Rebuttal to ‘Freedom From Reefer Madness’

Gregory Zink (Centre-Right) 


Lizzy Jaramillo (Liberalism)


“I would fight for your legal right to use marijuana; I would however fight you to the death that you morally should not do it, because it destroys the mind.”

~Ayn Rand~


I agree with Ms. Jaramillo’s assertion that “We’ve come a long way since ‘Reefer Madness’” but I still believe that we’ve yet to fully appreciate the ramifications of full-bore marijuana legalization (socially, economically, and medically). I largely agree with her arguments about its medicinal applications, and the destabilizing effects of incarcerating drug users, but there is much to parse out in terms of youth exposure, public health, and crime. These are areas where decriminalization would add a much needed social stigma to recreational use while also taking a measured approach that allows us to scientifically observe a proper cost-benefit analysis. As Mrs. Hobson brilliantly pointed out her in “Libertarian Legalization” the decriminalization of drugs in Portugal has led to some impressive results, perhaps we should follow suit.

“Antiquated fears” and “propaganda as fact” are not the primary reasons people are against legalization. It is people who see the poor state of health the West is in (overwhelmingly lifestyle related) and do not want their children in an environment where escapist drugs are seen as socially acceptable and hedonism promoted as virtue (recall that 45% of Coloradans were against marijuana legalization in their 2012 state initiative). 

Regarding youth exposure/use reasonable debate can be had about the data. Ms. Jaramillo cites a Washington Department of Health study that found decreasing rates of youth use where legalization occurred. But in Washington State (another legalized jurisdiction) “[youth] perceived harm from cannabis fell while past month usage significantly increased for both 8th and 10th graders, compared to non-legalizing states.” Alongside this is the reality that “marijuana use among Colorado teens does appear relatively flat, yet during the same time period Colorado’s teen use of cannabis use has “risen” to #1 in the country” (due to decreasing use in criminalized states). 

In Ms. Jaramillo’s favourite test case of Colorado State we see criminality being emboldened instead of undermined. A majority of citizens are still buying cannabis from the black market (because of lower prices) and the DEA is spending more time and resources in Colorado than before legalization. This is because Mexican/Cuban drug gangs and cartels have setup shop in a liberalized drug economy to export their products elsewhere. This is an economic externality that non-legalized states, and countries, must deal with against their will. Additionally “drugged driving” and vehicle fatalities involving marijuana are going up in Colorado. According to state and federal data “drivers involved in fatal crashes in Colorado (who tested positive for marijuana) has risen sharply each year since 2013, more than doubling in that time.” This is compounded by the fact that there are no field sobriety tests for officers to administer on suspected intoxicated drivers. Yet another unanswered question from legalization advocates. This is part of the reason Coloradans have experienced a 50% increase in auto insurance premiums since 2011. Experts state that: “In every [place] where recreational marijuana has been legalized, with the exception of Massachusetts, car insurance rates have increased”. So in 9/10 legalized American states people are paying higher premiums and buying more expensive marijuana for the “privilege” of legalization. 

Ms. Jaramillo also addressed the sad example of Billy Caldwell who needed marijuana-based medication for his ailment. This is a heart-breaking case and we should never withhold treatment for those that need it. But what about the children who never asked for it? In Colorado “recreational marijuana has led to an increase in the number of babies being born THC-positive” and in the town of Pueblo more than half of the babies born since legalization have THC in their systems. Could this be due to lax social attitudes surrounding the drug because of legalization? Is it becoming normalized in some disturbing ways? 

People often treat marijuana as a joke, some see it as a cure-all, others an ideal of liberty, but plenty think its benign and fun. This distorts the reality that it is an addictive, depleting, and corrupting influence that destroys the mind, kills ambition, and subverts our ability to think and reason (our most precious gift as conscious beings).


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