Based on my examination of the function of laws, specifically drug laws, as well the evidence-both scientific and theoretical-I can make the rational conclusion that a law prohibiting marijuana is unethical. This is because more people are affected negatively as a direct result of the law than are protected by the law. Drug laws tie people up in a flawed system that only exacerbates the concerns and worries, which may have led a person to use marijuana or other drugs in the first place.
Drug laws, for the most part, attack non-violent offenders, often times entering them into a justice system that presents the victim with circumstances that create a vicious cycle. Furthermore, it is well documented that the culture of prisons can turn a non-violent person into psychopath. Mandatory minimum sentencing, which has finally been seen for the problematic mess that it is, is responsible for putting harmless marijuana users into the company of career criminals, many of which are violent people. After living in such a perverse environment such as prison, many drug law offenders leave prison mentally changed for the worse.
Nevertheless, the common punishment for petty possession of marijuana in most states is a year of probation, a ton of fines, and some form of community service. While this certainly generates extra revenue for states and towns, it puts people in a position where they must make major sacrifices in their daily life in order to avoid jail time for violating the terms of their punishment. In an economic system such as ours where the cost of living is often beyond the means of many, forcing much of the population to rely on credit, added expenses such as fines and lab fees for drug tests are more detrimental than they are rehabilitating.
Certain states have acknowledged this, causing them to change their approach towards prosecuting drug law offenders. Drug courts are examples of this as they save people from jail time by sentencing them to rehab and community outreach programs. While this is the first step towards fixing the backwards mentality our culture has developed in regards to drug laws, it is not nearly enough to end the rampant drug abuse in the country.
I firmly believe the severity and prevalence of drug abuse in the United States is due to the antiquated notion that all drugs are equally bad. In the 1930s, after the failed prohibition of alcohol and the inspired campaign against marijuana, prohibitionists such as Harry Anslinger were going around preaching that marijuana was no worse than heroin, that it turned people insane after one puff, and that it caused people to go on murderous rampages. Not only is this utterly untrue, but incredibly disturbing that this was accepted at the time.
Since then, we have slowly, but not entirely moved away from the belief that marijuana is on par with heroin. Certainly, in a modern context most people will find such a comparison laughable, however, when we look at our drug education programs we can see that the concept is still very much with us. Rather than taking an honest approach towards educating the young, our school systems use the simplest tactic towards getting the point across: generalization.
While generalization is an effective form of education as it allows people to memorize and retain more information, it neglects the specifics, which are vital in regards to developing a fully informed and legitimate understanding of a subject. Generalization in regards to drugs is incredibly dangerous as we have seen. Since all drugs are different just as all people are, it does not make sense to promote the idea that a drug is a drug and all drugs are bad. Given the nature of young people to often ignore the warnings of the older generations, it is inevitable that at one point in their life they will experiment with drugs as a result of curiosity or peer pressure (or both).
Now don’t you think the potential to try harder drugs is greater for a kid who has been brought up being told all drugs all the same? After all, if that same kid tries marijuana, a mild psychoactive drug with a short-lasting high, would it be such a reach for him to make the logical conclusion that all drugs are the same therefore all drugs are just like marijuana? Of course not, but this is the culture we have created and are slowly working to reverse-the operative word being “slowly”. A recent study done by John Hopkins University determined the gateway drug myth in regards to marijuana is just that, a myth. The conclusion came as result of two findings: one being the fact that many people tried alcohol and cigarettes before ever trying marijuana because both are legal and socially acceptable. The second reason is due the educational background that a person has, which aids them in making decisions.
To get personal, I was straight edge my freshman year of high school-meaning I didn’t do drugs of any kind (alcohol included since our society often feels compelled to say alcohol and drugs, which baffles me since alcohol is a drug). Granted, that’s not that impressive since I only lasted one year, but the reason why I only lasted one year is because I realized my opposition to drugs was irrational. I was a product of the dishonest drug education I received, the kind of education that used fear as a deterrent rather than honesty.
The summer following my freshmen year I heavily researched every major drug as objectively as possible. Now remember, I was anti-drugs when I began this investigation into them. After extensive research, reading as many medical journals and studies that I could find, I came to the conclusion that some drugs are simply not worth the adverse affects. Such drugs being: cocaine, heroin, ecstasy, inhalants, and so on. I discovered that responsible use of drugs such as marijuana, LSD, and psilocybin is not nearly as dangerous as I once believed. In fact, I was shocked to find that LSD is considered the safest drug in moderation-moderate use of LSD being a common dose (50-150 micrograms) once every three to six months. Nevertheless, most psychologists will emphasize that people with a family history of psychological disorders such as schizophrenia and manic depression should avoid serotonin-like psychedelics entirely, which furthers the point that honest education in regards to drugs is necessary in order to lower drug abuse rates in the United States.
More importantly, it is the emphasis on responsible use that should be at the core of all drug education programs. The recent societal concern over binge drinking is both a sign of progressive ideologies regarding drugs and the realization, whether outright or not, of failed drug education programs. By allowing alcohol to be socially acceptable, its dangers have often gone overlooked, mostly by the young. The debilitating nature of alcohol addiction is something I have witnessed first hand in addition to the moronicism that is binge drinking. If we can recognize that the young have been misguided in their notions about alcohol then we must also stop ignoring the same problem in regards to illicit substances. One could make the case that any drug can be used responsibly, but as stated above, there are certain drugs that have a much more immediate negative effect while others such as marijuana, LSD, psilocybin, alcohol, and cigarettes can produce adverse effects down the road if they are not used responsibly in moderation.
How does this all relate to ethics? It shines light on the gross ethical negligence that is responsible for creating a situation where irrational perspectives have been given credence to shape our cultural ideals and legislation. For you see, by allowing such nonsensical beliefs to be the norm, we as a society have failed the most important test in regards to ethics: the pursuit of the truth, no matter how much it conflicts with our own personal biases.