Legalize marijuana already!


“We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.  That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

The Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4 (or July 2), 1776 as a legal justification for the American Revolution which had been a reality for a whole year at the time of the document’s execution.  It was, in a sense, the crystallization of political thought among Revolutionary leaders, British subjects all residing in thirteen disparate British colonies.

The Declaration drew heavily upon principles espoused by Social Contract theorists, most notably John Locke. Essentially, subjecting oneself to the authority of a centralized authority is the price paid in return for protection of one’s “life, health, liberty or possessions.”  It is the alternative to the State of Nature and the law of the jungle.  It does not envision governmental intrusion into the daily lives of the governed.

I have no political philosophy other than what I call Civil Libertarianism, and I’ve never seen it suitably classified or defined to capture, exactly, my belief.  I (and you) should be free to take any action that I wish, so long as it does no harm to another. “The right to swing my fist ends where the other man’s nose begins,” said Abraham Lincoln, or Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. or somebody who knew how to turn a phrase.

I’ve been thinking about Social Contract Theory a lot lately, no, really.  My musings are colored by my deep-rooted mistrust of government and, especially, politicians, none of whom are qualified to tell me what to do or not do.

It all started when I began researching House Bill 14, currently proposed in the Louisiana legislature.  The bill would lessen the criminal penalties for possession of marijuana, not decriminalize, but merely lessen.  The problem, as I see it, is that the proposal does not go nearly far enough.

Marijuana possession, and consumption, should be legal.

In the interest of full disclosure I feel it necessary at this point to tell you a bit about me because it may color your perception of me and my opinions to follow.  I am an addict and an alcoholic.  At the time of this writing I have not used in seven years, nine months and seven days.  I have not had a drink in almost four years.  Unfortunately, marijuana was never my drug of choice as I preferred Crown Royal and crack cocaine.  I could have been spared much hardship had I preferred marijuana.

The fact of the matter is, crack probably saved my life.  I sincerely believe that I would have drunk myself to death had I not found a drug which I preferred.

I was also a criminal defense lawyer in Ascension Parish who relied heavily on clients charged with drug-related crimes for my livelihood.

That being said, I can think of no legitimate governmental interest which is served by the criminalization of marijuana.  I find it instructive to consider how this vegetation became illegal in the first place.

The individual most responsible for its prohibition is a guy named Harry J. Anslinger, the first Commissioner of the U.S. Treasury Department’s Federal Bureau of Narcotics.  Anslinger held his post from 1930 until 1962.  He was the first to demonize marijuana, often inflaming racial animosity to do so.

“Two Negroes took a girl, fourteen years old, and kept her for two days under the influence of hemp.  Upon recovery she was found to have syphilis,” Anslinger would write anecdotally in the early-1930s.

He also played upon American antipathy toward Mexican, migrant farm workers who used marijuana.  Sound familiar?

“Marijuana is a short cut to the insane asylum,” Anslinger also wrote.  “Smoke marijuana for a month and what was once your brain will be nothing but a storehouse of horrid specters.”

He created a marijuana hysteria which is captured in the cult-classic movie, Reefer Madness.  An afternoon of pot-smoking and the immediate result is murder, suicide, rape and overall descent into madness.  If you are a fan of camp, Reefer Madness, is the campiest.

His disinformation campaign continues to this day.

Anslinger’s theories were soon discredited by the La Guardia Committee, which conducted the first scientific study of cannabis under the auspices of New York City mayor, Fiorello La Guardia.  But the die was cast.  In 1970 Congress passed the Controlled Dangerous Substances Act which classified marijuana as a Schedule I substance having “a high potential for abuse” with “no currently accepted medical use.”

The fact that the legislation was pushed by the Nixon Administration should give us all pause.

I find it hard to believe that marijuana’s medical benefits are still being debated, and I won’t weigh in except to say one thing.  When an individual who suffers from any ailment believes that marijuana will alleviate his/her suffering or improve a condition, that individual should not be denied the right to use marijuana.  The right to choose one’s course of treatment should be sacrosanct.

What most irks me about the criminalization of marijuana, and the entire “War on Drugs” for that matter, is the hypocrisy.

I spent 117 days in a rehab facility which specialized in treatment for those subject to professional licensing/regulatory bodies.  The Bar Association had issued me an ultimatum.  The majority of my fellow inmates, er, patients were from the medical community where they had ready access to the opiates which dominate the world of prescription medication.

I suspect that the pharmaceutical lobby would shift into high gear if legislation was ever proposed to outlaw Oxycontin, or Percocet, or Loritab, or Oxycodone, or…you get the picture.

I was in the vast minority because I got my dope the old-fashioned way, from street dealers.  But the rest obtained their fix via prescription or raiding the medicine cabinet at the hospital or medical facility where they worked.  In my four-month stint there I probably met, conservatively, 200 fellow substance abusers.  Not a single one was there because of marijuana abuse.  Many were there due to alcoholism.

But marijuana is the Gateway Drug which leads unsuspecting youth to try the harder stuff, or so the argument goes.  “Nonsense,” I say.  If there is a Gateway Drug, it is alcohol.

I can think of no rationale which effectively argues in favor of regulating marijuana any differently than alcohol, but let’s consider a few.

Legalization would mean ready availability which would equal more users.  “So what?” I say.  Legalize, regulate and tax the marijuana trade.  Not only would it save billions currently expended on policing efforts and incarceration, it would generate substantial tax revenue.  I’m not convinced that usage would be that much greater in any event.  Would you become a marijuana user if it was legal?

Has the “War on Drugs” prevented any drug use?  Every week in The Creole’s arrest reports I read of clandestine meth labs.

Legalization would result in rising health care costs.  “Says who?”  See above.  I would argue that the tax revenue would more than offset any spike in health care costs.  Alcohol was much more destructive to my health than any other substance I abused, including crack cocaine and heroin.

As a matter of fact, some of the highest functioning people I’ve ever known are frequent, often daily, marijuana users.

You want to talk about out of control health care costs.  Obesity costs this nation more than the effects of marijuana use ever could.  Yet, no one is proposing that saturated fats or corn syrup should be illegal.  Maybe we should be having that debate.

You think the agribusiness lobby would have anything to say about it?

Legalization would lead to more violent crime.  This is the one that makes me laugh out loud.  I’ve known hundreds, maybe thousands, of pot-smokers.  They were the most mellow, peace-loving people I’ve ever known.  A dear friend of mine calls his pot-smoking “the pursuit of Happiness.”

You know who the violent ones are?  Abusers of alcohol and I include myself in this group.

Not to mention, legalization would put illegal marijuana dealers out of business, thereby further reducing a violent element.  That wouldn’t be good for the DEA’s annual budget allocation, though.  Most of these pro-marijuana legalization arguments could just as easily be applied to other illegal drugs and I’d have no issue with their legalization, either.

Cease the incarceration of drug users and free up the jail cells for violent offenders who I think should be subject to even harsher sentences.

For me, though, it is strictly a matter of civil liberties and I do not want the government telling me what to do.


Comments

  1. Dan Michael Burson says:

    once again if you can not accept a medicinal plant put here by GOD then you have already proven that you are a hypocrite, No mortal man or group of mortal men ever had the right to tell other mortal that they can not use what GOD put on this earth——STOP BEING IGNORANT WITH THAT OK.

  2. Michael says:

    Unfortunately, you have forgotten that many drug users commit crimes to finance their habit. Just because its legal doesn’t mean they have the resources to purchase it.

  3. Schyla Menard Babin says:

    Good job Wade.

  4. Dan Michael Burson says:

    your police commit crimes that go unpunished so can can shut up till you can see or know that lol.

  5. Wade, you make some really good points to think about. I am a sorta live and let live person. I do not much care what consenting adults do in their own home. But I do have a few questions and thoughts.

    I have read that everywhere MJ laws have been loosened, the rate of children on pot has shot up. I cannot put my hands on that right now but I wish I could. That would not be good.

    Also, if we do this with mj, should we also do it with all other drugs? If someone wants to shoot up heroine or do Crystal Meth–should we stop them? I do not much care what someone does. However, if they do, they no longer will get any government help. No emergency room help. Nothing. They forfeit all rights to what society is providing them. No public rehab either.

    One other thing, so many say it is for medicinal purposes, years ago it was said that the same medicinal purposes could be had in pill form–if that is the case, we could sell for medicinal purposes in pill form? Then pot smokers would only be doing this for the high only.

    I do not drink much anymore. But I will have a beer once every 3 months or so. Or a mixed drink. Not because it will get me high, but because I like the taste. The goal is not to get high. Drugs are only done to get high. Except for prescription drugs that are for pain, only to feel normal, then people are hooked. Sad.

  6. Rose Little says:

    As a mom, I can say, what you choose to do is up to you and none of my business but if you're one of my kids, I'll kick your butt!

  7. bobby says:

    tim, who cares if its only to get high? are you telling me that altering your mood is some sort of negative? there is nothing wrong with drinking, smoking pot, consumer a cigarette, coffee, whatever. abuse is another thing but folks can abuse anything and its a negative. particularly, as wade mentioned, food. obesity is rampant in america. it kills more people and raises health care cost far more than any drug out there. the point here is LIBERTY. if we are ever to expect our rights to life, liberty and property to be upheld as it pertains to religion, guns, speech, assymbly, fair trials,etc then we should respect all manners of property rights. otherwise all liberties are in danger. we already have just laws in society against theft, assault, murder,etc. thats the crime. motive matters not. it doesnt matter if you steal/kill out of revenge, desperation or because you were high, you are charged with the actual crime. and a side note, the pill you speak of, marinol, is widely agreed upon by medical patience who were prescribed it that it doesnt work.

  8. Jamie May says:

    Amen, brother.

  9. Weed , is one thing. Too many pros and cons to discuss here. I could probably be persuaded. But it needs to stop there. If you’ve ever witnessed a friend or sibling strung out on METH, you would know how horrible those drugs can be.

  10. Maybe those in favor of legalizing should move to a state that it is legal.

  11. Juanita says:

    Dan Michael Burson, do you ever do anything BESIDES criticize? All you ever do is comment about how other people are screw-ups and idiots, and complain about how people don’t pay for their crimes. Have you ever commented on any news story with something POSITIVE to say? Or did you just get in trouble a long time ago for something you didn’t actually do, but still affects your life today?

    • Dan M Burson says:

      lol lol Ilove it —only gripe about things that are not right—again not my fault you dont know I suggest you do the research before you say anything as you obviously dont know—-by the way never been in trouble with the law—gee juanita you are one of the ignorant hypocrites I was talking about as you are content with no improving or advancing as you are quite happy living in a corrupt state that is dead last in everything—–i will repeat for the hard of hearing and the higher group the dull of understanding of which you are a part—–not my fault you believe whatever they spoon feed you and yes I will complain when things are not right sorry you are to inept and chickenshit to stand up against dishonesty ignorance and corruption–again not my fault so shut up till you do better research and learn the truth ok you dumb coonass lol

      • Gonzales Lass says:

        Holy run on sentence! And you want to preach about doing research and learning the truth?

      • Dan! You do have the right to complain about anything you desire. What you don’t have the right to do is to belittle a people as a whole by using coonass as a dumb class of people. On your next childish tirade leave your address…..

    • Dan M Burson says:

      If it will make you happy—-I am sorry for complaining about things that are not right ok juanita—I suggest you learn what the truth is because you obviously have no clue lol.

  12. Sheryl Melancon Hammack says:

    Wade, I don't live in La. right now, but I did half of my life. That article took a lot of courage to write. I respect that,

  13. Juanita says:

    Yeah Dan, that is exactly what I expected from you – name calling and belittling. I rest my case.

    • Dan M Burson says:

      you are what you are—–again not my fault as the names fit what you already are lol.

  14. Dan M Burson says:

    just as the ignorance I expect from you.

  15. Stu C. says:

    Someone sounds like they are about 14 years old . .

  16. bobby says:

    my thoughts exactly stu. arguing like children on a message board. why not express opinions in an adult fashion. name calling and accusations are for high school girls. however until the childish bickering ensued, i agreed with Dan. men do not hold any power over another and its unjust to regulate what he/she puts into her body. its a direct violation of property rights and free will granted by god/nature and protected by the constitution. whatever negative that you think comes from drugs is irrelevant. if they steal to get drug money, buy guns, buy food, pay their rent, finance vacations or steal just because its easier than getting a job is irrelevant. they are still just a thief. we dont outlaw the things they are stealing to finance. you outlaw the theft. same with murder, reckless driving,assault, and rape. the motive matters not. plus it seems all the hysteria about the dangers of marijuana is purely based in inexperience with its effects or propaganda…probably a combination of both.

  17. I want to say says:

    Dan,

    Just an FYI, but researching biased opinions on the Internet does not make you more enlightened than anyone else. It certainly does not give you the right to call a woman ignorant because she is expressing her opinion. Coincidentally, something that is also protected under the constitution. Since I’m sure you did your research, you know that medicinal marijuana has to be genetically altered for it to be truly beneficial. THC does not help or cure any illness. However, CBD does. Which is a chemical found in marijuana. If there is a legitimate need for CBD, then by all means. Take it. Unless that condition is met, then the term “safe drug” remains an oxymoron.

    To Bobby,

    Your argument lacks any resemblance of logic. Someone who steals from, or harms another person does not make them a common thief. It makes them an addict with no remorse for what they do to another human being as long as they get their fix. Go ahead. Ask the people living in some of these counties and find out how much they regret the legalization of marijuana. Why? Because other crime is now on the rise along with the abuse of harder drugs. If you think that your right to smoke dope is greater than the safety of innocent people, then you prove just how narrow minded and selfish you really are. To clarify something you said, intent is absolutely not irrelevant when it comes to crime. For instance, if you are parked in a parking lot and open your door, hitting another car, then you are guilty of no crime because you had no intent to damage the other vehicle. However, if you pull into a spot next to someone you hate and get out your car to knock their mirror off because you’re angry at them, then you are guilty of criminal damage to property. There are quite a lot of statutes where intent HAS to be proven before one can be charged for a crime.

    Also, I find it funny that the writer of the article would use an excerpt from the constitution that specifically names the creator, when he does not believe in him. You cannot use such a principle when it’s convenient for you. You want crime to go down and be afforded more freedoms? Don’t screw up what you’re given and maintain a legal system with some sort of accountability. Actually hold criminals and stop getting them out on plea deals. I’ve heard of a place like this….Maricopa County has it figured out. Why can’t we do the same

    • To “I want to say”

      This is the writer here. I was interested to read your comment wherein you note my use of “an excerpt from the constitution that specifically names the creator.” For clarification’s sake, the excerpt to which you refer is taken from the Declaration of Independence and not the Constitution. The difference? The Declaration is a political statement while The Constitution is a body of laws. Don’t you find it curious that the latter does not refer, at all, to The Creator?

      If it were within my control, I would certainly edit the Declaration to delete the bit about “endowed by their Creator,” and the text loses none of its potency. In any event, to whom did the drafter refer when he penned “Creator?” Thomas Jefferson’s views on religion are well known and much discussed. I don’t think one can safely assume that his conception of a “Creator” is the same as one’s own. There is quite a lot of literature available which delves into Jefferson’s religious belief, or non-belief, as the case may be.

      If you read on, the operative text states, “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the Consent of the governed.” This excerpt more accurately captures my own feelings.

      I am grateful that you took the time to comment and I appreciate your views, though I may not agree with them. I hope you would agree that the discussion is well worth having.

      Wade Petite, The Creole

  18. I Want to Say says:

    Wade,

    You’re right about the document. I was so focused on everyone else commenting on their constitutional rights that I didn’t catch I had said the wrong document. Other than that, I’m not interested in getting into a religious debate. They never end well.

  19. bobby says:

    its not about “the right to smoke dope”. its about property rights. i personally would still be prohibited from using marijuana because of work but that doesnt mean i shouldnt respect the liberty and right to personal property. so just as you have the right to not be physically assaulted by an addict, the addict shouldnt be physically kept from doing what he will with his body. (as if pot smokers are historically violent people). the consequences of him possibly becoming an addict and resorting to crime to fund his addiction is his reponsibility and will be dealt with by actual just laws against violation of others rights.

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