Monday, September 29, 2014

Marijuana: Government should educate, not ban

As a libertarian I am not an advocate of laws that tell people what they can and cannot do, as this is the job of parents and teachers.  However, I am a champion for education and personal responsibility and accountability.

I do not believe the majority in power should be able to make laws taking away the rights of the minority.  That does not mean that the majority shouldn't try to educate the minority.  I believe this type of system would be best for everyone.

Consider the relationship between a dad and a son.  The dad tells the kid that he has to go to the University of Michigan to become a doctor, and the kid gets annoyed and decides not to go to college at all.

Consider the dad who tells his son that, under no circumstances, are you to drink alcohol.  The son goes off to college, gives into the pressure, or is under a lot of pressure, and drinks a six pack of Miller Lite.  He finds that such behavior takes the edge off the stress of life, and goes on to enjoy a beer or two every day.  

While these are facetious examples, they show that no person in power should in any way try to force his views on others.  However, that does not mean that a parent, or a government, should not try to educate.  In fact, a wise parent or government would do just that.

Consider how much better off society would be today if, instead of the Supreme Court deciding the way it did in the Rowe-V-Wade case, had it simply said that it is not up to the government to decide, it's up to the people.  

If you think of it, telling those who do not support abortion that they have to accept it only created more animosity.  It actually strengthened the pro-life cause, and made the pro-choice cause more arrogant and condescending. It actually helped to create the current partisan divide most people say they hate. 

While I believe that smoking marijuana is a poor behavior that increases the risk for worse behavior later on in life, it's not my place to tell people they cannot smoke it.  However, I certainly can educate people about the facts.  In the process, I might learn something myself.  

For instance, South Dakota State University reports that smoking one marijuana cigarette is equivalent to smoking 16 tobacco cigarettes in terms of damage it causes to the body.  It can cause memory loss, impair judgement, and affect a person's performance at school, work, and in the car.  

Other side effects are noted by the National Alliance on Mental Illness:
  • Increased risk of chronic lung disease
  • Increased risk for lung cancer
  • Increased risk of problems with menstruation in women
  • Increased risk of development of breasts in males
  • Increased risk of dental problems
  • Increased risk of cardiovascular concerns in older patients
  • Increased anxiety and depression in people with those disorders
Forbes.com reports that even light marijuana smoking may be linked to neurological changes, and this is especially significant in young people whose brains are still developing and less so in older smokers.  

Realistically, however, while there are side effects, many claim marijuana is a relatively harmless drug.  Perhaps so, but those who use it should still be aware of the facts, just as those who smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol should be aware of the facts. 

You see, I've been the victim of an attack on cigarette smoking and alcohol drinking my entire life.  Since the time I was in the second grade people people have been telling me I should not smoke or drink for this reason or that reason. 

Noting these risks, I choose not to smoke.  But, likewise noting the risks, I enjoy alcoholic beverages when I choose to drink them.  Yet I believe the rewards from drinking responsibly are well worth the risk of side effects.  I drink alcohol knowing the advantages and disadvantages.

So it would be hypocritical for me to tell my kids they cannot drink.  In fact, I would be somewhat disappointed if, some day in the future, I could not have a drink with my children.  

At the same time, however, while a puff of tobacco might calm my agitated nerves, the potential risks far outweigh this benefit. 

You have a right to smoke, but your right stops where my right to breathe fresh air starts.  So there needs to be some laws to protect my right to breathe fresh air (especially the rights of innocent children and infants to breathe fresh air). 

I feel the same way about marijuana: it should be legal, people should be educated of the risks, and it should not be encouraged.

Meaning that people who live in the State of Washington should not be on Facebook flaunting about their purchase of marijuana and how they smoked it and made pot cookies.  All this type of behavior does is decondition people to the dangers associated with a nation of pot heads, including a malaise behavior that results in people who lack concern and motivation toward reality (hey, man!).

As noted before, no majority should have a right to vote away the rights of the minority.  That does not mean we, as parents and responsible adults, should not educate and encourage good behavior, because we should.