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Clarifying My Remarks Concerning Drug Decriminalization

with 18 comments

Since having discussed my opinion on the drug war during a recent edition of Paleo Radio (Mon., Oct. 20), I have been bombarded with questions and requests to further clarify my position. It is for this reason that I am writing this particular post. My goal isn’t to convince anyone of my position, but simply to make appropriate clarifications and answer a few of the more common questions I have received.

My position:

I believe that those drugs currently deemed illicit (not legally permitted or authorized; unlicensed; unlawful) should be moderately decriminalized.

A brief explanation:

My position is premised, in part, on the belief that the use of these particular drugs falls within the moral category of a sin rather than a crime. While admitting that all crimes are (or ought to be) sin, we must never forget that not all sins are (or ought to be) criminalized. The question, then, is not whether or not the use of these drugs is morally acceptable, medically advisable, or situationally permissible, but if they should remain criminalized. My answer to this specific question is, in short, no.

Common questions from listeners, readers, friends and family:

Don’t you think drug use would sky-rocket?

Possibly. But this is hardly grounds for making it (or keeping it as) a crime. The legalization of alcohol certainly contributes to its widespread popularity. The same can be said of tobacco and caffiene. They are drugs, widely accessible, and greeted with general acceptance. They also happen to be highly addictive and potentially deadly. The line between illicit and licit, at least in the cases mentioned here, are as costly as they are arbitrary.

So you support drug use?

Sometimes. If I have a headache, I reach for my Tylenol. For those who have siezures, I would see no problem with taking Depacote or even Lithium. Those with panic or anxiety disorders are encouraged to take Ambien, Xanex, or Clonazepam. For children with ADHD (if you believe in such a thing), I would strongly encourage the use of caffiene over typical regimens of Adderall or Ritalin. There are medications for cholesterol, heart problems, muscle pain, and a host of other ailments. There are also natural remedies to these problems, and the market for such therapy is growing.

The point, though, is to demonstrate the foolishnes of the question. The question ought not to be about whether or not I support drug use, but with whether or not the line dividing the drugs we consider licit and those we consider illicit is reasonable. I say that it is not.

Do you support medical marijuana?

Of course. If it can be used, used it. We currently have medications far more addictive and with far more short- and long-term consequences than marijuana. Most people who have asked me this question have taken, or known someone who has taken, Morphine or Codeine for pain. These are derived from opiates. Once again, the dividing line between licit and illicit is absurd.

For those in Michigan, this issue is being put up to a vote on Nov. 4. It is Proposal I. I’ve endorsed it.

So you don’t support any laws whatsoever?

On a federal level, the government should restrict itself to issues pertaining to the interstate, commerce, and trade, specifically on the borders with incoming drugs. But as for federal laws criminalizing the producing, selling, and consumption of what are currently considered illicit drugs, these can (and should) be taken off the books. This would force the federal government to return to pre-1914 Harrison Narcotics Tax Act standards and activities.

States, on the other hand, may regulate it as they wish. Some would be more liberal than others, but states deal with situations like this on a regular basis. Some states don’t allow the sale of corn whiskey. Some states ban the sale of certain fireworks. Other states have differing gun laws. This would just be another thing to add to the list of state distinctives.

How would there be any regulating drugs?

This presumes that society has but one regulatory agency, and that this is the state. But even without the criminalization of drugs, society is comprised of a number of regulatory influences and agencies. Social norms limit what many people do, if for no other reason than that they are norms. Families have rules that the members abide by. Individuals typically wish to be moderate and sober in hope of excelling in their various endeavors. Churches will likely continue to prohibit the use of these drugs, though they may incorporate these newly decriminalized drugs into those accepted on medicinal grounds. Schools and sports associations could put in place (or keep in place) rules they have concerning the use of various drugs. Employers and Unions could place restrictions on its use, especially during work hours. Local and state lawmakers could include these drugs within the scope of laws regulating the public use of alcohol. These are just a few examples of what could (and should) happen were we to decriminalize drugs.

Conclusion:

While I am confident that many will disagree with my position as well as the rationale behind my position, it is my hope that the listeners and viewers having expressed concern will be better familiarized with my view as well as the reasons I have for holding such a position. If there are questions I did not answer that you would like to have answered, please let me know. I am more than willing to discuss this matter in greater detail. In fact, with the economic crisis we are experiencing, there may be no better time to discuss this particular issue.

Written by Paleocrat

October 25, 2008 at 3:12 pm

18 Responses

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  1. I wholeheartedly agree with what you have just said about the issue of “illegal drugs.”
    A lot of the arguments for the prohibition of “illegal drugs” ( I use the word prohibition because that’s what it is ) are very weak and laughable at best. There are loads of examples of their weak arguments ( I won’t mention any of them.)
    I’ve been smoking weed since I was 14 years old and it hasn’t damaged me mentally ( I’m now 22 years old. )
    I’m glad that there are like minded people like you that don’t jump on the band wagon of “Drugs are bad”, “Drug sellers and takers are evil” etc.

    anon

    October 26, 2008 at 9:16 am

  2. I totally disagree.

    First off on your comparisons. You compare Herion, Cocaine, Marijuanna with alcohol and tobacco. The difference between these two groups is one of degree of harm. My mom smoked cigirettes for some 50 years. Has no complications in her 70s now. Take cocaine, herion, and you can immediately overdose on the very first try and/or your dead within somewheres in a couple of years. The first group kills quicker. Alcohol and tobacco can be taken for several decades without killing. Heroin and cocaine NOT. You can’t take these drugs for decades. Big difference.

    Second, the highs for cocaine and herion and others is rather steep. Not alcohol nor tobacco.

    Third, let’s compare the criminalization of drug use with prostitution. We are criminalizing prostitution the way we criminalize drug use. Let’s use the same criteria. By criminalizing it, people who are not sure of it, when they try it and get busted, they are immediately turned off. Laws are there for the weak or for people who have some sort of virtue. The Law is there as an aid to backup somewhat weak constitutions. It gives weak people strong backbones. When one of these is busted, one bust turns them around.

    Fourth, (another nuance on #3) if you read Plato’s Republic, you would understand that the State is there to “promote the Good”. Drug use is NOT the good. The State is there to protect humans from themselves. All men sin. That means all men are weak. In order to prevent Weakness, the State must be created in order to prevent temptation that would be too overpowering.

    Sixth, the Golden Mean. We have some drugs, alcohol and tobacco that are okay, and we have Harder drugs not okay. Justice is always the mean between the extremes of deficiency and excess. Total prohibition of all would be a deficiency and okaying every drug would be excess. Want we want to to do is, if people must, steer them toward soft drugs (i.e. tobacco and alcohol) while blocking anybody from hard drugs. Most People need crutches. The Bible allows for alcohol. Christianity would not esconce hard drugs as well. All drugs affect and harm the body. The body is the Temple of the Holy Spirit. Christians should NOT be using any drugs but because of the sinful and messed up nature of man, God allows for some little use tobacco and alcohol. Hard drugs should never be sanctioned.

    On Marijuana. Marijuana is a gateway drug. Out of all the drugs, it is marijuana that leads to harder drugs. For this it ought to be banned. Men are weak. The purpose of government in some cases is to prevent men from their worst weaknesses.

    Vote NO on the proposition to legalize Marijuana.

    WLindsayWheeler

    October 26, 2008 at 10:18 pm

  3. Alcohol and tobacco can be taken for several decades without killing. Heroin and cocaine NOT. You can’t take these drugs for decades.

    I think somebody needs to talk to Keith Richards…apparently, he’s acting on the assumption that taking copious amounts of illicit drugs is the only thing keeping him alive.

    Antipelagian

    October 27, 2008 at 12:41 pm

  4. The second comment on this topic only proves my point of weak arguments for drugs prohibition:
    First Argument – very weak:
    There are more alcohol and tobacco related deaths than illegal drug related deaths. Alcohol has just as many negative side effects as many illegal drugs as well. So why is it legal?
    As for the potental harm factor, loads of thing we do can potentially harm us. So what? Does that mean we should make everything that could harm us, illegal?

    Second argument – very weak:
    Alcohol is just as psycho-reactive as cocaine and heroin. Nicotine/tobacco is the most addictive drug in the world.

    Third argument – poor:
    Wishful thinking. Criminalising drugs only makes people want to do it more. Also there are alot of people who have been caught by any law enforcement taking illegal “hard” drugs and they still keep taking them.

    Fourth argument – poor:
    Who is to say that drug use is not good.
    Like with my First critique of the argument, where and when does the state draw the line when it comes to harm and sin.

    Fifth argument – the best one but not that great:
    Alcohol is a hard drug (by definition of a “hard” drug.) The fact that “the bible allows for alcohol so that’s why you accept alcohol” is hypocrisy plain and simple.

    The weed statement – 1000000000000X very poor:
    That’s like saying riding a bike leads to riding motorbikes.

    anon

    October 27, 2008 at 4:25 pm

  5. The Bible says, “Get Understanding”. That is what the Christian is supposed to do—not get high.

    The purpose of drugs is to get high—to escape.

    That is not a Christian view of reality or the purpose of life–to escape. What Christianity is about is reality not escapism.

    “What is The Good?”

    That is central to understanding what is morality. Morality guides us to The Good. Is it The Good that men and women be high? Drug use feeds into pleasure; it is naturally narcissistic. It is self-centered. Instead men and women have to be duty oriented, outward looking. The Good can not be approached when narcissistic.

    As it says in the Bible, Drunkards shall not enter into the kingdom of Heaven. A heavy drug user shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. On this point “Marijuana” is very wrong. Alcohol leaves the body in 24 hours. Marijuana does not. One is constantly high on Marijuana, therefore “drunk” constantly. A Marijuana man is not going to enter into the kingdom of God. A man who constantly fills his belly with alcohol to the point of saturation, the definition of a drunkard, will not enter into the kingdom of God because the man is so self-indulgent, so narcissistic that he can’t do his duty to God, Country or Family. When a man can’t do his duty and “get understanding” (Wisdom) because his mental facilities are clouded, then he is UNFIT for the Kingdom of God. The same with any other drugs.

    A man must be in control of his senses at all times. Drugs prevent that. Drugs are self-serving, not out-ward serving. A Christian must be ready to do his duty; mentally awake, and morally straight. Drugs prevent that.

    Christianity is against daily alcohol intake. St. Paul says “occasionally” and for medicinal purposes. Christianity is not about furthering narcissistic tendencies in the human race. It is about doing one’s duty.

    Therefore, drugs must be criminalized. They harm the body and the soul.

    WLindsayWheeler

    October 28, 2008 at 5:24 am

  6. Marijuanna as a Gateway drug.

    St. Thomas Aquinas said, “A little error in the beginning leads to greater error in the end”.

    It is taught that “The Slippery Slope Argument” is a philosophical fallacy. It is not! St. Thomas Aquinas proves that true in the philosophical realm.

    On the Agrarian side, “The Slippery Slope Argument” is also true. Does it not say, “One bad apple in the bushel, destroys the whole bushel”? Yes. Doesn’t not bad hay in the barn, then destroys the whole hay? Is this not the law of entropy?

    Does not St. Paul, quoting a Greek say, “Bad company corrupts good morals”? Again, The Slippery Slope Argument.

    In Drugs, there is also The Slippery Slope. Marijuana is a gateway drug proven thru research to lead people into greater drug use. Some people never advance, true. But others do. Seeking greater and greater highs. Marijuana is The First Step in the Slippery Slope in the psychological realm.

    The Slippery Slope is a principle of the Natural Law. Aristotle notes this as “incrementalism” in politics. It is in all spheres of life, philosophy, politics, food production, psychology, in nature (as the law of entropy), and medicine. Cancer starts out little and grows. The Slippery Slope, which “gateway” refers to, is real, true, and evident. Marijuana is the first step in many cases to the gradual increase in harder drugs.

    Marijuana is NOT to be legalized.

    WLindsayWheeler

    October 28, 2008 at 5:35 am

  7. Second, The Spiritual Life.

    The Devil and Satanic influence.

    What is Keeping Keith Richards alive is the Satanic influence in his life. Satan rules him. Keith, being led by the devil, is naturally deceived, but it is Satan that is keeping him alive so that Keith Richards may continue in his Zombie state to further the goals of Satan.

    Drug use allows Satan to control Human Beings. Naturally, drugs cloud human control of themselves. Drug use lowers human control over themselves; it allows for Satan and other evil spirits to enter in and inhabit and control humans. It is the Left which pushes Drug use. Why? So Satan can control them.

    We live in a Spiritual World. We are spiritual beings. What drug use does is allows humans to be controlled by evil spirits. Keith Richard is a sign of this. His music is evil, his lyrics are degraded, he is a tool, an useful idiot of Satan. The man is not in his right mind, nor ever will be, because of drugs. He is of weak personality and it is the weak that Satan feeds on. Drug use facilitates this paradigm.

    WLindsayWheeler

    October 28, 2008 at 5:43 am

  8. I has become quite apparent, Mr. Wheeler, that you neither grasped the intention of my post nor the content of Proposal 1.

    Let me make clear that I have not, and would not, encourage someone to use illicit drugs for pleasure. This would be true even if these drugs were decriminalized.

    My reasoning under both conditions would be much the same. As of now, they are illegal. As of now, my religious beliefs would forbid such encouragement. If they were decriminalized, those reasons would be cut in half, leaving only the latter.

    The issue, though, has been with the standard we use to distinguish between something that is a sin and something that is both a sin and a crime. Not all sin is crime, but all crimes are sin. My contention has been that while drug use of this nature may be sinful, it does not necessarily warrant being a crime.

    Proposal 1 is strictly concerning the medicinal use of marijuana. It would be highly regulated. It would require verification cards for those who are prescribed it. It would come along with hefty penalties for those who violate the terms of prescription. And it would only be administered to people who have diseases (or terminal illnesses) that are best treated with it.

    Lastly, your description of the affects of marijuana is… well… comical. Seriously, it could have come out of an old government propaganda film like The Terrible Drug (1951), The Drug Addiction (1951), or part I and II or The Pit of Despair (1967).

    fideidefensor

    October 28, 2008 at 8:11 am

  9. I would like to add that the vulgar class, which all of America is, is incompetent to judge and make law.

    Under Christendom, kings guided by Roman Catholic advisors that were bishops, made law. That is the Conservative position.

    The vulgar have no training to decide matters of law. And the two issues on the Michigan ballot are not the realm of the vulgar class. In order to answer these questions takes ethics training, morals training, philosophical training and theology. And the vulgar class has no apptitude to decide these questions adequately. These two ballot proposals, Embryonic Stem Cell research and Legalization of Marijuana, in a conservative world, be forwarded to Bishops to decide. That it is Unrighteousness, adikia, for the vulgar class to decide these issues. It is beyond their mental capacity and training.

    It is wrong for the vulgar class to vote on such important things. For Roman Catholics should not be voting on any such garbage period.

    Has anybody researched this? Has any Michigan Roman Catholic Bishops said anything about these? If you are reporter and a journalist, you should be reporting on what the Catholic Bishops have said on these two matters and posted them.

    WLindsayWheeler

    October 28, 2008 at 7:25 pm

  10. Your position is illogical.

    You state “Let me make clear that I have not, and would not, encourage someone to use illicit drugs for pleasure. This would be true even if these drugs were decriminalized.”

    If you decriminalize, you are encouraging. The Law teaches. If the law doesn’t say anything, then there is no evil in it. The Law is the ideogram of the good. If you are decriminalizing it—-you are Legitimazing it!

    There is no grey–in–between! Either it is criminal or it is legitimate.

    Your stand is completely illogical or you don’t realize it, that you are in the offhand, legitimazing it! All things are either positive or negative. The world of reality is built on Contraries. Everything has its opposite. By decriminalizing hard drugs, you are not putting it in some “grey area”, you are positivizing it; you are legitimazing it.

    If you decriminalizing prostitution, you are legitimazing it.

    If you decriminalize murder, you are legitimazing it.

    Witches are condemned in the Bible for making drugs. Cocaine, Heroin, LSD, Crack are manufactured drugs. To make things to hallucinate is evil.

    WLindsayWheeler

    October 28, 2008 at 7:31 pm

  11. Here is some info about Cannabis:

    [QUOTE]A single joint of cannabis raises the risk of schizophrenia by more than 40 per cent, a disturbing study warns.

    The Government-commissioned report has also found that taking the drug regularly more than doubles the risk of serious mental illness.

    Overall, cannabis could be to blame for one in seven cases of schizophrenia and other life-shattering mental illness, the Lancet reports.

    Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of the mental health charity SANE, said: ‘This analysis should act as a serious warning of the dangers of regular or heavy cannabis use, doubling the risk of developing schizophrenia – a condition in which a person may hear voices and experience strange thoughts and paranoid delusions.

    ‘The debate about classification should not founder on statistics but take into account the potential damage to hundreds of people who without cannabis would not develop mental illness.

    ‘While the majority can take the drug with no mind-altering effects, it is estimated that 10 per cent are at risk.[/QUOTE]

    From here: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-471106/Smoking-just-cannabis-joint-raises-danger-mental-illness-40.html

    If there is a pill form of THC, the active ingredient in Marijuana, where is there a need to smoke it? There isn’t any.

    WLindsayWheeler

    October 28, 2008 at 7:41 pm

  12. Here is one more link: http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/evidence99/marijuana/Health_1.html

    Once a thing is started, it is hard to eradicate it. Cigarettes are very harmful but it was started in the 17th century where there was no medical science to evaluate it. Everybody smoked.

    Marijuana, as above linked article states, is a new phenomena; in just the last three decades. We don’t need more drugs on the market. We need to put a break on Marijuana.

    Every drug acts differently in different people. Peoples’ constitutions are different. But on average, the greatest threat of Marijuana is the killing of initiative in people. It is observable generally. Even commercials about marijuana portray users as slow, dull. That can not be said about alcohol or Tobacco.

    Please google “Dangers of Marijuana”. And I would like to see what the Michigan Roman Catholic Bishops have stated on these subjects.

    WLindsayWheeler

    October 28, 2008 at 7:48 pm

  13. Wheeler,

    You have attempted here to move the debate from whether or not something should be criminalized to whether or not popular elections are a moral good. This would be a great debate, though I would probably agree with your position, but it is not the central theme of this discussion.

    So should telling your parents that you won’t clean your room be criminalized? Do you wish to criminalize homosexuality? Do you want to criminalize overeating? What about adultery? I remember a few of our conversations on a handful of these matters, Wheeler. Tell us what you really think…

    You can’t grasp the fact that not all sins are crime? Just because it is not criminalized, meaning that it is under the jurisdiction of the state, does in no way mean that it is legitimate. This is pure nonsense.

    If you want to have a pissing contest with studies and statistic, fine. But I think it would be rather silly. For fun, let me throw this one out there:

    Alcohol is directly related to 100% of drunkenness.

    Food is directly related to 100% of obesity cases.

    And what do you personally care what the Michigan Bishops say on the matter? You are a religious maverick. You don’t hesitate to toss to the wind Catholic Social Doctrine. To play this game is ridiculous, Wheeler. Be sensible.

    fideidefensor

    October 28, 2008 at 10:09 pm

  14. But you are a faithful Catholic and a reporter. What have the Michigan Roman Catholic Bishops said, if anything? Has any sermons been given? Any educational material handed out on the Roman Catholic position? What? Where? Enquiring minds want to know!

    WLindsayWheeler

    October 28, 2008 at 11:38 pm

  15. I went to the Michigan Catholic Conference Web site. On their “Faithful Citizenship Page,” they have questionnaires for candidates from various diocese, 11 links under the category of “Proposal 2: Unregulated Destruction of Embryos,” two links under the category of “miscellaneous,” and another category pertaining to the USCCB Faithful Citizenship voters’ guide.

    Under “Miscellaneous” is one link called “Ballot Language for Proposal 1.” I provide the link below.

    http://michigan.gov/documents/sos/APPROVED_Bal_Word_CCCl821_246348_7.pdf

    That is it, Wheeler. At least from the MCC’s official site.

    I was not at all surprised to see them dedicate much more to the unregulated destruction of human embryos, but I was very surprised to see that they didn’t even have a category dedicated to Proposal 1. More amazing, it was tucked into “Miscellaneous.”

    PS- Sermons? I presume there would be sermons on the issue, and I am rather confident it would be a mixed bag. The issue would to be to go to the encyclicals, the catechisms, and the authorized voters’ guides, like the one put out by the USCCB.

    fideidefensor

    October 29, 2008 at 7:54 am

  16. Thanks. I am disheartened.

    I worked at a Jewish Synagogue. The synagogue was full of stuff happening and events. The Rabbi himself, held several meetings during the week but preached on Friday nights, Saturday mornings and Sunday services. He was constantly putting things in Jewish contexts and teaching them, “This is how you think like a Jew on this subject…blah blah blah”.

    I mean they got their act together. Language classes in Hebrew. Hebrew Philosophy classes. Religious classes. Political classes. Cultural classes.

    Roman Catholics?

    None.

    What is the Bishop doing?

    Who knows.

    If you look up the definition of incompetent, you will find the words “Roman Catholic Bishops”. If anything describes the essence of incompetency it must be the Roman Catholic Bishop.

    While I was at the synogogue, all I kept on feeling was ashamed. Ashamed of my own faith.

    We vote in a week. Where are the classes? Where is the philosophical, ethical and moral classes being held at Roman Catholic churches educating the laity about marijuana? Where is the sermons at Vespers or at other Divine Offices where the community comes together where the priest takes time and “This is how a Roman Catholic thinks on this subject… blah blah blah”. Where is it? A bishop is supposed to be a shepard. the people need sheparding. Where is this?

    I am very disappointed and ashamed; very ashamed.

    WLindsayWheeler

    October 29, 2008 at 8:04 pm

  17. I think you are overreacting here. Just because the bishops haven’t put together a formal say on whether or not a specific plant should be permitted for medicinal purposes – with heavy regulation and criminal sanctions for any misuse – hardly justifies your decrying them as incompetent.

    Churches are teeming with classes on major issues. Voters’ guides are handed out in the bulletins. Yard signs against Proposal 2 are left at the door for anyone wishing to take some. Priests in our diocese have spent the last month preaching on life related issues. Each and every homily emphasizes the forming of Catholic conscience along the lines of Catholic moral theology and Catholic Social Doctrine. You would know this… if you attended church.

    My church has been particularly adamant about the issues surrounding the election, both state and national. The series of homilies is available. If you would like to hear what you are missing, let me know and I will get you a copy. I believe they are free.

    fideidefensor

    October 29, 2008 at 11:09 pm

  18. EXCELLENT POST! If you would like to read more about legalizing drug’s and why we SHOULD, I have a post on my blog specifically for that discussion…and it has a link to a site by law enforcement agent’s who feel the same way. Anyway, here’s the link to my blog: http://dougbond.wordpress.com Peace!

    Omnesion

    July 12, 2009 at 11:13 am


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