Garry Reed combined a professional technical writing career and a passion for all things libertarian to become The Libertarian Opinionizer.
Commentary From Your Libertarian Opinionizer
Let’s try yet again to dispel a stale and old yet persistent joke about libertarians and marijuana. The old jeering joint jest, more oft repeated in the past than now, goes like this:
“Libertarians are just Republicans who want to smoke pot.”
It’s typically trotted out as a simple-minded witticism—or more likely a witless schism—by non- and anti-libertarians, and apparently it's believed by the simple-minded among them.
So what exactly is this thing between libertarians and cannabis? It’s absolutely true that libertarians advocate not just the legalization but the full decriminalization of marijuana. But that includes libertarians who do not, have not, and likely never will smoke pot; even they insist that marijuana prohibition should be ended.
The answer is the same as opposing the prohibition of eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, licking ice cream cones, swallowing aspirin, or sniffing flowers: as long as a person is harming no one else, it’s nobody’s damned business what they’re ingesting.
The Purposes for Proscribing Pot
A recent article at The Libertarian Republic, “Cannabis Has Impressive Health Benefits, So Why Was It Ever Illegal?” answers its own question with a good thumbnail history of the crusade against cannabis.
It’s true that some states have legalized the plant for both medicinal and recreational uses, then tax, license, and regulate it so heavily that the black (free) market still flourishes in some states, but the article doesn’t explain why the feds insist on keeping it criminalized to this day.
What it doesn’t do is address the religious, social, political, legal, and commercial considerations deeply embedded in our culture that keep marijuana an illegal Schedule 1 controlled substance. So let's consider a few of those reasons, one at a time.
Political Purposes for Prohibiting Pot
Posturing over pot by the two power-wielding political parties is the best thing going if they know how to play the game to their own benefit.
It’s simple, really. Republicans who have a clearly conservative constituency need only to hammer away against relaxing the laws banning the possession, distribution, and abuse of devil weed since it will corrupt our children and destroy our neighborhoods. Whether it really will or not is irrelevant because the hysteria will result in campaign donations and votes that will win an election.
Democrats campaigning in their own obviously gerrymandered liberal election localities will press for pot legalization knowing that their younger, more radical, more extremist, more activist, more militant constituency wants to transform America. Whether the hype really will or not is irrelevant because it will result in campaign donations and votes that will win an election.
And that’s the whole point, of course, because winning public office gets politicians a taxpayer-funded salary, benefits, retirement plans, gifts and favors and freebies from the Big Corporatist sector and positions them for whatever other corruptions they’re able to profit from.
Libertarian upside for decriminalized pot: A less statist society for everyone.
Religious Reasons for Rejecting Reefers
H.L. Mencken famously defined Puritanism as “The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.”
This is typical of many hardcore conventional conformist conservative fire and brimstone fundamentalist traditionalist old-school orthodox religions. They just know pot makes people lazy, shiftless and unproductive; causing them to stray from the strong Christian Work Ethic that demands everyone must toe the line of constant full time unrelenting responsibility. Fun is ungodly.
They just know people use pot because it’s relaxing, it’s emotionally and psychologically soothing, that it’s a mind-controlling substance that produces “artificial” feelings that don’t come directly from reading the Good Book or from devoutly following the ministrations of the mind-controlling multimillionaire televangelists.
They just know it reduces inhibitions and, most damning of all, enhances sexual passions which create ego-gratification, personal indulgence, hedonism, decadence, sensuality and carnality that makes people disgustingly happy!
They just know it turns people into self-aware individualists and away from being contented sheeplike members of a flock. They just know that pot is personal and intimate and therefore evil in the eyes of people-controllers, and therefore it must be kept illegal. They just know that somewhere some evil blasphemous sacrilegious satanic pothead is murmuring “Hail MaryJane, full of grace...”
Libertarian upside for decriminalized pot: More individual freedom for everyone.
Social Censure of Sinsemilla
Liberal community organizers, conservative social scientists and contemporary public university-educated human behavioral specialists understand the threat of marijuana consumption.
They know cannabis can cause such unacceptable mental and emotional conditions as mild euphoria, an increased sense of well-being, relaxation, relief from anxiety, alterations in both reality and in time perception and occasionally a few fun hallucinations and illusions.
Such conditions create a relaxation of inhibitions toward social taboos, impede the habituated conformance to established social norms and cause people to start thinking for themselves.
Furthermore, the offending THC creates deviations from learning and social skills, causing rebellious approaches away from approved learning processes demanded by society’s conformist educational industry and the demanded social skills of always looking up to and obeying officially sanctioned authority figures.
Pot is personal and intimate and therefor evil in the eyes of groupthink social-controllers, which is why it must be kept illegal and why the Status Quo-Bots want government goons to keep stomping on everyone who deviates from their sanctioned collectivist social standards.
Libertarian upside for decriminalized pot: A more voluntaryist society for everyone.
Legal War on Loco Weed
Pot puffers are the low-hanging fruit in the law enforcement, judicial and prison industries. Pot puffers are easy collars for cops who want to pad their arrest records. Illegal potheads can be turned into CIs (Confidential Informants) to nark out their buddies and suppliers in the illegal drug trade, winning cops a raise, praise and ribbons for their blues.
Poor, black, Latino, and white potheads are also easy wins for tough-on-crime prosecutors wanting to pad their resumes so they can move up the ladder to higher paying, higher power and higher ego jobs like judge, prosecutor, district attorney, defense attorney or politician.
Toasted tokers are easy customers for incarceration operators. The so-called “private” yet taxpayer-funded prisons can’t profitably fill their cells to overflowing with common reefer rats charged with simple “possession” of a couple of doobies.
But they can if a multitude of victimless felony charges can be piled on, like “Possession of over 5,000 grams” or “illegally cultivating” or “conspiring to distribute” or “trafficking” or “resisting arrest” for an arrest that shouldn’t happen in the first place since everything about the arrest is just fruit from the same poisonous tree—the victimless crime black market created by Prohibition.
One low-level dealer has spent 25 years and still counting for being a “violent” criminal when he was caught selling “too much” pot and he happened also to own guns not in his possession when he was busted. Apparently the mere non-violent fact of “owning” a gun while selling herbs makes a person so legally “violent” that he gets a quarter century in a cage. And of course, the worst crime of all is “not having a daddy with political connections.”
And don’t forget that bigtime dealers have a cache of stash and a stash of cash that less conscientious cops can confiscate and conveniently convert into tax-free self-reimbursement income and retirement enhancement compensation.
Besides, legalization of pot will simply drive the drug cartels deeper into what they’re already doing; dealing coke and heroin and meth and fentanyl and black market guns and prostitution and whatever other consensual sins get proscribed by politicians that people are willing to pay for so what the hell? The War on Drugs doesn’t need pot anyway.
Libertarian upside for decriminalized pot: One less victimless crime law for everyone.
Commercial Condemnation of Cannabis
Illegal pot means big profits for Big Pharma and everyone doing business with them, including especially politicians. Legalizing a weed that grows wild and can easily be grown by anyone almost anywhere would cut deep into the profits of Big Pharma’s patented pills, potions and palliatives.
Based on ongoing research here are some of the medical magic this inoffensive little herb known by its many names may produce for suffering souls that most people know little about:
- Slow and stop cancer cells from spreading
- Prevent Alzheimer’s
- Treat Glaucoma
- Relieve Arthritis
- Control Epileptic seizure
- Ease the pain of multiple sclerosis
- Soothe tremors for people with Parkinson’s disease
- Help with Crohn’s disease
- Decrease the symptoms of Dravet’s Syndrome
- Lessen side effects from treating Hepatitis C, and increase treatment effectiveness
- Decrease anxiety
- Help reverse the carcinogen effects of tobacco, and improve lung health
- Reduce severe pain, and nausea from chemo, and stimulates appetite
- Improve symptoms of Lupus, an autoimmune disorder.
- Protect brain after a stroke.
- Help veterans suffering from PTSD
- Control other types of muscle spasms
- Treat inflammatory bowel diseases
- Help eliminate nightmares
- Protect the brain from concussion and trauma
Then there’s the 2013 article from medicaljane.com that suggests medical marijuana may play a role in the management of autism in children. No wonder the legal Pharmaceutical Industry, your favorite drug stores, all those distributors and all those prescribing doctors taking kickbacks from their suppliers want to keep pot illegal.
The biggest downside of decriminalizing pot is that it might take all the fun out of it. How can one be radical, fanatical, quixotic, edgy, artsy, idealistic, zeitgeisty and just plain cool if the stuff is legal and just anyone can use it without the trendy angst over being narked out?
Libertarian upside for decriminalized pot: Better and cheaper health choices for everyone.
Book Break: Your Libertarian Opinionizer’s Pick
Links and References
- Why Is Cannabis Illegal? Introduces the many health benefits, the few health risks (might make you paranoid but you can’t overdose on it or die from it), its history, its criminalization and scare tactics and its almost total lack of research.
- 20 Medical Benefits of Marijuana In 2737 BC in China cannabis was used to treat rheumatism, gout, malaria and even absent-mindedness (!). By 1850 AD it was listed in the US pharmacopeia for labor pain. This article lists 20 of its best known uses today.
- Treating Symptoms of Autism With autism becoming more prevalent in the US research is finding that some cannabinoid compounds “may help ease the symptoms experienced by children with autism and other behavioral disorders.”
- A Lifetime in Prison for a Nonviolent “Crime” Michael Thompson has served 25 of his 40 to 60-year sentence with no end in sight for selling pot in Michigan where it’s now legal, all because guns were found on his properties miles away during his arrest.
Your Libertarian Opinionizer’s Video Pick: Pot Is a Peaceful Pastime
Garry Reed (author) from Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas on September 13, 2019:
Unfortunately it's too much to ask someone to give up control over other people when legalizing pot might diminish his or her political donations and votes and personal ego status while keeping it prohibited will safeguard all of that. It's why I despise most politicians. I'd far rather decriminalize it since legalizing it just gives them more tax money to screw around with while siphoning as much of it as they can into their own pockets. Other than those points I agree with you.
Frustrated in a non-legal state on September 12, 2019:
Excellent article, Garry!
It's really time to legalize marijuana on the federal level. My friends, who live across an imaginary, invisible line, can simply walk right into a dispensary, buy whatever they want, and go home and smoke it, no worries. But yet, I can't, simply because of my geographical location.
Legal or not, cannabis isn't going anywhere. People are going to buy it, and people are going to use it.
I wish the politicians in my state knew exactly how many tax dollars they've lost this year alone, due to people like me who simply get it shipped in from another state.
I don't enjoy breaking the law...at all. I'm a mature, tax paying citizen that goes to work every day. I've never had so much as a parking ticket. I'm not interested in growing marijuana, selling marijuana, or even sharing it with anyone! I just want to be able to buy my stuff legally without a second thought.
Is that really too much to ask???