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American Conservatives Should Revise Their Position on Marijuana
Start with a few assertions of facts that, for all I know that they will be challenged, I consider to have been established by responsible scientific inquiry: 1. Marijuana is non-addictive—I use the word technically. 2. The use of marijuana does not in itself lead to the use of heroin. 3. No one has ever died from an overdose of marijuana. 4. Marijuana used in moderation causes no identified physical or mental problems for individuals who are other- wise healthy. 5. Marijuana does not induce criminal behavior or sexual aberration. In fact, it tends in most users to inhibit violence. 6. Marijuana in moderate use has little effect on the driving ability of experienced users of it—the contrast with socially equivalent alcohol consumption is to the disadvantage of alcohol. 7. Long-term abuse (gross overuse) should be assumed to be harmful but in fact there is as yet no conclusive evidence to that effect. 8. The moderate use of marijuana does not lead to changes in social behavior or to a loss of motivation. It may correspond with an observable change in people's lives but it is not the cause of that change. 9. Twenty-five million people use or have used marijuana. Marijuana is readily available today to anyone of minimum ingenuity who looks for it. These assertions are of course contrary to what most agencies of the government have been telling us for the past forty years, (NATIONAL REVIEW has frequently ventilated the official tine on marijuana.) Whether you doubt my assertions or not, please read Marihuana Reconsidered by Dr. Lester Grinspoon and Marijuana, The New Prohibition by John Kaplan. Both authors began their research, by their own admission, disposed in favor of the current legal proscriptions. Both came to the conclusion that our present laws are doing no good and a great deal of harm. If you read those books and disagree, fine. But if you do not read them and you continue to support (or even if you fall to oppose) sending thousands of young people to prison, you are acquiescing in their punishment out of ignorance. A harsh statement, but true, I think. The notion that marijuana can, In and of itself, under- mine the moral fabric of society is contrary to basic conservative philosophy. The notion that the use of marijuana is, or leads to, moral degeneracy is not sustained by any scientific investigation of the drug. However, a moral society, like a moral individual or a healthy individual for that matter) will use a drug: for recreation (alcohol); to alleviate pain (aspirin); to help him face and fulfill his obligations through crises (tranquilizers); and himself, he is going to use drugs to further his objectives, not to undermine them. The superstition that cannabis is responsible for the muddiment of the student generation goes contrary to established conservative premises. The hysterical myths about marijuana that have led conservatives to condone massive programs of social engineering, interference in the affairs of individuals, monstrous bureaucratic waste, the alienation of youth whom we struggle to attract to our institutions-—are a great and current social menace. How do conservatives justify the hard data: over 250,000 young people arrested every year (seventy thou.sand in California alone), tens of thousands put in jail or prison for long periods, lives disrupted and even ruined, families divided, records besmirched, a life of ostracism? This is being done in our name? I, for one, bitterly resent this; but, more, I fear its consequences. If the effect on individuals is tragic, the effect on society is disastrous—disastrous for our institutions, the rule of law, political stability, even public health. This is not being done by the enemy without, but by those to whom we have delegated the power and the authority to defend us. They have been a party to superstitions that are as false in content as they are in tone, but we cannot just blame them. If now that we know that we have been deceived, now that the evidence is there for all to see, our jails full, our youth increasingly alienated and confused, if in the face ol ail this we do not take the lead, how are we conservatives going to speak to America, and how is our America going to speak to the world—of freedom and charity?
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