My Own Pie

Libertarian Thoughts from Renaissance Guy

Another Obstacle–Drugs

with 8 comments

     As I grew up, my parents and my teachers were careful to warn me about the dangers of drugs.  I assumed that they were right about the need to keep certain drugs illegal and to put people in prison for using them and for selling them.

     Because I went along with that approach to drugs, I could not align myself with the Libertarian Party or even call myself a libertarian.  One of my turning points came when William F. Buckley, arch-conservative and one of my heroes, changed his mind.  I began to look at the issue a lot more deeply and a lot more seriously. 

     While I don’t want to see the United States of America become one giant hippie commune with everyone high all the time and billows of marijuana smoke floating over the countryside, I have decided that people should have the freedom to use marijuana (and perhaps other drugs) in the same way that they are free to use tobacco, alcohol, and caffeine.

     The War on Drugs, as it is called, is a stupid war and nobody is winning.  It is not actually preventing people from using drugs and it is actually fostering certain crimes that would probably cease to exist if we just made certain drugs legal to purchase and use.  The laws against marijuana certainly lead to more death than its recreational use does.  And lots of young people, especially black people, are in prison for nonviolent offenses.  That’s sad, and I believe that it is wrong.

     None of this means that I, or other libertarians, think that drug use is a good idea or that we do it ourselves.  I certainly never have. 

     It means that a thoughtful consideration of the problem of drugs and drug use leads me and others to the conclusion that we are better off letting individuals make their own choices and letting them suffer the consequences of those choices.  The law, in my opinion anyway, should step in when a particular drug-related action harms somebody else, but as long as people are harming only themselves (if they are doing so when they use certain drugs), then it should not be the state’s concern. 

     Worse yet, the state should not be locking people up who simply wanted to try out a new experience or who made the mistake of succumbing to peer pressure–locking them up with the result that they become hardened criminals in prison.  It’s an insane approach to take.  It is based on emotion rather than good sense.

     I knew that if I ever decided to become a Libertarian, I would have to make up my mind on this issue once and for all.  I knew that I would have to accept this aspect of the Libertarian platform.  I have, and I hope that you will consider it, too.

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Written by ambrosianideas

November 4, 2009 at 12:02 pm

Posted in Libertarian Party, Libertarianism

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8 Responses

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  1. This is one of the aspects of the libertarian platform that always made sense to me. Like you, I was taught about the dangers of drugs in school. I don’t remember if my teachers or parents ever addressed the issue of legality. I do remember learning that some drugs which are currently illegal were not only legal but quite socially acceptable at one time.

    My parents were libertarians in principle, although they were registered Republicans. My mother’s view was that what other people did to their own bodies was their own business. Alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, marijuana, French Fries, cotton candy – all bad for you, but not to be banned. (She would sometimes cynically say that smokers should be allowed to smoke all they wanted in their own homes so they would kill themselves faster.) They took the same view of homosexuality. (And abortion, as they evidently considered the fetus part of the woman’s body.)

    Every now and then I read an article on the dangers of marijuana, how it is worse than alcohol in terms of impairing judgment (thus endangering other lives if someone drives while high) as well as being a “gateway” drug to the more addictive and dangerous drugs, and how legalizing it would send the wrong message to our young people. But like you, I think the current approach is not working and likely ruins as many lives as it saves. I could support mandatory treatment for drug use/possession, but not incarceration for non-violent crimes.

    Since I was never tempted to try drugs, and my sons seem as repelled by the idea as I was, I have no firsthand experience of what works or doesn’t work to keep people off drugs, beyond the teaching all the kids get in school about their dangers. (I had enough trouble giving myself permission to eat stuff like white bread and potato chips, which, according to my mother, “defiled the temple of the holy spirit.”)

    Pauline

    November 4, 2009 at 5:11 pm

  2. Prohibition did not work so well in the 1920s either.

    My understanding is that marijuana is possibly safer than alcohol and tobacco. Regardless, it is a question of personal freedom – if I smoke one plant (tobacco), it is OK, but smoking another (marijuana), it is not. Why?

    You can fill in the blanks with any other drug, and my opinion remains the same, consuming substances that others don’t approve of is not a crime.

    Just to be clear – I don’t smoke anything, nor do I normally drink anything stronger than black coffee.

    Greg

    November 5, 2009 at 10:17 pm

  3. For me, it’s about the impaired judgment while at work or school. I used to work with a guy who took a “pot break” partway through his shift. He didn’t see the problem, but I had to work with him and he became a complete waste of manpower for the rest of his shift. My other coworkers were killing themselves by smoking tobacco on their break, but they were still able to function on the job.

    Many young people choose to drink alcohol because there is only an age restriction. “It’s legal in a couple of years, so what’s the difference?” If it’s never legal, those same students might have more reservations about trying it. It wouldn’t be considered a drug (by many) if it became legal.

    I’m biased on this because a friend of mine threw away his college scholarships and education to pursue a life of getting stoned and working at K-Mart. If it became legal, I only see that getting worse, not better.

    languagelover

    November 8, 2009 at 3:00 pm

  4. An employer has the right and possibly the obligation to ensure that an employee is not under the influence during work hours. He can and should also fire unproductive workers.

    Greg

    Greg

    November 8, 2009 at 4:34 pm

  5. True.

    In regards to school, however, students smoke tobacco quite often because there aren’t any real consequences for it since it’s not really illegal; they’re just underage. If marijuana became legal, I really worry about the effect on teenagers in high school.

    languagelover

    November 9, 2009 at 2:12 am

  6. Language Lover, here is exactly where Greg’s point in another comment is relevant. It’s about freedom. You might think that the consequences of legalizing marijuana would be worse than the consequences of keeping it illegal. Another person might think that it is the other way around.

    What trumps both arguments is whether a particular approach is more just, and which one promotes freedom rather than tyranny.

    People have the right to do anything that they want, as long as they do not harm other people. If somebody wants to smoke marijuana at home, why should the state prohibit it, as long as that person does not drive under the influence or do some other potentially aggressive act?

    Your argument about students could apply to lots of things. Students might get hepatitis from tatoos. Should tattoos be outlawed? They can get STD’s from each other. Should sexual relations between consenting minors be outlawed? Some of them have allergic reactions to peanut butter. Should peanut butter be outlawed?

    Before long everything that might cause harm would be illegal. If you can see that such a thing is intolerable, then why have only certain things illegal.

    renaissanceguy

    November 10, 2009 at 7:30 am

  7. In the same way an employer can forbid the use or influence of drugs in the workplace, so can a school do the same. In fact, many religious schools (and universities) forbid the use (of drugs, alcohol, tobacco, etc.) even outside of the school hours, and I see no issue with that. It is a voluntary contract between the student and the school.

    Greg

    November 10, 2009 at 7:46 am

  8. According to the BBC’s recent excellent Panorama programme, “Smugglers’ Tales” (http://bit.ly/4vOrYb), approximately 55 per cent of prisoners in England have a serious drug problem and over seven out of ten prisoners test positive for illegal drugs when admitted to prison – many for drug-related offences.

    With the overcrowding of prisons a growing problem in England – as it seems to be in some parts of the USA – we need to start replacing hugely expensive and ineffective custodial sentences in drug-plagued prisons with other measures such as addiction treatment. Why not read more about what’s being done regarding the problem of overcrowding in prisons at (http://bit.ly/IMEPs).

    OwloftheWolery

    November 13, 2009 at 7:36 pm


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