Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Religious Right: Smoking and Voting

It probably comes as no surprise for those out there who know me but I believe that we should legalize marijuana.  Guess who agrees with me? Pat Robertson.  According to the New York Times Pat Robertson said, “I really believe we should treat marijuana the way we treat beverage alcohol.”  That seems like a pretty solid statement.  One that I probably agree with. Pat Robertson went on to say that he believes that "this war on drugs just hasn’t succeeded.”  I would agree with that, too.  Instead, because of the war on drugs we have thousands of people in jail for non-violent crimes and millions arrested. 

Sam Harris in The End of Faith argues that "any drug...to which spiritual or religious significance has been ascribed by its users has been prohibited.  Concerns about the health of our citizens, or about their productivity, are red herrings in this debate, as the legality of alcohol and cigarettes attests."  I am going to quote Sam Harris extensively for awhile.  If you have not read The End of Faith it comes highly recommended from me.

Let's compare alcohol to marijuana.  Millions of people have done this, this is only a slight exaggeration. You could probably find a more complete list of the comparisons on any number of sites promoting the legality of marijuana.  Alcohol "has no approved medical use, and its lethal dose is rather easily achieved" (Harris).  "The manner in which alcohol relieves people of their inhibitions contributes to human violence, personal injury, unplanned pregnancy, and the spread of sexual disease" is beyond dispute (ibid.).  Further, when it is "consumed in large quantities over many years, it can lead to devastating neurological impairments, to cirrhosis of the liver, and to death" (ibid.). "In the United States alone, more than 100,000 people annually die from its use" (ibid.).  As a personal note, I have gone to the hospital for the effects of alcohol poisoning and very nearly reached the lethal dose.  According to most reports around the BAC (blood alcohol content) level of 0.4, it would be the lethal dose.  My BAC, as measured at the hospital was a 0.32.  Alcohol is also more toxic to a developing fetus than any other drug of abuse. Harris reports that "crack babies" appear to have been really suffering from fetal alcohol syndrome (ibid.). 

Harris, then, turns his attention to marijuana.  "As a drug, marijuana is nearly unique in having several medical applications and no known lethal dosage" (Harris).  It should be noted around this point, that Harris is a neuroscientist.  Harris argues that "while adverse reactions to drugs like aspirin and ibuprofen account for an estimated 7,600 deaths (and 76,000 hospitalizations) each year in the United States alone, marijuana kills no one (ibid.).  The claim of "marijuana as a 'gateway drug' now seems less plausible than ever" (ibid.). 

Harris argues that "under our current laws, it is safe to say, if a drug were invented that posed no risk of physical harm or addiction to its users but produced a brief feling of spiritual bliss and epiphany in 100 percent of those who tried it, this drug would be illegal, and people would be punished mercilessly for its use" (ibid.).

So why am I excited for Pat Robertson to come out and say that he is for the legalization of marijuana?  I agree with Sam Harris.  I think that we are religious prudes and are afraid of a drug that provides us with any sense of spiritual bliss or epiphany.  We punish those who have any interest in having these epiphanies.  I know that those who are against smoking marijuana, I won't convince, and those that are for the legalization of marijuana will just use this for confirmation bias.  It's tiring to campaign for something you believe in such as the legalization of marijuana and seeing nothing take place at a federal level.  However, as states relax their current laws, we may finally see the laws reduced to the point where we say an outright legalization of marijuana.  We came close in California but as Stephen Colbert said, "right now, it's easier for people to get marijuana right now in California than it is for them to vote."  We actually need to show up and vote at the elections.  We need to read the ballot measures and show up. If you don't vote, you are essentially giving two votes to someone who does vote. The lesson, as always, show up and vote. Otherwise nothing will change.

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