As pot legalization continues to move apace, I’ve started to notice a greater frequency of assertions about the benefits of pot or cannabidoil, and a greater frequency of rebuttals to assertions about the efficacy of marijuana for medicinal and health purposes. Some of this is, certainly, in response to the unfettered miracle-woo that some people peddle, but some focus on more traditional benefit assertions (the earliest of these in my recollection are for combating chemotherapy induced nausea and for alleviating ocular pressure caused by glaucoma).

The subtext herein is that we should legalize pot because it’s medicinal, or that we shouldn’t rush to legalize pot because the medical benefits that some tout as reason for legalization are suspect or spurious.

Both advocates and opponents of legalization based on medical claims are missing the point, however.

There are several utilitarian arguments put forth to support of legalization. These include medical benefits, which is why many states go “part-way” with legalization and issue need-based permits instead of simply saying that pot is now legal (at least per state law). Others include acceptance of the reality that millions already use pot, that pot arrests predominantly impact minority and poor communities, and that our legal system is overburdened and mis-burdened by a crime that isn’t much of one.

One problem with utilitarian arguments is that they often run afoul of people’s personal moralities, as in “doing something that’s wrong isn’t justified because it produces an outcome someone likes.” This makes them less compelling to those not already leaning in the same direction, and they invite countervailing utilitarian rebuttals.

The thing is, from a perspective of liberty (which, lest we forget, is the basis of this nation’s founding), utilitarian arguments about pot are irrelevant. Whether someone smokes something is none of my business, or yours, or the government’s. If that person commits actions that do harm to you, or me, or someone else, that becomes the basis for the government to respond. It doesn’t matter if pot smoking is good for you, bad for you, of no real physical consequence one way or another, or “less bad” than tobacco smoking, as far as legalization arguments go. Pot should be legalized because no one else has the right to tell you what you can or cannot eat, drink, or smoke.

The standard rebuttals to this liberty-based argument (some would call it absolutist) include slippery-slope, gateway, and judgment-impairment. I could address and respond to each, but then we’d be having an argument about rights, liberty, and whether the state has the authority to limit them in this case, not an argument about medical efficacy.

So, whether you’re an advocate for legalization or an advocate for continued prohibition, skip the medical angle. It’s irrelevant.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.


Like this post?