Thursday, January 19, 2006

I have come to a conclusion: Marijuana should not be illegal

First, let me be clear:

I am not advocating the use of marijuana.

Now that my position on marijuana use is clear (somewhat), let me tell you why I don't think marijuana should be illegal.

Marijuana does not induce violence like another legal intoxicant: alcohol. I grew up with an alcoholic parent who was generally a loving father and good provider. However, there was regular drinking, inconsistent behavior and occasional serious violence. Drunk people get violent all the time. Ask a cop. Does anyone ever smoke a joint then get rowdy and start a brawl? I don't have any first-hand knowledge of marijuana, but people who know tell me that it is simply not the nature of the weed.

So question number one must be: Why is alcohol legal and marijuana illegal? I have yet to hear a good answer to that question.

Oh, by the way, I am not advocating the use of marijuana.

We tried alcohol prohibition in the US. All it did was increase crime. Alcohol prohibition also increased the profitability of alcohol sales, which means that people who sold alcohol would recruit harder to get others to drink or sell their product and fight harder to protect their racket. I recently read that alcohol consumption actually decreased after prohibition was repealed. Makes sense to me. Legalizing alcohol a) significantly reduced the profit margin because there was significantly reduced risk involved in producing or distributing alcohol; b) removed the 'forbidden fruit' factor from alcoholic consumption; and c) let the market develop efficient means of production and distribution. Consumers ended up with a safer, less-expensive product and all the alcohol distribution schemes that relied on intimidation and violence were wiped out with the stroke of a pen. And remember, alcohol consumption went down after prohibition was repealed.

Legalizing marijuana would have the same effect as legalizing alcohol did. There would suddenly be little profit in this easily grown weed. The 'forbidden fruit' factor would be drastically reduced. And legal market forces would drive up the efficiency of production and distribution while driving down the price. As a bonus, if marijuana was legal, it could be taxed and the money used for public education against drug abuse. Marijuana use might even go down!

By the way, did I mention that I am not advocating the use of marijuana?

Some object by saying that marijuana is a gateway drug. I believe it is only a gateway drug because it is a high-profit drug spread through illegal trafficking. The gateway that marijuana use currently opens is not so much the gate to higher drug use but the gateway to illegal drug use. Make it legal and the gateway is gone. Legalizing marijuana would take it out of the illegal drug trade where there is a signficant profit incentive to recruit new users.

Did I mention that I am not advocating the use of marijuana?

It has taken me a while to get to this point. I understand people being afraid of what would happen if marijuana was legalized. However, I am convinced that the societal cost of keeping marijuana illegal (crime, violence, etc.) is much higher that the cost would be for legal marijuana use. There may be more lost work days... or not. People may drive while high (like they don't already!), but that should be handled like alcohol: we punish the criminal behavior rather than criminalizing the product.

It seems very clear to me that we waste untold millions of dollars and make the Unite=d States a more violent place by keeping marijuana illegal.

However, please remember that I am not advocating the use of marijuana.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

God, Hurricanes and Ray

I am always wary of people calling God to their side in any conflict, from sports to war. Now Ray Nagin, mayor of New Orleans, has spoken as though he knows the mind of God. God is sending hurricanes because he's mad at America. (see As with most leaders who invoke God in this way, Mr. Nagin's opinions are the ones that God supports. So God is sending hurricanes and we'd better listen to Mr. Nagin.

First, God may be mad at the United States of America... or not.

Either way, Jesus made it perfectly clear that calamity is not a sign of God's particular disfavor on a particular group. In Jesus' day, a tower had collapsed and fallen on a small group of people. Jesus said, in regard to the incident, "Do you think that tower fell on those people because they were worse sinners? No."

New Orleans has a reputation (I haven't researched it, but it's apparently well-deserved) of being a city of corruption. Did God aim the hurricane at New Orleans because they are worse sinners? Jesus says, "No."