, that helping others, sacrificing a tiny increment of your freedom to make your community a better place, can be a different sort of high. Because if, in the mad dash toward pleasure and passivity, we lose track of our citizenship and the rigorous demands of a true working democracy, we may lose the social webbing that makes the pursuit of happiness possible.

145 comments
ChikuMisra
ChikuMisra

Mr. Klein is a gifted and talented writer; I thoroughly enjoyed his book "Anonymous" back in the 1990s. However I regard it as deeply irresponsible to say marijuana isn't addictive. Just visit marijuana message boards on the Internet and you will see hundreds, if not thousands, speaking of smoking it daily for two or three decades.

But that is not addiction, right? Just the same choice made everyday for thirty years. Secondly, just because alcohol is legal is no reason to legalize other poisons. Alcohol's toll on society is positively incalculable and mind-boggling. In terms of drunk driving accidents, fatalities and injuries, destroyed property, health care costs, shattered families, domestic violence, lost productivity.......the list goes on and on. So now we should add another poison to the mix? How stupid and particularly to advocate it in a national newsmagazine. If that's the rationale, just legalize it all......heroin, cocaine, meth, paint huffing, glue sniffing etc. Let's just triple society's problems for no real reason other than so drug addicts can get high and veg out on the couch. Why does this silly debate continue to exist in a nation with so many real and pressing problems?

DavidStewart
DavidStewart

'Alcohol' the date rape elephant in the room. 

badweatherrr
badweatherrr

Look, Micheal Phelps, Carl Sagan, Richard Branson, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates all smoked pot instead of drinking alcohol.
 

The myth of the lazy stoner that was pounded into our heads for years about weed heads just isn't true. Our ideas really are more creative and actually work so the studies have shown.

The truth is, that we are all actually mostly, really smart, really different, and really mostly willing to tell you the way it really is.

Amazing.... 40 years of drug war, and yet the truth is that when you bar people from participating based upon whether or not they smoke marijuana you have automatically barred the most creative, smartest people in society from participating. So, yeah, lots of scientists, creative types, you know, free thinkers...



CerebralSmartie
CerebralSmartie

Puleeeze... I know it isjust an anecdote, but I personally witnessed a bight promising young man literally fall to pot. He had to smole refer to get throught the day, and when he wasn't smoking weed he was smoking cigarettes. Poor guy had a lung transplant. Then he died. His wife was so sad.  It happened before my eyes. I wanted to verify that pot was worse for you than smoking cigarettes so I looked it up on google and quickly found quite a few articles:  http://io9.com/5916556/is-marijuana-unhealthier-than-people-think



RonnieJosephNaron
RonnieJosephNaron

Lol
 

20  years later

"Tonight on Discovery: How Cannabis saved America"

Chosun1
Chosun1

Also, if we are going to keep pot illegal, we should then outlaw alcohol and tobacco.  I don't use any substances, legal or illegal, so I have no particular personal desire for legalization.  I am more concerned about issues of public safety, human dignity and sane use of public resources.

Chosun1
Chosun1

Pot should be, at a minimum, decriminalized.  I also think heroin should be decriminalized (but still heavily regulated).  There are some drugs that are illegal that should remain so (meth anyone?).  I am not convinced that users of any drugs should be put in jail for use (maybe fined and/or put in rehab) -- as for dealers, that is another issue.  As someone who worked in drug prosecution at the beginning of his legal career, I can tell you that we waste way too many resources on sticking relatively harmless people in jail (while we let violent criminals get much less harsh treatment).  While we are legalizing things, prostitution should be decriminalized (and law enforcement efforts focused on the human trafficking side).  Finally, with the jail cell space we free up by legalizing pot, heroin and prostitution, we should fill them up with drunk (and otherwise impaired) drivers -- they are much bigger threats to public safety. 

DiOgo
DiOgo

Even if it is true that "It might well accelerate the trend toward the couchification of American life", that by no means justify putting people in jail for it. Prison system is no way to impose social morality - that idea, in of itself, is absolutely immoral.

JohnNovak
JohnNovak

Cannabis is safer than video games and cell phones

RolandDeschaines
RolandDeschaines

" I’m also for searching out some civic rituals—some form of national service—that will inoculate young people with the understanding that they are part of something larger than themselves, that helping others, sacrificing a tiny increment of your freedom to make your community a better place, can be a different sort of high."


Read more: http://swampland.time.com/2013/04/03/marijuana-next/#ixzz2PWwMkD5K


While I agree with this sentiment, I do not believe that this pertains to marijuana legalization any more than our ever increasing dependance on technology does. I do however think that many children and younger people today are too material dependent, possess a false sense of entitlement, and that these are the more likely contributors to societal withdrawal.

KyleSmith1
KyleSmith1

The only reason pot was ever a "gateway" drug is that because it is illegal you have to buy it from the same guy who is selling the harder stuff. And as a good business man does, he tries to "up sell" you to the harder stuff.  If pot was legal, you would never even know that guy.  Also, if you ever used it, you know you can snap out of a pot buzz, but you can not snap out of a drunk.   Just saying. 

DREGstudios
DREGstudios

When will our Government finally realize it can profit more from taxing the sale of the harmless medicinal herb than by jailing people for it?  Groups are organizing all over the country to speak their minds on reforming pot laws and defending this plant.  I drew up a very cool poster for the cause featuring Uncle Willie Nelson which you can check out on my artist’s blog at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot.com/2011/01/vote-teapot-2011.html  Drop in and let me know what you think!

kimdahlgren
kimdahlgren

@JoeKleinTIME it makes me wonder if we legalized pot would it lose it's "drug" connotation and put harder stuff in a different category?

DannyMendez
DannyMendez

Weed isn't fattening... pot heads tend to be on the slimmer aide of the US population. If you don't know that, you're obviously not a part of the community.

ThomasTucker
ThomasTucker

After all the research and studies that have been done over years and years by respected doctors and scientist, we shouldn't even be having this debate. Its non-toxic, non addictive, and much safer that aspirin or even peanuts. Alcohol is the real gateway drug. The pharmaceutical companies and the timber industry has spent hundreds of millions, if not billions to keep this safe plant illegal. This should tell you something. Just ask someone who has used it instead of listing to someone who has absolutely no idea what they are talking about. Prohibition of this natural medical miracle is what should be illegal. Educate yourself and others.

jerpike
jerpike

There is no such thing as "civic responsibility."

jerpike
jerpike

This article went strange places..."legalization of marijuana would compound the cascade of society toward unlimited individual rights—a trend that can be catastrophic if there isn’t a countervailing social emphasis on personal and civic responsibility" - unlimited individual rights is the goal, not the roadblock. No person has any inherent "civic responsibility" (a totally made-up concept). "Inoculating young people" - is simply a statist term for brain-washing. It is about as sensible as having little kids stand up and utter a prayer to a dyed piece of cloth. We are human beings, not sheep...well...maybe YOU are. 

SashaDowding
SashaDowding

How can society ever be happy when happiness evades the individual? Charity starts at home. This is true for all of us. How can we ever know true liberty unless we, and we alone, have freedom of choice and control over our own brain chemistry? Throughout the long evolution of our species we have been using drugs and we will inevitably continue to do so. As you yourself intimate, 'whether they are legal or not' doesn't make a difference. The State must stop trying to dictate to us what we can and cannot consume. It is a thoroughly pathetic attempt at altering our natural human behavior, which as history has repeatedly shown can only be doomed to failure.

boxerpaws60
boxerpaws60

@JoeKleinTIME can i ask you how we keep pot away from younger and younger groups? IF you legalize one drug-why not ALL drugs?

boxerpaws60
boxerpaws60

@JoeKleinTIME no pot is not 'relatively mild' Joe .the thc levels are incredibly high.Also, we do not need another problem in this country.

boxerpaws60
boxerpaws60

@JoeKleinTIME read your article on obamacare. competence is "the prerequisite for maintaining power".is that what it's all about Joe?

JohnCorreia
JohnCorreia

You got to be on crack if you think alcohol is more controllable than cannabis. Black marketing it just makes it more popular. Marijuana is safer than alcohol. If my kid was driving in a car I'd rather he be stoned than drunk. 99% of the worlds taxi drivers are stoned and they drive people 12 hours a day all day long without incident. Show me a drunk that could do that.

MarkChenier
MarkChenier

I have severe arthritis, cannabis works better than opiates. Why should I live in pain because some sadist has a "moral" problem with a plant?

JayelleFarmer
JayelleFarmer

>"It might well accelerate the trend toward the couchification of American life; it certainly would not be a step toward the social rigor we’re going to need to compete in a global economy."

Aw, nonsense here, you need to stop repeating and thus promoting this untrue prohibitionist propaganda. Alcohol abuse counts for millions of lost work days every year around the globe and we don't hear society yelling out about it and yet alcohol is not a proscribed drug (although an awful lot of people are coming to the conclusion that it ought to be.) Think Steve Jobs, Richard Branson and many other successful business people whose inspiration from their inner being was most likely fuelled by the open-mindedness that occurs from their use of cannabis.

Do I hear doubters here? Then have a look at this please:  According to the official La Guardia Committee Report of 1944:

http://www.druglibrary.org/schaffer/library/studies/lag/sumdis.htm

"The disinhibition which results from the use of marihuana releases what is latent in the individual's thoughts and emotions but does not evoke responses which would be totally alien to him in his undrugged state."

OK, the above was written in 1944. In 2013, one could express the above paragraph from the La Guardia Committee Report in an alternative way:

"the disinhibition that occurs through the personal use of cannabis may be the conduit that promotes a deeper level of thinking that may not be immediately available to the person who is not under the influence of cannabis."

AND IT IS THIS THAT THE GOVERNMENT DOES NOT LIKE.

http://jayelle.mondialvillage.com/Cannabis-Use-Prohibition-and-Cognitive-Liberty/index.html

TonyHalsey
TonyHalsey

Joe, you're one small step from realizing that living a peaceful, contemplative life (even if somewhat fattening) is a quantum leap forward from your vision of the necessity of a rigorous, competive society. Chill out, dude.

jjspiri
jjspiri

"sacrificing a tiny increment of your freedom to make your community a better place, can be a different sort of high."



tell you what, for every conservative, gun toting, NRA member, that sacrifices and puts down his or her smith and wesson, I will find ten liberal, bong hitting, NORML members, that would be more than willing to make the "sacrifice" of putting down the marijuana....are we really talking about making MUTUAL sacrifice here? Or is this a put down your rights, and then we can talk about it kind of thing? 


Read more: http://swampland.time.com/2013/04/03/marijuana-next/#ixzz2PS5ZfQZd

TheWarOnDrugsIsWorseThanDrugs
TheWarOnDrugsIsWorseThanDrugs

 One thing about all this puzzles me. How is opposing marijuana legalization not already a “bright line” for Conservatives/Republicans? Two-thirds of them are against legalization already, and that – that Culture War as much as anything else – is the primary reason pot has remained illegal to this day.

About the concern that pot legalization would be a step along the way toward “unlimited individual rights,” There's this concern, particularly among 'law-n-order' Conservatives (See Wehner), that any loosening of the grip of control over the people is going to end with us just abandoning society altogether.

The threat of “unlimited individual rights” is a mistaken concern. There will never be “unlimited individual rights” in this country. We are not on a path toward some hedonistic Gomorrah, and making life in America safer and more just would not move us any closer to there. Putting an end to an unjust, illegitimate and destructive Prohibition Law is not a further 'loosening up of the brakes'. This is an individual right, wrongly limited.

The War On Drugs Is Worse Than Drugs 

soulflyer
soulflyer

@Chosun1 very well put! Take Switzerland for example... Pot is a non issue, heroine is available for heavy addicted and is heavily regulated. And we still have mandatory army bootcamp... Maybe one of the many reasons that Zürich and Geneva are amongst the top five of most livable cities...

KevinHunt
KevinHunt

@JohnNovak and safer than playing football.

...also safer than eating peanuts (10 deaths per year).

EddieVonMises
EddieVonMises

@jerpike  

Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country!

VoxyBrown
VoxyBrown

@jerpike Freedom is not absolute. A lot of people seem to forget this ("This is America, I do what I want!"). For example: You and I have an obligation not to drive while intoxicated. Likewise, it's a crime to issue a death threat, or to persist in harassment -- the First Amendment doesn't defend against this. I think you'll agree there are good reasons for these exceptions.

DalePetrick
DalePetrick

Medical marijuana is proven to be less harmful and have more benefits then any synthetic drug on the market. You might want to do a bitt more research on this topic. @boxerpaws60 @JoeKleinTIME 

cocomaan
cocomaan

@boxerpaws60 The same way we keep alcohol away from minors right now: checking ID's, making it a criminal offense to distribute to minors

KevinHunt
KevinHunt

@boxerpaws60 All the worst drugs are already legal schedule II drugs, anyway.  Cocaine, opiates, amphetamines...etc

JustinGeorge
JustinGeorge

@boxerpaws60 @JoeKleinTIME 

Your argument revolves around the logic that another option causes an increase in total negative effects. This isn't necessarily true. If I created a new genre of music I wouldn't create a new wave of music listeners, a small portion would merely change which music they were listening to. The same seems to apply to substance use. During prohibition drug use soared when alcohol became scarcer. And the inverse has also been recently observed. Every state that has a medical marijuana program has seen a minimum of a 9% decrease in traffic fatalities because that many people changed substances and stopped using alcohol. Given this transfer of preference effect, what our harm reduction model needs to ask is which substance is more dangerous, and as the author noted it appears to be alcohol. If that is true, then we are causing MORE harm and not less harm by not providing another legal substance option.

VoxyBrown
VoxyBrown

@TonyHalsey If you can find a way to convince China, Russia, and the rest of the world in general to chill out along with us, then I'd agree, there's no reason to compete. Bro.

As it stands, everyone else on the field? They play for real. Don't forget that.

TonyHalsey
TonyHalsey

@TheWarOnDrugsIsWorseThanDrugs

The re pubs are split with Libertarians on the ascendant. The freedom movement has found root in the Republican Party. The Statists control the Democratic Party so I expect more support for legalization of the "Noxious Weed" from Republicans.

TheWarOnDrugsIsWorseThanDrugs
TheWarOnDrugsIsWorseThanDrugs

“Those who move on to harder drugs – and the infinitesimal minority who get hooked on harder drugs – would do so if marijuana were legal or not.”

Quite right. Indeed, one big reason for the size of the 'crack explosion' of the 80s was that pot had become much less available. Without pot as an option, while many demurred, too many more just went with what was available – cocaine, cheap and easy in the form of crack. And, by the early 90s, when people had had five, ten years of seeing what crack was and what crack did, they didn't want crack anymore, and this is when pot began making its comeback. The networks had regrown, and the demand was rising – As demand for cocaine/crack was falling. The increase in marijuana use was (despite howls to the contrary) a healthy trend.

The 'Gateway Theory' has always been more of a rhetorical device to enable Drug Warriors to use things about heroin and cocaine, etc. to try to make a case against pot (The case against pot being, by itself, insufficient).


ChikuMisra
ChikuMisra

China, Russia and all the rest have got no relevance to what Tony said. If your peace of mind and level of happiness are dependent on what retarded communist countries in the other side of the world do, then you have got a real problem and are wasting your life.