Love Thy Neighbor: The Immorality of Marijuana Prohibition

While our current economic climate has prompted many Californians to look toward legalized marijuana as a solution to our near-legendary budget woes, there are those for whom the potential revenue from marijuana is no compensation for the further erosion of our morals. In their eyes, the prohibition of marijuana must continue, lest our society drown in a tidal wave of vice. But what about the morality of prohibition?

While a conceivably inexhaustible stream of revenue could be generated through the regulation of all currently illicit goods and services, few, if any, of these prohibitions has caused our society more harm in return for less good than the marijuana ban.

In 2007, California law enforcement made over 74,000 marijuana arrests, 78 percent of which were for simple possession. Of those arrested, more than 16,000 were minors.

Despite the powerful deterrent of arrest and prosecution, this expenditure of state resources has had little effect. In 2008, 23 percent of teenagers still report that it is easier to procure marijuana than either beer or prescription drugs.

Approximately 100 million Americans, nearly one-third of the entire population and a greater proportion of adults, have consumed marijuana. Marijuana remains the No. 1 cash crop in California, surpassing all fruits and vegetables combined.

Before you accuse me of cowardly surrendering a noble fight, consider what all of these arrests have succeeded in doing:

– Precious law enforcement resources are diverted from investigating and preventing violent crime.

– Adults who are arrested face the threat of losing their jobs, thereby depriving their families of income and security.

– Our youth face the threat of expulsion from school and ineligibility for student loans.

– Families are torn apart as children are removed from their homes and placed into foster care.

– Can a policy that perpetuates such tragedy truly be considered morally right? In light of the toll that marijuana prohibition takes on the lives of our neighbors, can we justly say “that’s the price you pay?”

An analysis of the goals of marijuana prohibition further erodes its tenuous moral foundation. For many, the goal of marijuana prohibition is simple: to keep people from consuming the plant.

Although prohibition seems to be the clearest way to achieve this goal, this simple plan is fatally flawed. In practice, total prohibition is the total abandonment of control. Prohibition has given rise to a clandestine marketplace completely out of the government’s reach, thereby increasing youth access. Drug dealers don’t ask young buyers for ID.

By banning distribution of marijuana anywhere, we have given up control of distribution everywhere. By limiting our responses to marijuana distribution to criminal punishment, we have failed to protect the consumer’s safety through regulating the product’s quality and encouraging responsible use.

Most important of all, by failing to maintain a legitimate, regulated market we have given incentive to violent criminal enterprises motivated by the lucrative, unfettered profits, thereby jeopardizing the safety of all.

Can such an overly simplistic policy that so frustrates important law enforcement and public concerns be morally just?

The regulated legalization of marijuana should not be viewed as acquiescence to a depraved subculture, but the reclamation of control. Through regulated legalization we can control distribution. We can control its quality and potency. We can address the harms caused by its abuse through constructive treatment, rather than destructive punishment. We can usurp the power of the black market by eliminating their profits. And for those who consider marijuana consumption an immoral personal choice, we can ensure that society’s response is a moral one.

– Article from Alternet.



  1. Anonymous on

    Does the western justice system really think that prohibiting marijuana will make people stop using it or selling it? What country in the world has that ever succeeded in? Not one. There’s an article on this website about Morocco. If they catch you there, they torture you for about a week to find out who supplied you and then they throw you in a prison where there’s one pottie and no beds. Everybody sleeps on the floor side by side like they were on a slave ship. Does that discourage anybody? Apparently not, since they still produce tons of hash. So how is the western justice system going to discourage anyone? Cannabis is intrinsically desirable. It makes you feel good and has no significant ill effects. How are you going to stop people using something with those qualities? It’s like prohibiting sex. People will keep doing it no matter what, unless everybody is housed in a cell and monitored 24 hours a day. They couldn’t even successfully prohibit alcohol, and that makes you puke your guts out and causes very dangerous physical addiction and health problems. It will eventually kill you and can kill you simply by drinking one whole bottle at once. If prohibiting that didn’t stop anybody then Cannabis prohibition is 100% hopeless and doomed to failure.

  2. indijo on

    The goal of mj prohibition is not simply to keep people from consuming the plant, it is to replace the old minority of blacks and hispanics with an underclass that knows no specific race or religion and so therefore can be completely oppressed and subjugated beneath the will of the corporate ruling-class lords without facing accusations of prejudice and discrimination. Marijuana/cannabis users are the new minority and underclass and nothing they say can put a dent in the armor of the corporate fascists that have hijacked the US govt. Any accusations of prejudice or discrimination will be laughed out of court.

  3. Anonymous on

    This is by far one of the best articles on marijuana prohibition.

    “Morals are for hypocrites” – buddha