Marijuana law reform

This article is cross-posted on Peter Rohde’s Blog

An issue which I feel very strongly about, but which for some reason I’ve never blogged about before is the legalisation of marijuana. While I don’t advocate marijuana use, in my mind there is no moral justification for the criminalisation of marijuana for numerous reasons:

1. Marijuana has been systematically shown to be less physically harmful and less addictive than both alcohol and tobacco, both of which are legal. The following plot comes from Wikipedia (see article for reference), which shows affinity for dependence and the physical harm of many common drugs. Notice that marijuana is less harmful than both alcohol and tobacco on both axes.

2. If people want to harm themselves, this is a personal choice and individuals need to decide for themselves whether they are willing to accept the risks. This is exactly our policy on alcohol and tobacco, so why not for marijuana? Tobacco, which is consistently rated as more harmful than marijuana, including numerous fatal illnesses, is tolerated on exactly this basis – it’s a personal choice and people need to make the decision for themselves.

3. Marijuana use does not cause violent crime and anti-social behaviour in the way that alcohol, heroin and crystal meth do and therefore there is no moral justification for treating marijuana users in the same way as violent criminals by throwing them into jail.

4. The effects of jail are far more heinous than marijuana use. When you throw someone into jail you destroy their lives – their career, financially, their family, and you leave them with a criminal record, ensuring that they will never have a decent job again. This is far worse than the effects of even heavy marijuana use.

5. It’s totalitarian for a government to trot into people’s living rooms and tell them what they can and can’t do in the privacy of their own homes. This is on par with the anti-sodomy laws of countries like Singapore.

6. Studies have consistently found that legalisation of marijuana does not result in a noticeable increase in marijuana use. Most notably, a recent study in Portugal found that decriminalisation of marijuana did not lead to an increase in marijuana use. Additionally, Holland, which has the most liberal marijuana laws in the world, has lower teen marijuana usage rates than Australia, the UK and the US, all of which have relatively tough marijuana laws.

7. In recorded medical history there has never been a single recorded case of marijuana overdose. Experts believe that to overdose on marijuana would require smoking several kilograms of marijuana, which is impossible. Furthermore, marijuana does not cause physical dependence – heavy alcohol use does.

8. Marijuana has many proven medical applications, including in the treatment of eating disorders, depression, mania, bipolar disorder, anxiety and panic disorders, loss of appetite associated with chemotherapy or HIV medication, and pain relief. Before the invention of aspirin (which causes thousands of deaths worldwide each year) in the 19th century, marijuana was a popular and effective form of pain relief.

9. Education, rather than criminalisation, is the correct approach to discouraging marijuana use. This is what we do with alcohol and tobacco – every cigarette packet contains a health warning, and there are countless media ads highlighting the dangers of alcohol and tobacco use. In the last decades the percentage of Australians who smoke has been drastically reduced. It’s not because of criminalisation, but because of our investment into educational and awareness campaigns.

10. Legalisation of marijuana could potentially contribute billions of dollars to the budget if it were taxed in the way that alcohol and tobacco are. If this money were invested into education, rehabilitation and health, the benefits would be enormous.

11. By removing marijuana from the black market and bringing it above ground, organised crime groups would lose a major source of their revenue, reducing criminal activity.

12. We have spent billions of dollars wasting law enforcement and judicial effort on enforcing petty cannabis laws. Instead of wasting billions of dollars, why not gain billions in tax revenue.

In summary, I believe that criminalisation of marijuana is excessive, counterproductive and downright immoral. It is wrong to treat people as criminals for doing something in the privacy of their own homes which hurts no one other than themselves – marijuana use is a victimless crime. The Australian government should immediately reconsider its approach to marijuana in light of well established scientific and medical facts. The social, economic and individual benefits would be substantial.

20 thoughts on “Marijuana law reform

  1. Pingback: NORML.ORG US MT: Medical Marijuana Entrepreneur Jason Christ Arrested | NORML New Zealand Worldwide for Medical Marijuana Law Reform

  2. To be honest, Marijuana by creating a hallucination, means that mental health facticities are over crowded, forcing out the geniune cases, (those whose insanity is not related to drug abuse).

    Despite the enomous effects to play down that mentally ill eposides of people are not voilent, they are.

    I personally do not need a marijuana user lose in my neighbourhood.

    Dingo Han

  3. “I personally do not need a marijuana user lose in my neighbourhood”

    I guarantee you there are several of them ‘lose’ in your neighborhood already.

  4. As already pointed out, alcohol is far worse for that sort of thing. Further, not all mentally ill people act the same – depression and mania are completely opposite, for example. And, on top of all that, marijuana doesn’t cause hallucinations.

    Come back when you have facts to argue with.

  5. Nice summary on the points that makes keeping weed illegal look completely backwards even for the average person.

    A point I always like to point out myself which is not talked about much is the crime implications which apply more to the heavier drugs but still applies to this. If a man has to spend $500 a week on drug addictions on top of everything else he has to pay for, it could be very difficult to make that much money, which if that is the case his most likely action is to resort to theft.

    If we make drugs legal the prices will come down and some of these people can stop stealing property from everyone else and maybe even focus on getting a decent job which can allow them to pull themselves up and out of their problems.

  6. Hi Koberulz,

    You may have the facts,
    I have live experience.
    As Samuel Clements said, there are Lies, Damn Lies and then Statics.

  7. Look, Governments need ‘Wars’ to rally the electorate around the governing party! An unstoppable war on drugs is perfect for that purpose! (Just like the War on Poverty- you can always redefine terms to suit yourself!) It allows governments to expand for a ‘noble’ cause!
    So they’ll only stop such a war if it is clear that they are losing, OR if we can offer them another target that could rally voters to their cause. Can you offer a substitute of similar power?
    My choice would be a National River scheme, like the Ord river. Lots of dams and irrigation channels everywhere! It would look like the government was doing something, and you can always find more desert to turn green! And a War on Water wastage might even do some good! Just like the Ord River Scheme, which is finally doing some good.

  8. Wikipedia? Please. Medical journals for years have proven that pot is far more dangerous than tobacco. Moreover, wine increases life expectancy in moderation.

    Ever wondered why socialist countries have embraced pot? It destroys human will and creates government dependence.

    This post is amateur student-y propaganda, but like most professional libertarians, facts are censored to worship at the altar of pot. Two words: Grow up.

  9. Quite apart from its inherent danger being irrelevant to 99% of the pro-legalisation arguments, you’re flat-out wrong about it being more dangerous than tobacco. One helps cancer, one causes it, FFS.

    Of course, there’s also the fact that legalisation decreases consumption, but then I see you have no problem ignoring that fact…

  10. The argument against regulating the sale of cannabis was lost decades ago. Now with the latest scientific evidence, it’s not even worth debating. It’s just so boring arguing with anti-drug nutters who never do their research.

    I must say though, the claim it’s a socialist’s plot makes me chuckle.

    BTW Ben, your false claims and logic really sum up the anti-drug brigade perfectly.

  11. Pfffft!

    A study by Keele University in the UK showed that although cannabis use increased over 400% since the 1980s, mental health cases decreased slightly over the same period. Their conclusion was that cannabis use did not increase the rate of mental health disorders.

    If cannabis affected as many people as Dingo Han suggested, we would need to spend the whole health budget on new hospitals for the mentally ill.

    BTW, booze is the most violent drug on earth. Other illicit drugs rarely cause violence on their own.

  12. I would like to point out that pure libertarianism has a grey are in its implementation.

    Lets us say for example gun law. At what point is a person infringing against someone else. Is it when they have a gun, when they pull it out, when they point it at someone, when they conciel it? Its a grey area. But the statisitics or murder rates show clearly that gun laws reduce murder rates (USA has higher hand gun deaths than america, but similair numbers for other weapons).

    In practice, at some point, a line must be drawn. With many drugs this line is drawn far to harshly. But there is no doupt that with many drugs the prohibation actually has a net benefit on sociefty, just like the banning of hand guns (of course many individuals can have their rights unfairly infringed upon – but this does not change the fact that the net benefit to society can be positive!).

    There are proven links between drugs and people who can’t function properly in society. Which is why they are banned.

    IMO the only problem we have with pot is that police spend far to many $$$ on it. They riad peoples homes over it. The only time they should be doing anything is when they bust people for acting badly when they are high, either while driving, or in domestic fights etc. And in such cases throw the book at them, dont give them a slap on the wrist.

  13. Mundi, the only developed country where handguns have been banned is Britain. They are not banned Australia.

    Can you provide any evidence that Britain saw a reduction in murder rates as a result? The figures I’ve seen indicate the opposite.

  14. Which statistics, where? The statistics that I have read about Britain show clearly that restricting gun access has caused an increase in violence. It seems criminals don’t respect gun laws! Who knew they were law-breakers? Whilst British culture had few guns in the past, this was not because of the laws. Indeed, good Protestants were encouraged to arm themselves in case those evil Popists tried to come back!
    As for marijuana, prohibition has not worked, and it is not the job of the government to tell me what to do with my life!

  15. i asume that you dingo han are a heavy alcohol drinker and i also can tell that you are a lier. you see it is people like yourself that make this world such a shit hole… i bet you are one of the scums that are making a profit from the criminalisation of marijuana such as fines from courts (a lawyer) perhaps? i got raided a couple of years ago and four cops smashed into my unit and pointed guns at my wife, my 2 year old daughter and myself all because they suspected me of smoking marijuana.. they found nothing.. how can this type of violent behaviour from our law enforcers be justified? you make me sick han truly sick.. go to hell

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