I don’t like marijuana. I think it smells bad and that it’s bad for people. I’ve tried it once (yes, I was curious and I did inhale) and hated, just hated, how it made me feel. I had no inclination to revisit it. Of course, I don’t like alcohol either. I don’t like anything that makes me feel out of control (except chocolate, of course).
Today, on the Michael Medved show, he interviewed the author of It’s Just a Plant, a book aimed at promoting marijuana to children. (Incidentally, despite Medved’s manifest hostility, as well as the hostility of many of the callers, the author, whose name I’ve forgotten, was pleasant and focused, which impressed me.) The book’s author has, as his main goal, decriminalizing marijuana. I can’t say that I disagree with him. I think marijuana ought to be treated in the same way as alcohol and cigarettes — it should be a controlled, not an illegal substance, because I really don’t see it as different from those other substances.
Also, because I’m something of a libertarian, I believe that people ought to be allowed to make stupid choices about what they put into their bodies. They should also have to abide by the consequences of those choices: losing their jobs if they break company drug rules, getting stupid if the drug causes bubbles in their brains, losing their children if they cannot care for them due to the drug, losing their money spending it on the drug, etc. I just don’t think they should suffer criminal consequences for using the drug itself.
Where I totally part ways with the book’s author is his plan to sell children on the drug. I think that’s just plain wrong. Libertarianism is based on freedom of choice. Children, even the brightest, have limited intellectual abilities, and have to be protected from their manifest inability to make safe, reasonable choices. Again, marijuana should be treated in the same way as alcohol and cigarettes, which are forbidden to children, and which are not promoted to children.
I was thinking about children and dangerous substances in a different context today too. Apparently some county is planning on making it illegal for people to smoke in their own homes if they have people in their homes working (housekeepers, contractors, etc). That got my hackles up. For the most part, people should be allowed to do whatever they want in their houses. If the housekeeper were kept prisoner in the house, one might have an argument for forbidding smoking but, if she were kept prisoner, you’d be going up to a whole different level of illegal acts, wouldn’t you? As it is, housekeepers and contractors don’t have to work in smoke-filled houses if that offends them.
But what about children? I grew up in a smoker’s house until I was 12, when my Dad quit. It was awful. Ignoring the health consequences, it was a stinky, unpleasant experience — and I loved my Dad very much. To this day, I can’t stand having the smell of smoke on my body, and will go to quite obsessive extremes to avoid it. The fact is that children, unlike those independent, adult housekeepers and contractors cannot get away from Mom’s or Dad’s cigarettes.
All of this got me asking myself whether it is anybody’s responsibility (read: “government’s responsibility”) to keep parents from smoking around their children. I do believe that the community has a responsibility to protect children. We all recognize this up to a point, because none of us would hesitate to withdraw a child from an untenable living situation. I bet most of us are okay with such things as mandatory car seats, too, because they make such a drastic difference in child safety. The government impact is fairly minimal compared to the benefit conferred on children.
On the other hand, letting the Government dictate who can, and cannot smoke, would be an appalling precedent in terms of government interference in private lives. I’ve therefore concluded that the best thing vis a vis children and their parent’s smoking is education, education, education. And indeed, my community is living proof that anti-smoking education works. I don’t know any smokers. Some, like me, never smoked. Others, however, while they could not stop for their own benefit, were able to do so with children as an incentive. And we’ve all done this without the government entering our houses and stealing our ashtrays.