Should we ban roses because they give us pleasure?

Via Andrew, here’s TPM’s Josh Marshall:

I just don’t know if I think marijuana should be legalized at all. Maybe it’s that I’m getting into my 40s. And maybe I’m a hypocrite… But do I think it should be like alcohol? Anyone over 18 or 21 can buy it?

I remember, many years ago, talking to my father about the idea of legalization. And bear in mind, my Dad, God bless him, smoked a decent amount of grass in his day, said he didn’t like the idea. One reason is that he was already a bit older by that time. But he had this very contradictory and hard to rationalize position which was that he was fine with people smoking pot but keeping it at least nominally illegal kept public usage in some check. Again, how to rationalize that in traditional civic terms? Not really sure. But frankly, I think I kind of agree.

This is exactly what Jason wrote about a few days ago:

I wonder how many people are going to vote against California Prop. 19 next week — while rationalizing that their own marijuana use was merely a youthful experiment. That’s one heck of a rationalization, but it’s a fair bet that a lot of people are going to be making it.

To believe in prohibition, you have to believe — in part — that I, Jason Kuznicki, would be a better human being, or that our society would be a more just one, if only I had a criminal record for smoking pot in grad school. I and about 42% of America. To believe consistently in prohibition, you have to think that America is a pretty terrible place.

The above would be bad enough all by itself, because it’s manifestly untrue. But to turn on a dime and say that some pot smoking — specifically your own — is different? That it was just experimenting? Well. If I really thought that the unexamined life were not worth living, I’d be strongly tempted to homicide.

The most important thing you need to understand about your youthful pot smoking is that you’re not alone. You’re not even unusual. If you’re privately making room for yourself, you’d better make room for the rest of us, too.

You — the guy who smoked a few times in college, or with that one group of friends, or at that one party — you are the average pot smoker. You are not special because you escaped marijuana. You are perfectly typical. That’s what most marijuana use is like. You try it for a while, and then you stop.

Is experimenting with pot really worthy of arrest? Take your answer and apply it to your own life before you vote to do it to someone else. Apply that answer to nearly half the country. Tell me you’re ready to throw that book at everyone. Then maybe I’ll take prohibition a little more seriously. But not that much more.

Golly, that could be a letter written to Josh Marshall directly, it fits so neatly in with Marshall’s own rationalization against Prop 19. When I read nonsense like this ‘nominally illegal’ crap, I admit it makes me angry. It makes me a lot more angry than arguments made by people who don’t know much about drugs, who haven’t tried them and fear them based on years of misinformation and fear-mongering. I forgive ignorance before I forgive this sort of…paternalism, for lack of a better word.

A criminal record is not a joke. Even if you don’t go to jail, it might impede your ability to get a job, to rent an apartment, etc.. Just because you got away with it and didn’t get caught doesn’t mean others are so lucky. As Andrew points out,

any illegality is bound to end up hurting the poor and minorities to a disproportionate extent. It’s not unenforced. It’s enforced brutally upon hundreds of thousands of people. It’s okay to sit there mulling how uncomfortable fully legal pot makes you, as long as none of your friends is thrown into jail, or forever barred from employment, or fired for no reason related to work performance. Josh’s view reminds me of the argument of those who backed sodomy laws but didn’t want them aggressively enforced. They didn’t want to throw people in jail, but they wanted the stigma to remain. Yes, stigma. For one kind of pleasure (being stoned) as opposed to another (being drunk).

Amen, brother.

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11 thoughts on “Should we ban roses because they give us pleasure?

  1. Well, he does say he’s not sure how to rationalize it, mostly because he really can’t. It’s an irrational belief, but as I’m sure you know, we make plenty of political choices through irrational beliefs. And certainly we all have non-rational hunches that probably save our skin more than we realize. They don’t make for such good arguments in debates though.

    As for the criminal record stuff, I can’t tell you how many times I saw well-to-do white kids at my university given a long talking to by the police for being high as a kite in public, only to be let off with a warning because their future was bright and why hurt it over a childish transgression? It’s probably wishful thinking that the same results occur for kids whose prospects aren’t as immediately evident.

    As for pleasure, I am utterly fascinated by the conviction of most human beings that too much of it will cause derangement and death. We talked recently about a moral fabric to the universe, but I often suspect that there is a moral fabric to our psychology. It’s just completely fascinating that so many myths, legends, and beliefs across times and cultures return to this idea that pleasure-in-itself brings madness.

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  2. The point about the potential for a criminal record and who’s more at risk for that is unanswerable. I won’t try to add anything to what’s already been said about it.

    What I find interesting, though, is that I’ve on several occasions heard a similar discussion about religion. If you and I, who are after all intelligent and responsible, have our doubts about the existence of God, no big deal. We’ll do the right thing regardless, because that’s who we are. But we need to make sure there’s a stigma for public atheism, because most people couldn’t handle it.

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  3. I don’t get the logic of “it gives pleasure than it must be legal.” Of ll the pro pot arguments, it’s the least persuasive.

    Driving fast does too, yet we put limits on that. Adolescence is filled with not bright yet pleasurable moments. Egging houses, blowing up mailboxes, jumping off big cliffs, etc.

    Now if I could vote to legalize it I would. But I am not convinced by the pleasure argument. Large prison pop, minorities disproportionately effected, low negative health effects and very low addiction rates, increased crime related to pot selling, are good arguments.

    Reason I say this is because it’s too easily used to drugs I do think are harmful and disagree with libertarians that they should be legal (meth, herion, coke, etc).

    Heck one pleasurable drug I think will be banned before pot is legal is tobacco.

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    • It’s counter-point to the idea that pleasure ought only be experienced when something is accomplished.

      There is an undercurrent found in some thought that pleasure is the reward for good hard work and stuff like alcohol, weed, sex is a cheap/easy way to get an inordinate amount of pleasure for doing, pretty much, nothing at all.

      There have been movements (both progressive and reactionary) to limit and make illegal such things.

      Sex is good only when it is in service to baby creation (thus laws making it illegal to have non-procreative sex). Laws making it illegal to drink. Laws making it illegal to smoke weed.

      You feel good after you build a table, after you till a field, after you raise a barn.

      You want to feel good? Maybe you should accomplish something, you lazy bastard.

      The idea that it’s okay to feel that much pleasure for, effectively, free is an idea that many find downright offensive.

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      • “sex is a cheap/easy way to get an inordinate amount of pleasure for doing, pretty much, nothing at all.”

        Just a slow, hanging lob there, waiting to be hit. But do I go with the obvious “Then you’re clearly not doing it right” line, or the even more obvious “Really? Man, I need to go to the bars YOU go to!” line. Neither is that funny, but both are just aching to be said.

        Decisions, decisions….

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  4. My personal pet hated argument against pot legalization is the one that comes from pot smokers who don’t want “the man” to legalize pot because then “big business” will ruin it for everyone. Goddamn rent seeking hippies, where’s my stick!?

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