Civil liberties jeopardized by drug prohibitions

Roger Morgan’s “Reefer Madness” diatribe in a May 23 op-ed would be hilarious if it weren’t infuriating. There are so many things wrong with prohibition that it would take a book to explain all of them, but the following is a summary of the major problems with prohibition, especially prohibition of marijuana or any other plant:

First, whether people participate in drugs, prostitution, gambling, assisted suicide — or anything else that consenting adults want to do with their own bodies — is their own business, not the business of the government or anyone else. This is first and foremost a civil liberties issue. All victimless crimes should be legalized; prohibiting these activities is nothing short of tyranny and/or a nanny state regarding these issues.

Second, marijuana is a plant. That is, it is a natural part of our world, as much of an Earthling as any human or any other naturally evolved form of life on Earth. Outlawing plants is something that only a psychotically out-of-touch-with-nature society could even consider. Maybe we should outlaw prohibitionists instead!

Third, outlawing drugs —  marijuana and the rest —  causes major crime. There are urban areas that have become war zones because gangs are fighting over drugs and drug-related issues. This does not happen with legal drugs like alcohol. Again, prohibition ruins lives and communities.

Fourth, many drug prohibitions in the U.S., including marijuana, were of racist origin, and drug prohibition has been used to incarcerate people of color at a highly racist rate, well above that for white people. Prohibition, not legalizing, drugs, ruins lives.

Fifth, use of marijuana and other plants containing psychoactive qualities can provide a major benefit of substantial consciousness expansion. While this is better done by more natural methods like meditation, most people are too lazy to do these mental exercises. Marijuana and other psychoactive plants can show people entire worlds and ways of thinking of which they had been previously totally unaware. Societally, marijuana is a rather positive force, not a negative one as the prohibitionists claim.

Sixth, the “evil weed” that Mr. Morgan is so upset about is totally natural and does absolutely no substantial harm. Uptight prohibitionists have been trying for many decades to prove otherwise, and they certainly would have found substantial harm a long time ago if they in fact existed. However, they do not. To the contrary, marijuana has been very helpful to people with medical problems, and it has none of the negative effects of synthetic pharmaceutical drugs. Mr. Morgan’s proposed return to complete prohibition in California would greatly harm these people.

Seventh, legalizing drugs does not cause more people to do them. The latest study said that legalization of marijuana actually reduced use, because young people stopped smoking it as a way to rebel, as smoking something legal is not much of a rebellion. People don’t refrain from using drugs because they’re illegal; they refrain from using them because they don’t want to do so.

Eighth, the hysterical prohibitionist demands of parents who are terrified that their children might smoke pot are totally baseless. Any kid will tell you that it’s much easier to get pot or other illegal drugs than to get alcohol, because people who sell illegal substances don’t card anyone. Additionally, outlawing drugs clearly does not stop them from being sold and used. So, sorry parents, but the law is no protection against your kids using drugs.

Finally, we are constantly inundated with lies and propaganda about why marijuana and other drugs are horrible and should be illegal. The facts are that people have been doing drugs and getting high for thousands of years, and that even non-humans like to get high: birds eat fermented berries to get drunk, and I’ve never seen a horse that didn’t like drinking beer for that purpose, to name just two examples. As Dr. Andrew T. Weil explains in “The Natural Mind,” getting high is normal and natural. Little kids spin themselves around to get high.

So to all the prohibitionists: lighten up! What others do in their private lives is none of your business. Live your own lives and let others live theirs, and everyone will be much better off. And judging by your prohibitionist attitude, you really need to smoke some pot yourself.

Jeff Hoffman is an environmentalist and attorney who resides in Berkeley.

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