Below is Beth Mueller’s dissent from the Editorial Board:
My colleagues on the Editorial Board have taken a position in support of eventual legalization of marijuana that seems logical, responsible and reasonable, with the added benefit of allowing everybody to get stoned.
Unfortunately, I must depart from them in this reasoning. Marijuana should not be legalized under any circumstances other than well-controlled and justified medicinal use.
And despite arguments about freedom, this issue rests in the law’s aim to seek what is truly good for citizens. While the unrestricted ability to smoke pot would certainly make plenty of Americans feel good, it wouldn’t really be good.
Marijuana is inherently harmful to those who partake in it. The commonly cited and debated health risks are not even the sole source of this harm. Use of marijuana impairs the mind so as to prevent a person from rational thought. This harm is most significant. Use of this drug, like any other illegal drug, seeks only pleasure over the higher, transcendent goals of humanity, which are all products of reasoned thought.
That’s not to say that everyone should be locked in a constant state of productive, rational accomplishment, like some kind of ice-cold, clear-thinking, workaholic robots. There’s nothing wrong with simple relaxation, which would be a motivation for many to use marijuana. But even the pursuit of rest shouldn’t settle into mere escapism or artificial warping of the mind to intellectually skip town. Imagine what a society we’d have if relaxation entailed a more honest release from the burden of work to be more aware, not less, of the beauty of people, the world, and even new ideas.
The impairment of reason can be justified by health problems that would merit the use of medicinal marijuana, just as health problems could justify the use of other drugs like morphine that would normally be restricted.
One could easily argue that the properties of marijuana hardly differ from alcohol, a substance society has long demanded to be legal. True, drunkenness similarly harms a person by blocking the ability to think rationally. Just look at the stupid things college students do when binge drinking (and how deeply those actions can harm them). Alcohol, however, remains justifiably legal because it can be used to an extent that does not impair reason.
The battle over legalization isn’t just a matter of limitless liberty and practicality. We can and should reach for more than the easiest justification to satisfy using anything that will make us forget ourselves and the world to just feel good. Even if it seems our city, state and nation are already on the track to decriminalization or legalization, it’s time to find some sense and put on the brakes.