Pubdate: Thu, 09 Jan 2003
Source: View Magazine (Hamilton, CN ON)
Copyright: 2003 View Magazine
Author: Peter Webster


Paul Bobier ends his informative summary of the marijuana situation ("High
Time", Dec. 26 2002) with the statement, "Needed in the national marijuana
debate is more information on cannabis' total effects on human health, and
that may take years to get."

This is patently untrue, at least for purposes of drug policy change. Only
radical prohibitionists -- moral entrepreneurs -- try to insist that
marijuana is so harmful that it requries an everlasting ban throughout the
known universe.

Most reasonable people, adequately informed, can easily agree that even
excessive marijuana use is less dangerous than the corresponding excessive
use of alcohol, or even normal use of tobacco (20 or more cigarettes a day).
In fact, the mortality and untoward side-effects from marijuana use are less
than that of many over-the-counter drugs such as aspirin. One might even
cite the many statistics that show that eating junk food is by far the more
destructive and life-threatening activity, thus the question of risk and
danger cannot be the deciding factor in marijuana policy without
discrediting our agreed intentions and policies in these much wider areas.

What is needed in the "marijuana debate" is some clear thinking, the likes
of which only a few seem capable. Such clear thinking, and a knowledge of
what free societies must subscribe to or risk failure, reveals that when
there exists a significant, conscientiously-dissenting minority that wishes
to engage in consensual activities that do not impinge unduly on the rights
and privileges of the majority, the repression of that minority is the
certain indicator that a free society is not truly free but in the grip of a

In a free society we will never all agree absolutely on what are, and what
are not proper and morally correct activities. As the former Lord Chief
Justice of England put it, "The only freedom which counts is the freedom to
do what some other people think to be wrong. There is no point in demanding
freedom to do that which all will applaud." (The Dilemma of Democracy, p 94,
London: William Collins & Sons, 1978)

Thus the rights of the minority who wish to use marijuana must not be denied
or obstructed on the mere perceptions of moral entrepreneurs that such use
is "wrong". We must not forget that Muslim fundamentalist societies insist
that all alcohol use is "wrong," and ban alcohol use outright. From this
observation it should be evident that the views of those who insist that
marijuana use is "wrong" simply have no place in law in a free society.

Prohibitionary laws are an anachronism in our midst that produce great harm
to individuals and societies, far more harm than the drugs prohibited. By
maintaining them, the greatest of retributions is inflicted on society as a
whole. The price of bad laws is very high indeed.

Peter Webster Review Editor, International Journal of Drug Policy Auvare
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