It Is Immoral to Cage Humans for Smoking Marijuana

That’s why Colorado and Washington have the most moral drug laws in America right now.

CONOR FRIEDERSDORF

Under the law in 48 states, here’s what can happen when an adult is thought to possess marijuana: Men with guns can go to his home, kick down his door, force him to lay face down on the floor, restrain him with handcuffs, drive him to a police station, and lock him in a cage. If he is then convicted of possessing marijuana, a judge can order that he be locked in a different cage, perhaps for years.

There are times when locking human beings in cages is morally defensible. If, for example, a person commits murder, rape, or assault, transgressing against the rights of others, then forcibly removing him from society is the most just course of action. In contrast, it is immoral to lock people in cages for possessing or ingesting a plant that is smoked by millions every year with no significant harm done, especially when the vast majority of any harm actually done is borne by the smoker.

That there are racial disparities in who is sent to prison on marijuana charges is an added injustice that deserves attention. But if blacks and whites were sent to prison on marijuana charges in equal proportion, jail for marijuana would still be immoral.

If blacks and whites were sent to prison on marijuana charges in equal proportion, jail for marijuana would still be immoral.

America has used marijuana charges to cage people for so long that it seems unremarkable. The time has come to see the status quo for what it is. A draconian punishment for a victimless crime has been institutionalized and normalized, so much so that even proponents of the policy are blind to its consequences. Commentators are criticizing marijuana policy in Washington and Colorado, where the drug was recently legalized. These commentators aren’t willing to put their names on an article stating that human beings who possess or smoke marijuana should be locked in cages among child molesters, gang members, and muggers. Yet they reserve their criticism for states that don’t do that.

Status quo bias has mangled their priorities.

Present the American people at large with an individual who admits to having used marijuana and they are more likely to elect him president or to send him to Congress than to suggest that he ought to have been arrested and jailed for his crimes. But a majority of voters in most states, and even a majority of elected officials who’ve smoked marijuana, continue supporting laws that permit locking various marijuana users in prison among perpetrators of hate crimes and elder abuse.

In his recent column on marijuana policy, David Brooks wrote that “many people these days shy away from talk about the moral status of drug use because that would imply that one sort of life you might choose is better than another sort of life.” I submit that a more urgent problem is Americans who shy away from talk about the dubious moral status of marijuana prohibition. It is, at its core, an exercise in using people as means to an end. The end is maintaining a stigma against marijuana use. And the means is locking humans in cages with dangerous people.

One day, we will look back at that tradeoff in moral horror.

3 Responses to It Is Immoral to Cage Humans for Smoking Marijuana

  • For some reason there are strange fears surrounding this plant, and I can’t understand why. I have an 1899 reprint edition of the Merck Manual that I think we should all carry in our pockets, so that when people show surprise to think of cannabis as medicine, we can show them all the ways it was used for over 100 years as a medicine in the United States of America, until outlawed in 1937, and this little book is the proof of it. On page 26 you’ll find listed “‘Cannabine Tannate Merck’, a hypnotic, sedative, used for hysteria, delirium, nervous insomnia, etc. Dose : 8 – 16 grn., at bedtime, in powd. with sugar. Max dose: 24 grn.”

    So for over a hundred years cannabis was legal medicine, and no one was thrown in jail! No one was thrown on the ground and handcuffed, or had their doors broken down….. How could this have happened? Why did the doctors not protest?

    We’ve got a government with too much power…….

    charley

  • I have smoked marijuana for 42 years. The hysteria surounding the legalization is that the pharmaceutical companies have huge lobbies. Back when “Reefer Madness” was made, a 1936-1939 American propaganda exploitation film, which legislators believed to be truth. William Randolph Hearst, media mogul, billionaire and real-life model for Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane, had different ideas. His aggressive efforts to demonize cannabis were so effective, they continue to color popular opinion today.In the early 1930’s, Hearst owned a good deal of timber acreage; one might say that he had the monopoly on this market. The threatened advent of mass hemp production proved a considerable threat to his massive paper-mill holdings — he stood to lose many, many millions of dollars to the lowly hemp plant. Hearst cleverly utilized his immense national network of newspapers and magazines to spread wildly inaccurate and sensational stories of the evils of cannabis or “marihuana,” a phrase brought into the common parlance, in part due to frequent mentions in his publications.

    • Hello Karen

      So true, so true…… I think the best single source of all this history is Jack Herer’s book, “The Emperor Wears No Clothes’……. http://www.jackherer.com/thebook/ Please visit this website, as the whole book is there for you to read, free. Plus…… Jack listed all his reference materials at the bottom for further research.

      I hold Jack Herer in the highest regard for his dedication and tireless efforts in support of legal cannabis. No one has carried the ball like Jack has. A true fighter…..

      I remember first seeing the book in the early 80’s I think, and it was a revelation to me. I’ll never forget the picture of Henry Ford himself swinging a sledge hammer down upon a trunk lid on a Ford car, to show how strong a hemp truck lid could be.

      Think of all the vested interests that legal hemp would impinge upon, Mentioned above are the paper pulp log lands, and this would apply to any print material where someone wanted the very highest quality of paper, be it Bibles or Treaties or whatever. And then there are the oils and seeds, hemp rope and clothes…… and Jack puts it all in his book, so read it now!!

      We’re so close to sanity regarding cannabis legalization, but there still exists a wall of opposition, about 35/40% of the population. We need a final push, something that would give the remaining States the courage they need to confront the phony government we now have, and say NO!, no, you can’t make laws contrary to the will of the people.

      Power to the people……

      charley

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