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Beliefs about marijuana must change for legalization to succeed

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It’s difficult for me to take seriously any sort of contemporary animus against pot. I take a page out of the libertarians’ book of morality when it comes to my thinking about marijuana: Whose right is it to tell me how to alter – or not alter – my own conscious experience? It would be one thing if weed were likely to cause me to enter a state of rage and hurt my fellow sentient beings, but alcohol seems more likely to do that than our green friend.

I argue that the United States should legalize marijuana, not because of the profits it could yield, but because we should have the right to do what we wish with our own minds.

Let us think about how we categorize the alteration of our conscious experience on the moral landscape. No one would argue, I hope, that the act of listening to music, eating a particular kind of food, exercising or watching a movie is in any way immoral, unless, in one’s doing of these actions, they manage to harm another. 

Notice that in some of these methods of conscious-experience alteration, one could cause oneself genuine harm. Think about all of the unhealthy food you’ve consumed within the past year. You might look back and regret your eating decisions because of a desire to maintain a certain standard of health or appearance, but it is unlikely you would look back at these decisions and label them as immoral.

Now with this in mind, why do our moral considerations suddenly change when we think about weed? Is it the stupor and laziness it induces? Surely not, as we’re content with plenty of other things that reduce a certain kind of productivity. We love our alcoholic drinks and our video games and our television and our reclining furniture. What makes marijuana any different?

Marijuana seems to have a certain aesthetic that is unfavorable in the eyes of social conservatives. It elicits images of dealers moving it from place to place and the robbery of innocence from suburban children who used to want to go to piano lessons. And the truth of the matter is that weed can change people, and it can change people for the worse. I know people who’ve been made more lazy, more paranoid, and generally less happy from overindulging in marijuana.

This is very unfortunate, but there are always people who do too much of something. Anything can be the grand malice of your life in excess.

Now even if the legalization of marijuana were to cause a massive increase in people sleepily stumbling around, would we really be that much worse off? Surely the kinds of people we teach our children to want to be – doctors, lawyers, CEOs – are in a far better position to cause suffering than your neighbor who smokes too much ganja. At the end of the day, even those who over indulge in marijuana are, for the most part, harmless.

We should also keep in mind that plenty of frequent marijuana users aren’t paranoid and aren’t depressed. I’ve known people who’ve been made more productive by weed. Marijuana can benefit people through relieving stress and providing a new headspace in which to think.

I dare say that great philosophical breakthroughs can occur whilst under the influence. Or at least stupid jokes might seem a lot more funny when you’re stoned. Either way, you’re receiving benefits that might not be available in the confines of sobriety.

Because of its benefits and its limited costs, the United States, and every other governing body should legalize marijuana and expand the freedom we have to alter our minds.  


Iain Carlos ’20 (irwin2@stolaf.edu) is from Chicago, Ill. His major is religion.