Thursday, January 17, 2008

Legalizing -- bad idea

Supporters of a certain candidate in the current political campaigning have been talking up the issue of legalization of illegal drugs. Some of these self-identified "libertarians" scoff about comparing the potential harmful effects of marijuana against the known evil consequences of alcohol abuse.

We are compelled to make that comparison, obviously, because it is useful.

How could we reasonably expect that legalized marijuana would have a more benign social impact than legalized alcohol?

At one time, the people of this society supported a ban on alcohol. But it proved to be unpopular for reasons other than the fact that the consumption of alcohol has serious negative consequences. I suggest that the biggest reason prohibition failed is because it foiled Satan's purpose to ensnare us in evil habits.

In any case, it seems rather specious to argue for legalization on the basis that marijuana might prove somewhat less harmful than legalized alcohol.

Let's also not pretend that legalizing this stuff is a new idea. I was listening to the same arguments before I was in high school, and they were not new then.

There is always a running debate about whether civil law should attempt to "legislate morality". The root of this argument is itself suspect, since laws must be based in moral values, or they aren't worth much.

Creating laws that proscribe socially costly or damaging behavior has no effect on free agency. Free agents always have the ability to make their own choices. In the case of behavior that is illegal, those making a choice have added incentive toward legal alternatives. But they can still choose for themselves.

A free society does not exist in a moral or legal vacuum. In a perfectly ordered society, perfectly preserving personal freedom, everyone would voluntarily obey the laws, because we would all have the knowledge and understanding that these laws are based on correct principles.

I find the argument that legalized marijuana might be somewhat less damaging than alcohol to be less than compelling. I could argue with just as much enthusiasm that legalized machine guns would inflict less damage than legalized tactical nukes. Not a convincing rationale, either way.

I think the facts are unmistakably clear. Substances containing drugs with side-effects that alter perception or impair judgement are not suitable for legalized unrestricted consumption. We're all fully aware that the most damaging social impact from alcohol consumption has nothing to do with livers or stomachs.

As I see it, there are two obstacles which must be overcome in order to legitimize marijuana use. First, to prove that the net benefit is greater than any possible negative impact and social cost. And second, to insure that control and marketing of marijuana products don't follow the same track as, say, historical tobacco products.

A bit of additional appropriate sermonizing...

Quoting from Glenn L. Pace,"They're Not Really Happy," Ensign, Nov 1987, 39

Activities always forbidden by the Lord and for many years frowned upon by society are now accepted and promoted by that same society. The media serves up these activities in such a fashion as to make them look very desirable. Add to acceptability and desirability the power of peer pressure, and you have an extremely explosive situation.

Lehi’s vision of the tree of life is appropriate for our day. In that vision, he saw a great and spacious building, which represents the pride and temptations of the world:

“And I … beheld … a great and spacious building; …

“And it was filled with people, both old and young, … and their manner of dress was exceedingly fine; and they were in the attitude of mocking and pointing their fingers towards those who … were partaking of the fruit” (1 Ne. 8:26–27).

Even though you have a testimony and want to do what is right, it is difficult not to be drawn to the great and spacious building. From all appearances, the people in the building seem to be having a great time. The music and laughter are deafening...

They look happy and free, but don’t mistake telestial pleasure for celestial happiness and joy. Don’t mistake lack of self-control for freedom. Complete freedom without appropriate restraint makes us slaves to our appetites. Don’t envy a lesser and lower life.

An interesting side note -- In today's news it was announced that the Church officially supports a measure proposing to remove certain alcoholic beverages from the list of those approved for sale at grocery and convenience stores, "that the sale of distilled spirits....should be restricted to state liquor stores." Commentary in the Deseret News and the Salt Lake Tribune.

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