Pubdate: Mon, 24 Apr 2017
Source: National Post (Canada)
Copyright: 2017 Canwest Publishing Inc.
Author: John Robson
Page: A8


The Liberals really seem about to legalize marijuana. Amazing. I am
not astonished that they are keeping a campaign promise. Parties
generally mean what they say, however poorly they think through the
practicalities. What astounds me is that we may see a significant
measure to reduce government meddling in people's lives.

The Liberals are moving with ostentatious caution, possibly to avoid
playing into their stereotype as the pothead party. But since one
survey says a quarter of Canadians have smoked marijuana just for fun
in the past year you'd be surprised who indulges without succumbing to
Reefer Madness.

Let me be clear that, for some unfortunates, many or all drugs including 
alcohol are addictive poison and must be avoided. But generally I'm with 
David Niven's character in The Pink Panther: "I enjoy reality as much as 
the next man. It's just that in my case, fortunately, reality includes a 
good stiff belt now and then." I would smoke tobacco if it weren't so 
harmful. I enjoy the taste, the physical act of smoking and the effects 
of nicotine. Emphysema and lung cancer, not so much.

It seems Canadians generally now consider reefer less harmful than
processed sugar. I'm told they are often consumed in sequence. But
regardless, the appropriate concern with both is quantity, even if
governments run panicky ads saying stuff like "There is NO SAFE LEVEL
of SECONDHAND SMOKE… Even Outdoors!" What? Even one molecule?

That anti-tobacco ad is classic case of evidence-based decision making
discarded for the heady rush of puritan coercion. Which matters
because we now risk abandoning the effort to prevent marijuana use
through state compulsion for an effort to prevent it through other
state compulsion. Things like plain packaging laws, high taxes and an
unpleasant retail experience will, as with tobacco, sustain a huge
black market. But they will also further the dangerous habit of
thinking it is up to the government or nosy neighbours to live our
lives for us, in a state where everything is forbidden that is not
expressly permitted and sometimes even then.

Andrew Coyne, giving legalization a lukewarm endorsement in Tuesday's 
National Post, said "My own position on these sorts of 'vice' issues is 
what one might call libertarian-Calvinist: you should be allowed to do 
them, but you shouldn't want to." Well frankly I'll take the libertarian 
but you can keep the Calvinist.

Theologically Calvinists declared that it made no difference at all to
God what you did, then set about sanctimoniously meddling in other
people's conduct. They were even willing to die horribly for the claim
that salvation or damnation was predestined so dying horribly didn't
impress God one bit. What are you, nuts? If you want a Biblical
perspective on drugs, read John 2:1-21 where Christ turns water into
wine at Cana, even though his time has not yet come, so a wedding
party can continue full blast. And 2:10 puts the kibosh on puritanical
claims that it was grape juice. His first public miracle was to stand
a round of the good stuff for everyone.

If you want a libertarian perspective, smoking a lot of cigarettes is
bad for you. So probably is smoking a lot of marijuana. But it's
between you, your friends and family and your doctor. It is not the
business of the cops or your uptight neighbour.

The issue is not youth. No conceivable legal or social arrangement
will prevent everyone from tasting alcohol in their teens. I assure
you. But the best way to keep drugs away from kids is to give
merchants a strong social and legal stake in selling only to adults.

As Chesterton said, we should thank God for burgundy and beer by not
drinking too much of them. Ditto smoking marijuana. Opiates are just
for last-resort pain management. As for cocaine, methamphetamines,
"bath salts" and all that garbage, thank God for life by never taking
anything in powder form for fun.

God. Not the cops. When Coyne says "There is no contradiction … in
legalizing it, while continuing to discourage its use" I respond that
he may try to persuade me to shun demon rum. But government exists to
protect us from force and fraud and I subject him to neither when I
drink a beer or smoke a joint even if, by doing so, I diminish his
potential pleasure or profit from my company.

It is absurd that we use state power to stop others from smoking
tobacco yet leave them free to marry as they choose. And unjust. And
harmful, stunting us morally by squeezing the space in which by making
choices we become fully human.

The crucial thing about marijuana legalization is that people have the
right to make their own choices even to relax and have fun. And who
knows? Freedom could prove habit-forming.
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MAP posted-by: Matt