Many states have legalized marijuana, not just for medical purposes. They have also done so for entertainment, and hats off to them too. The government, nor anyone else, simply has no business prohibiting adults from imbibing whatever drugs they wish into their own bodies.
Prohibition, whether of alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, heroin, or any other drug for that matter, is profoundly incompatible with the ideals of democracy (not that this system is any great shakes either, but that is an entirely different matter). Such laws are in effect stating that adults are too stupid to know what kind of substances to imbibe. But if they are that foolish, it would be a disaster, would it not, to allow them within a million miles of a voting booth. On the other hand, they are indeed allowed to cast a ballot. Those morons? The critics simply cannot have it both ways. Either the citizenry are idiots and ought to be prohibited from certain drugs, in which case they should not be allowed to vote, or, if they are, then they ought to be trusted and not be treated like children when it comes to drugs. Paternalism is fine and dandy for kids, but certainly not for adults, at least not according to the democratic ethos.
So, yes, congratulations to the many states that have legalized pot for medicinal or entertainment or any other purpose.
But Oregon deserves special congratulation in this regard. It has employed this libertarian doctrine of freedom not only to cannabis, but to other, possibly more addictive drugs as well, including small amounts of cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine. However, the Beaver state now finds itself under attack for its civilized legal system.
Bret Stephens of the New York Times characterizes it as “The Hard-Drug Decriminalization Disaster.” He charges that as a result, the streets are littered with “needles, shattered glass and human feces.” According to the Atlantic Magazine, “the state experienced one of the sharpest rises in overdose deaths in the nation and had one of the highest percentages of adults with a substance-use disorder.” Tent cities abound and unconscious people are lying around.
However, to a great degree, these are just growing pains of a very civilized law. When alcohol was first legalized after the long darkness of prohibition, there were undoubtedly folk who over-used this product from a good health perspective. They still are. Should we then reinstitute this evil law, as critics of Oregon contend that the state should do with hard drugs?
Not a bit of it. Oregonians are heroic. They are a light to the multitude. Instead of rescinding this policy, the other states ought to follow its leadership.
Are there no tent cities in other states? Are there no unconscious people lying around in other areas of our great country? Are there no used needles lying around anywhere else than Oregon?
Then there is the fact that people have immigrated to Oregon to take advantage of this humanitarian law. These are not high profile, healthy, accomplished, middle class folk. They are rather those who have been mistreated elsewhere, and are now taking advantage of Oregon’s benevolent law. Part of the Beaver State’s “problem” is its own success.
Also, when legalized, the quality of the drug necessarily improves. There is the drug equivalent of bathtub gin (e.g., poisoned products) in other states where these substances are still illegal, but less and less so in Oregon, as the market starts to operate.
Under alcohol prohibition, there were deaths due to gangs fighting each other for turf. No such occurrences take place under legalization. Do we really want to go the Mexican route, where drug gangs are so powerful? Oregon, and Oregon alone, is showing the path out of that particular morass.
Oregon still has a way to go. Users of these drugs are still subject to slap-on-the-wrist penalties, similar to a driving ticket. This needs to be rescinded. No one pays any fine for availing himself of beer, wine and alcohol, and, ideally, drugs should be treated in the same manner.
Let freedom ring in all fifty states, not only in Oregon.
Attack on Oregon’s legalization of cocaine
Stephens, NYTimes: https://www.nytimes.com/2023/08/01/opinion/oregon-drug-failure.html
This originally appeared on The Cobden Centre.