On the Legalization of Marijuana
Ask yourself this, why has marijuana been criminalized and what form has criminalization taken? The illegality of marijuana can be viewed, quite justifiably, as an example of the corporate or moneyed interests in controlling their citizens for profit. Marijuana is a relatively easy plant to grow outdoors, and is adaptable to many climates, yet the growing of it is highly criminalized or regulated (even in areas with legal or decriminalized marijuana).
Why is that? Well, as we have seen from the recent legalization of marijuana in Canada, the government and corporate interests still want to have their greedy little fingers in the pot. Only through intense regulation has the government of Canada been able to somewhat control the spread and sale of a supposedly legal substance.
Just listen to the language and justification they used when deciding to legalize. The Liberal Party of Canada says it was “To ensure that we keep marijuana out of the hands of children, and the profits out of the hands of criminals. We will legalize, regulate, and restrict access to marijuana.”1 First they throw out a fake moral cause (not to mention that illegality has ever stopped kids from smoking pot) but then they get to the real reason – profit. The government and corporations were not content with losing hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue to the black market. One need only look to how ineffective this form of legalization has been, evidenced by the continued existence of the black/grey market for cannabis, to see how silly this endeavour was. 2
Another point to consider are the staggering implications on the arrests and imprisonment of people for non-violent drug offences like that feed the prison–industrial complex. According to the ACLU, “Of the 8.2 million marijuana arrests between 2001 and 2010, 88% were for simply having marijuana.”3 It seems to me as if there is a very clear motivation for state governments across America to continue enforcing draconian laws to feed the industrialized prison system.
Only in a truly corrupt system are people imprisoned and stripped of their rights for smoking a plant whose history dates back to the earliest times of recorded history.
On Marijuana and Individual Rights
We must always balance the rights of the individual against that of society. While the effects of marijuana on an individual are negligible, the effects on society are harder to measure. It is my supposition that marijuana should be legalized, however that doesn
’t mean the use of marijuana or any other drug should be promoted. Similar to alcohol and tobacco, we should place warnings on them, educate young people about the long and short-term effects, and institute public health programs to prevent, limit, and treat their usage.
It’s readily apparent that many on the anti-marijuana side of the argument are akin to prohibitionists in the 1920’s. People who claim to have a moral high ground and want to enforce their morality onto you. Unfortunately for them, we now have several examples of the impact on a society when they do legalize pot in some way. Just look at Colorado, last time I checked they have not descended into a wild frenzy of anarchy and social decay in the manner that prohibitionists warned against.
Why would the government not want people to smoke marijuana? I can think of three possible answers: 1) It will open their mind to new experiences. 2) It will make them less likely to obey authority. 3) It will make them become unproductive. You’ll notice all three of these points are infringing on a individual’s liberty. People should be exposed to new experiences, people should disobey authority when appropriate, and people have the right to be lazy from time to time.
Some people have expressed concern that this could turn into a “Brave New World” type scenario with marijuana replacing “soma” as a nullifier to keep the population under control. While it is true that drugs are, by and large, corrosive agents that destroy the bonds of a family and community, Marijuana does not seem to have nearly that big of an effect (especially when compared to opiates). I don’t believe the effects of pot use, even heavy pot use, can lead to this kind of scenario. Also, public health and awareness campaigns could help mitigate this kind of usage if it was found to be a concern.
On Regulating Pot Use
The only regulations that should be placed on using marijuana are the common-sense ones. People should be able to grow marijuana if it is in society’s interest and is not causing any harm to them or their neighbours. People should not be able to engage in activities that place others in harm, such as driving under the influence of marijuana.
On Benefits and Negatives
We would have to rely on an educated population to make good judgements about marijuana use and that of course carries with it the possibility of misuse by some. Even as it stands now, with relatively easy access to marijuana for most of the Western world, this isn’t really an issue and I cannot imagine it would be in a fully legalized system outside of Canada.
My biggest reservation is a possible increase in violence as the more organized black-market dealers (not your small-scale neighbourhood pot dealers) will try to supplement their lost income by pushing harder and more addictive/dangerous drugs. I do not find sufficient cause in that argument to criminalize pot.
On the Role of the Government
Any current capitalist government should play as little as a role as possible. They have used it as a tool for profit in the past and as we have seen in Canada that they will continue to use legalization for their own benefit. Just look at the reaction in Canada from people who have been pushing for its legalization for decades. 4 They promise legalization but only deliver a corporate monopoly.
One last point to consider is a question rarely asked when discussing marijuana legalization, ‘Why do people smoke it in the first place?’ I am not surprised that so many alienated people in a hyper-capitalist society want to escape. Looking at the root cause of why people use drugs to begin with may give some insight into whether marijuana usage rates would rise, stabilize, or decline in a hypothetical socialist society.
Rebuttal to Das Kannabis
Paddy Shannon (Anarcho-Socialism)
Matthew Zink (Socialism)
I am bemused by Das Kannabis’s referral to something called the “prison–industrial complex” and stating that ‘there is a very clear motivation for state governments across America to continue enforcing draconian laws to feed [this] system.’ What motivation would that be? Undoubtedly prison systems are a nice little earner for those employed in them, but why on earth would governments want to max out the prison population at the cost of their own treasury departments? For the tax? Hardly. If you’re a government paying £100 to a prison, you’re only going to get back a quarter of that in tax, at most. What kind of incentive is a 75% loss? According to this logic the government should also be encouraging murder sprees, because this increases costs for policing, emergency services, funeral homes, grief counselling and gun suppliers. All sources of tax! But why stop there? The government should also be starting wars daily, because wars are the biggest money-sinks of them all. We do sometimes hear talk of the ‘military-industrial complex’ from people making this very assumption, but fortunately it’s not borne out by day-to-day observation. Because states often say one thing and do something quite different, it’s not surprising if people are confused about what the state is for, and where it gets its money. The state exists and acts primarily as an executive of the owning class (the 1%) who enshrine their property claims in law, impose coercive rules on workers, and referee disputes among the rich themselves (the UK Brexit fiasco being one such dispute). It’s not workers who need a state, it is the capitalists. It is not workers who pay for the state either. Again, it is the capitalists.
Consider who has all the money? It is not the working class. If workers had any real money, they would not need to work. You might think your income tax is paid by you but it is really paid by your employer, in your name. If income tax was abolished tomorrow, your boss would simply cut your wages by that amount, knowing you could afford it. So the state belongs to, and is paid for, by the capitalist class. Do capitalists get rich by throwing money away? No, they do not. The money they pay to the state they expect to see put to constructive use, through worker education, scientific research, technology, roads, the expansion of new markets, and so on. Things likely to make money in the future. And they scrutinise government spending carefully, to make sure they’re getting their money’s worth. Any government that imagined its job was to ‘feed the industrial-prison system’ might get a big cheer from the 5% of the ruling class who have investments in prisons, but a giant smack-down from the 95 percent who do not. The purpose of the state is to make the rich even richer, to keep workers under their heel, and to spend as little, not as much, of its masters’ tax money as possible.