Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Drugs



Let's talk about another verboten topic, shall we?

One of my favorite things about living in Dallas again is hearing Mark Davis on 660 AM The Answer. Actually, I rarely hear him because I work in live music and therefore go to work late as hell. But when I do catch the last part of his show, it's always a treat.

Mark Davis is like buttah. When I was in high school my stepdad would drive me to school and he would listen to Mark Davis and I'd be like ugggggghhhhhh. Because I was a teenager and therefore uninformed and therefore a Democrat.

Now I totally love Mark. He's awesome and brilliant. But sometimes I disagree with him. Case in point: drugs.

He wrote a column in The Dallas Morning News last week about marijuana and why it should not be legalized. He sounds like me a year ago, before I came around on this issue.

I love you, Mark, but you're wrong. Here is why:

Your argument is that legalizing marijuana will not make society any better, will not uplift us in any way. I disagree. Not on the grounds you're expecting, probably. I'm not a NORML member. I don't even smoke pot. I used to, for about three and a half years in college, and I deeply regret it.

See, marijuana wrecked my brain. I don't have any proof that pot is the reason why I have struggled with a crippling anxiety disorder for the past ten years, but I know for a fact it was the trigger. Pot gave me panic attacks, and my panic disorder morphed over time into health anxiety, or what we call hypochondria.

In movies, hypochondria is usually hilarious. In real life it fucking sucks. What About Bob? is a super funny movie, but if Bob were real he would need help, you guys. Seriously.



A psychiatrist told me it's possible I never would have been stricken with this affliction if I hadn't had the trigger - the weed. Or maybe I would have. I'll never know.

But even knowing what I know about pot - that it is not the innocuous little peace-inspiring plant potheads claim it is - I still think it should be legal.

Legalizing pot will benefit society in this way: it will make us more free.

In your column, you said "the freedom to get high is nowhere in the Constitution." Well, neither is the freedom to jump on a trampoline, drink a soda pop, or go bowling. I don't have a right to things because they are in the Constitution. I have a right because I'm a free human being.

As a libertarian (like you), I believe in the Non-Aggression Principle. Like you, I part ways with most libertarians on isolationist foreign policy. But unlike you, I believe as long as you are not initiating force against someone, no law should prevent you from doing whatever it is you're doing. And that includes smoking pot.

I loathe prostitution, pornography, and the sex trades with all my soul and one of my goals is to convince women to refuse to involve themselves with those things. (See: New Wave Feminists.) But should they be illegal? No.

I think casinos are grody and gambling is a terrible idea. But should it be illegal? No.

I think doing drugs like marijuana, cocaine, meth, and heroin is a really stupid life choice that could lead to either your ruin and death or spending your whole life watching "Bones" reruns. (And really, which is worse?) But should they be illegal? No.

You keep repeating that "a more stoned society is good for no one." You're probably right, but that doesn't matter. What matters is that telling people they can't get stoned under penalty of law is immoral.

A weaker society is good for no one. But we still get to sit around eating Doritos. A dumber society is good for no one. But the law can't force us to read. A lazier society is good for no one. But the government can't come into your home and make you turn off "Breaking Bad" and go chop wood.

Where does it end? If they can tell me I can't smoke pot because it makes everyone less safe, why can't they tell me I can't drink beer, spin around really fast over and over, drink too much coffee, or get so fat I have to get a disability check because I can't fit on the scooters at Wal-Mart?

If you think a weak, dumb, lazy populace isn't dangerous, think again.

"Obama gave me a phone!"

In your column, you reminded readers that the Constitution gives us the right to "aggregately pass laws to allow or disallow whatever we wish toward the goal of a better nation." I'm not sure what the actual wording is in the Constitution but the way it's worded here is... well, scary. It sounds Democrat-ish. Because a lot of things could be outlawed that might make us a better nation. Getting scary Courtney Cox plastic surgery on your face, for instance. Eating at Taco Bell. I could go on...

Sure, we can outlaw whatever we wish. But should we?

On your show you kept saying to the chick from NORML: "But it's illegal!" And I got annoyed with you, Mark, because we're not discussing whether or not it's illegal. Yeah, it's illegal. Duh. We're discussing whether or not it should be. Once it was illegal for black people to eat in certain restaurants. Today it's legal for women to have their unborn children sucked out of them for any reason whatsoever.

Legal does not always mean right, and illegal does not always mean wrong.

Let's break out our Summa Theologica. In the section on human law, St. Thomas Aquinas wrote that criminal punishment "belongs to those sins chiefly whereby ones neighbor is injured." This saint disagreed that our human law should mirror the moral law of the church. As Randy England wrote in Free is Beautiful: Why Catholics Should Be Libertarian:
He [St. Thomas] never endorses (and consistently opposes) the criminalization of vices beyond those whereby one's neighbor is injured, that is, "murder, theft and such like." 
St. Thomas also cites God's own unwillingness to prevent earthly evils, often times because the cure would be worse than the disease.
Here is the passage from the Summa which England references:
Human government is derived from the Divine government, and should imitate it. Now although God is all-powerful and supremely good, nevertheless He allows certain evils to take place in the universe, which He might prevent, lest, without them, greater goods might be forfeited, or greater evils ensue. Accordingly in human government also, those who are in authority, rightly tolerate certain evils, lest certain goods be lost, or certain greater evils be incurred: thus Augstine says (De Ordine ii, 4): "If you do away with harlots, the world will be convulsed with lust."
Convulsed with lust, indeed. Look at alcohol prohibition in the U.S. Alcohol consumption rose under prohibition, despite the fact that it became much more expensive. The market for it (and make no mistake, outlaw whatever you want, but there will always be a market for an intoxicant) was controlled by the mob. Violence, alcoholism, and death were the chief results. Nobody benefited but big crime and big government. (But I repeat myself.)

If God Himself, who is omnipotent and omniscient, recognizes the necessity of free will to humans, who are we to say we know better?

"Well said, My child." - God
(Probably.)

A major argument against legalizing hard drugs is that it will make more people do them.

"Honey, did you hear? They legalized cocaine!"

"Oh Roger, that's wonderful! I'll go out right now and purchase some rock!"

Please.

Honestly, I can see more people smoking pot because it's legal. And honestly, I don't really think that's a good thing. But I think the relative evil of more stoned people walking around pales in comparison to the great moral evil of putting human beings in cages for rolling up a plant and smoking it.

Right now, conservative commentators are pointing to a rise in truancy in Colorado following marijuana legalization as proof that pot makes people more irresponsible. Well, no shit. I watched nothing but Oliver Stone movies and listened to nothing but The Doors for like three years when I was smoking pot. Talk about irresponsible.

Those kids in Colorado have parents, right? Make their little asses put down the ganja and go to school.

"But legalizing pot makes parenting so much haaaarder!" whine parents. Boo frickity hoo. So do video games, cars, and Internet porn. They're all still legal, as they should be. Be a parent. Odds are you dope your kids up with Ritalin or some other drug that is probably far more harmful to their brains and overall health than the occasional toke.

And before you point to my anxiety issue, please understand how rare it is. Ask a thousand potheads, and you might find a few who had a marijuana-induced panic attack, but most likely zero who had long-lasting effects like mine.

St. Thomas was not the only saint who would agree with me. Augustine got in on the action, too. England wrote of him,
Not only does he reject the notion that criminal punishment removes an interior disposition to evil, he goes on to assert the opposite. He writes that "prohibition increases the desire of illicit action." 
England also quotes Linda C. Raeder's article "Augustine and the Case for Limited Government:"
The idea that coercion can generate virtuous behavior has only the most tenuous justification in that being compelled to behave properly may habituate the unruly to more appropriate behavior. Such only becomes necessary, however, if persons have not previously absorbed the rules of civilized society throughout the process of enculturation. The need to resort to coercive means thus represents the breakdown and not the flowering of civilization.

I roll my eyes when Americans say things like, "Well, at least in Muslim countries the women dress modestly and the men don't ogle naked women all the time." No. No no no. It's not virtue if you don't have a choice.

So forcing people not to do bad things doesn't make them virtuous. But will forcing people not to do drugs make society safer?

First of all, they're doing drugs anyway. So let's get that out of the way. If alcohol prohibition, which happened about a hundred years ago right here in our very country, is any indicator, drug use may go down if we decriminalize it. How much of the allure of drug use comes from rebellion, from knowing you're doing a bad, bad thing that only bad-asses do?

If instead of viewing drug users as devil-may-care outlaws, children were taught to see them as sick people with a gross problem, they might be less inclined to try it.



As for driving, I heard that poor girl on your show the other day try to shrug this off, but let me just say: um, duh. Of course intoxicated people should not drive.

This idea that legalizing drugs is some kind of nod to drug use is preposterous. No one is saying drug use is a good idea. What we are saying is that criminalizing victimless crimes is immoral. It is not the way a free society should be governed.

I'll end with this passage from Free Is Beautiful, which everyone - but especially Catholics - should read:
The Catechism teaches that illegal drug use, fornication, prostitution, use of pornography, and homosexual acts are all morally wrongful, but it does not call on government to criminalize these acts...
In promoting the common good, the Church sanctions the use of violence to "ensure by morally acceptable means the security of society and its members. It is the basis of the right to legitimate personal and collective defense." This teaching is but another restatement of the non-aggression principle: No one may initiate violent force against another.
If these teachings of the Church were reflected in our criminal justice system, many good things would flow from it... In a libertarian justice system, most vices would remain moral and social problems, but they would not be crimes.

Mark Davis, you wonderful man, you: in your column you said, "Ask any advocate to name one societal benefit of the legalization of drugs. They cannot."

Well, here's the thing: maybe we would be safer, maybe not. Maybe we would be more prosperous, maybe not. Maybe crime rates would fall as the criminal drug trade went out of business, maybe not.

But one thing would definitely happen: we would have taken a major step toward liberty in this country. And that, my friend, is a very good thing indeed.

1 comment:

  1. Great article Kristen. I don't even drink, much less use drugs, but absolutely believe that criminalizing drug use is immoral. The thought of people being incarcerated for using, buying, selling a product while true criminals are released is abhorrent. This issue is what first moved me from conservatism to libertarianism. I really hope that the voices of pro life libertarians start ringing out!

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