I have never smoked marijuana, and I don’t plan to. I don’t like the idea of messing with my own mental functioning like that. (I also abstain from alcohol.)
Nevertheless, I think that our marijuana laws are far too strict. Marijuana, in most cases, is not harmful or addictive enough to warrant a a year in jail for simple possession. (A United Kingdom medical journal, The Lancet, published a study finding that alcohol and tobacco are both more harmful and more addictive than marijuana) Furthermore, the “Gateway Drug” theory has not been proven.
Under American law, marijuana is a Schedule I drug (the most restrictive classification), and therefore deemed to have no medical value. This is simply untrue, as marijuana does have legitimate medical uses for some conditions.
There is also the question of resources. Every resource devoted to anti-marijuana activities is one which could be devoted to combating far more harmful drugs, such as cocaine and heroin.
I believe we should decriminalize marijuana.
The most important step is to allow marijuana for sick people who need it. This of course would require doctors’ prescriptions and other forms of regulation. (President Obama has halted medical marijuana raids, but this should be a matter of law rather than an administrative decision.)
The next step is to change marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule II, and then to Schedule III under the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act. The law describes Schedule III as:
(A) The drug or other substance has a potential for abuse less than the drugs or other substances in schedules I and II.
(B) The drug or other substance has a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.
(C) Abuse of the drug or other substance may lead to moderate or low physical dependence or high psychological dependence.
I’d be willing to allow more liberal laws, providing the following conditions are upheld:
- Non-exposure. You can’t smoke marijuana in a way that exposes other people to the fumes (unless they allow it). This is one of the worst aspects of smokeable drugs; they affect people who never chose to participate. (And yes, I think tobacco should be regulated in the same way.)
- Non-endangerment. Being high messes up your brain (temporarily), so you can’t get high and then start driving a car or operating heavy machinery or whatever. No other person may be endangered because of your drug use.
- No kids. The effects of marijuana on children have not received much study. Until the drug can be proven safe for them, they shouldn’t be allowed to use it and no one should be allowed to give it to them.
To make the decriminalization more politically viable, I suggest the biggest changes come on the federal level, allowing the states to make their own laws. States will then be able to observe the effects of their neighbors’ policies. Other options include a licensing system for marijuana dealers and/or users, which may (a) help prevent large criminal gangs from participating in the business, and (b) raise a little money for the government, if there is a license fee.
These changes will make our drug laws far more fair.