Kingdom of Fear: Everybody Must Get Stoned
While much of the fear-based rhetoric in our political conversation is deliberately meant to keep voters scared in order to turn them out at the polls, there are certain issues where it is more genuine. In certain cases, the politician is even more afraid of the issue at hand than the citizenry is which is what fuels his or her vigorous opposition to the matter. The fear transcends a select group of individuals – such as budget hawks, law and order hawks, and plain, old hawks – and permeates the very culture of an ideology.
For example, the legalization of marijuana seems to be an issue that the entire GOP could rally behind. It is good for business, since, according to the Rand Corporation, Americans spend $40.6 billion every year on pot. Legalization is also consistent with the supposed Republican values of individual liberties and personal responsibility. Yet, the loudest voices against marijuana legalization are often old-guard Republicans.
To be fair, the libertarian section of the right-wing has long advocated for the legalization of marijuana and other drugs and there are many liberal Democrats who also oppose it. The reasons behind this opposition are often vague, rely heavily on the fact that pot has simply been illegal for so long, and suggest that save for it being illegal Marijuana would destroy the will of Americans to work hard.
Advocates in favor of marijuana legalization often suggest that pot is far less dangerous a vice than alcohol or tobacco. They may be correct, although there hasn’t been nearly as much scientific study of marijuana’s effects as the other two. Thus even medical professionals like Dr. Drew or Dr. Howard Samuels, rely on their anecdotal experience to make claims about the dangers of pot.
Samuels, writing for The Huffington Post, said he was against pot legalization because “psychoactive substances produce emotionally crippled adults,” and that no “argument in the world” will change his mind. Such a statement is so antiscientific that it’s staggering. Samuels is a teetotaler who seems to believe that not only should pot remain illegal, but alcohol should probably be prohibited (again) too, is letting his personal bias stand in the way of objective, scientific opinion.
Yet the argument isn’t about whether or not this ubiquitous substance is better, worse, or the same as alcohol but whether or not simply being caught with this substance should be a criminal matter. No practical person speaking honestly truly believes that “pot junkies” should be locked up, but the fear of what “might” happen prevents anyone from changing a clearly failed policy.