The other day Attorney General Jeff Sessions sent a lot of people’s hopes for quickly increasing marijuana legalization up in smoke. He announced he would rescind an Obama era policy of loosey-goosey federal enforcement of marijuana law. This was, apparently a total downer for a lot of people.
Isn spite of Sessions decision, many still seem very high on legalizing pot. That’s a terrible idea. But, terrible ideas are often popular ones. So, let me explain.
The claim of liberalism is that the state should serve as a referee and allow its citizens the freedom to experiment with personal and political structures. The role of the state under liberalism is, ostensibly, only to referee the legal processes involved and to safeguard the rights of individuals. First order questions like “What is liberty for?” and “What is the good?” are, under liberalism, mostly relegated to individuals or private groups.
However, contrary to what liberalism teaches, states which are not oriented toward The Good cannot last. For a state to flourish, it must constantly reference some notion of The Good that transcends and justifies it. Liberalism undermines the state’s ability to do this, and that is one of its flaws, likely a fatal one.
By encouraging its population to use recreational drugs, our state moves even further from being oriented toward The Good than it already is. Marijuana should not be legal for the same reason that there should be no state-run lotteries: because the state must be oriented toward The Good and must encourage good behavior among its citizenry. As distasteful as many people find this truth, the state must be in, indeed is always in, the business of making moral judgments. Reversing the judgment on the legality of marijuana isn’t about merely allowing individuals to decide for themselves whether to consume it. Such a legal reversal also implies a reversal of the antecedent moral judgment.
In moving to legalize weed, the state also endorses a way of thinking. The underlying idea behind the use of recreational drugs is that sobriety and rationality are burdens man must bear. The truth is that far from being burdens, they number among our glories. Sobriety and rationality are qualities mature people cultivate in order, through them, to make wise decisions, to connect with others and to build strong families and communities.
By legalizing recreational marijuana use, the state gives its imprimatur to the idea that sobriety and rationality are, at best, irrelevant to the conduct of a good life and a just state. In so doing, it further weakens the bonds that hold people together as both individuals and communities, driving us even further into decadence.
Also, there’s cash on the line. Encouraging a dissolute and intoxicated populace, while detrimental to the long-term prospects of any society, is a short-term boon to those who run the current show. Billions of dollars wait to be made by creating a legal market for marijuana. Eventually, marijuana will be another corporate product for big business to commodify and distribute as one more means of pacifying the agonized masses.
Naturally, a chemically euphoric people, the edges of whose rationality have been dulled, are easier to govern than a population of rational, self-reliant and sober citizens. There is a reason some people in power are eager that everyone get a little buzzed. It makes their jobs easier. In the end, our mammonite ruling classes are eager to push marijuana legalization purely because doing so benefits them, not out of some commitment to principle about individual rights or whatever,
Of course, this country has, in recent years, overreacted to marijuana use and production. Lengthy mandatory sentences and so on have been an offense against justice, but we need not pretend that our only choices here regarding this issue are either all out war or total surrender. We have other options and should choose one that encourages stability, sobriety, rationality and the inherent dignity of human beings.
The use of the worst excesses of the war on drugs to justify legalization of pot is fallacious. Unfortunately, fallacies carry more weight in our time that valid arguments. You can chock that up to our failing education system and our preference for emotional slogans over sustained reflection. We are not a serious, reasonable people. Adding legal pot to the mix is unlikely to make us any smarter.
Sorry to harsh the national mellow, dude, but you know it’s true.