Pubdate: Fri, 09 Dec 2011
Source: Burnaby Now, The (CN BC)
Copyright: 2011 Lower Mainland Publishing Group Inc.
Author: Matthew Claxton
Note: Matthew Claxton is a reporter with the Burnaby NOW's sister paper, the
Langley Advance.


I once spoke to an RCMP officer who works with teenagers, and she 
rolled her eyes and described the stupid arguments that she hears about pot.

"Hey dude," they say, with that classic glassy stoner gaze, "it's an 
herb, it grows in the ground, how can it be bad for you?"

I laughed in sympathy. It is without a doubt the stupidest argument 
ever given by giggling pro-pot advocates. If anything that grows in 
the ground is good for you, why aren't stoners also scarfing down 
deadly nightshade or fistfuls of poisonous mushrooms? For that 
matter, why not swallow horse chestnuts?

This is not to say that I disagree with the idea of pot being 
legalized. The stoners just need better arguments, so the RCMP don't 
get so bored listening.

Arguments for the legalization of pot can be divided up into three 
broad categories: medical, utilitarian and ethical.

Start with medical. Learn about how the human body processes 
marijuana, along with other drugs. It's fairly well known (among 
stoners) that the active ingredient of pot, 
delta-9tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, has a very low toxicity. Unlike 
alcohol or nicotine, which are legal for adults, it is virtually 
impossible to consume so much THC that you will simply drop dead.

That said, there are other health effects, both long and short term, 
from increased heart rate to paranoia. Links to mental illness and 
several cancers appear strong.

To argue properly, you'll have to look at studies of pot's effects on 
moderate and heavy users, and contrast those with the effects on 
users of other legal and illegal substances (tobacco, cocaine, Double 
Whoppers, etc.). Research canabinoids, and bone up on your basic biochemistry.

Next we have the utilitarian leg of the issue. Is it worth it to use 
the police, the courts, and the jails to prevent people from smoking pot?

How many people use it, and how much does it cost the medical system? 
How many more people use it in places where it is partly 
decriminalized, such as the Netherlands? How would you re-prioritize 
the money saved if we dropped the war on pot?

Of course, you'll have to suggest ways of dealing with stoned drivers 
more effectively (your medical research will have shown you that 
psychomotor skills are impacted by pot) and ways to regulate its sale 
and production. Get out your lawbooks and look at tobacco, alcohol, 
and prescription drug regulations for inspiration.

The final arguments are ethical. These boil down to the notion, 
present in a number of philosophies, that individuals have the right 
to make their own decisions about what they put in their bodies.

I recommend reading On Liberty, by the 19th century philosopher John 
Stuart Mill. It remains one of the most concise arguments for 
personal freedom ever put to paper. But there are many others, from 
Henry David Thoreau's essay Civil Disobedience to Isaiah Berlin's Two 
Concepts of Liberty.

Once you've studied, you'll have to craft your arguments about the 
rights of the individual and the individual's responsibilities to 
society. How far can a government legitimately trespass into an 
individual's life?

Combining all three of these strands of argument will involve more 
than simply quipping about pot being an herb. You may want to write 
an essay, or create a flip chart or PowerPoint presentation to go 
alongside your speech the next time you argue with a Mountie.

Unfortunately, to do all of this properly, you'll have to be sober.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom