Pubdate: Thu, 04 Oct 2012
Source: Knoxville News-Sentinel (TN)
Copyright: 2012 The Knoxville News-Sentinel Co.
Author: Tom Armstrong


October 4, 2012 at 6:46 p.m.

Tom Armstrong, Maryville

A recent Gallup poll shows record support for marijuana legalization,
at 50 percent. Perhaps the U.S. is ready for legalization, and three
states - Washington, Oregon and Colorado - are going to vote on it
this November.

But it's an uphill battle, with anti-marijuana advocates championing
the status quo of criminalization. Those opposed to legalization
regularly associate the drug with a loss of personal responsibility
and America's counterculture. The objection to marijuana legalization
is therefore usually more moral than practical or economic. But what's
moral about criminalization?

Criminalization denies self-ownership. Is it moral to force people,
through the heavy hand of government, to adhere to the morality and
preferences of others? Forcing one's morality and social views on others
via the state robs people of personal freedom and violates the Golden
Rule: Do unto others =C2=85 .

Criminalization also has substantial enforcement costs, which are
estimated to be in the tens of billions of dollars per annum. Wouldn't
that money be better spent feeding the hungry and healing the sick?

Other costs are less visible. Incarcerated marijuana users, for
instance, languish in jail instead of working. They suffer, and so do
their families. Would America be better off with our past three
presidents in jail, or Bill Gates, or at least one Supreme Court
justice (known marijuana users)? Users obtain criminal records that
can follow them for a lifetime, even after reforming their ways. Just
one transgression can establish a lifetime criminal record. Is that

Waging a war on the drug underworld (created by criminalization)
results in myriad deaths each year, including some innocent bystanders
caught in the crossfire. Criminalization kills, not the drug.

If it's moral to wage a war on people who harm themselves with
substances, why stop at marijuana and other drugs? Why not return to
nationwide alcohol prohibition, or tobacco prohibition? Or fatty foods
and sugary drinks? They all can be abused and alter the minds and
bodies of users, and can hinder productivity and impose indirect costs
on third parties.

Marijuana doubtlessly is harmful, but the drug's prohibition does more
harm than good.

(c) 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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