Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Significance of Colorado and Nevada marijuana initiatives -- even if they lose

A poll published in today's Rocky Mountain News in Denver finds for the statewide initiative:

Legalizing marijuana

The poll results for Amendment 44 to legalize the possession of one ounce or less of marijuana for persons 21 or older showed it failing 53 percent to 42 percent.

Assume that this is the vote on election day. This would demonstrate that there is no moral consensus in Colorado to support the prosecution of marijuana users.

If the question were to spend $100 million of public funds to build a school or a prison, the principle of majority rule is perfectly appropriate.

But when the question is, "Should we take away the liberty of people who possess less than one ounce of marijuana?" the answer comes out differently.

Almost 100 percent of the public agrees that the following acts should be crimes meriting punishment: murder, assault, theft, rape, child abuse, etc. There is a moral consensus.

The tiny fraction of the public who violate those laws --who harm others, who violate the rights of others -- cannot claim the law is unjust. They may raise exceptions such as a right to self-defense that exculpates them from the accusation. But they are not challenging the society's moral consensus.

When forty percent or more of a society declares, this conduct is not morally reprehensible, it does not merit punishment, the majority is not morally free to continue to punish that conduct.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...


You are absolutely right. The problem with prohibition is that it only 'works' when a majority of the population to whom it applies agree with the prohibiting of a drug. In fact, for the first couple of years (1920's) prohibition of alcohol in the US was quite successful. Namely because a lot of people agreed with it. But, it then went in to meltdown because a lot of people wanted to start/carry on drinking and the policy couldn't be sustained. So we have to make drug prohibition an election issue - probably by demontsrating that it's a waste of tax payer's money and could be better spent elsewhere. Gonna take some time though.