Free to be Stupid

The federal government wants kids to know one thing: Smoking is bad.  Evil.  The worst thing you could possibly do to yourself and others.  Second hand smoke kills.  It's probably contributing to Global Warming and putting a huge hole in the ozone layer right over your head.  Smoking is so evil and so yucky and so dirty that some anti-smoking advocates have called for an automatic R-rating for any movie that features characters smoking.  "Tobacco" is the new Hollywood T-word.

Bottom line: smoking kills.  The federal government is doing everything in its power to eliminate it and to keep kids from trying it.

Unless, that is, we are talking about smoking marijuana.  Then, the opposite is true.  The federal government is starting to take a hands-off approach with states who are seeking to decriminalize the Wacky Weed.  Many states have reclassified possession of small amounts of marijuana from criminal offenses to civil offenses, which garner only a ticket and fine rather than jail time.  Some have even gone so far as to seek full blown legalization, touting its "medicinal benefits."  Oregon has a Medical Marijuana Law which allows patients and caregivers to possess up to 24 ounces of the stuff.

Clearly, marijuana is becoming more mainstream while tobacco is becoming marginalized.

It is not too hard to imagine this conversation between a mother and father occurring in the not too distant future:

Mother: Billy's school called today.  He was caught smoking in the bathroom

Father: Oh no!

Mother: It's OK.  It was only marijuana.

Father: Thank God!

Just for the record, I have never smoked either tobacco or marijuana.  Very few of my friends did it when I was growing up, and those who did were usually burnouts and losers, so the appeal just wasn't there.   So, when I say that I think marijuana should be legalized it's not because I am just dying to light up without worrying about the Five-0 knocking down my door.  But it doesn't make sense to me to put casual users into the criminal justice system, which should be dealing with hardened criminals.  Pot smokers aren't hurting anybody but themselves with their habits, and they want to be stupid and fry their brains, who are we to stop them?

But, at the same time, the same thing should be said of tobacco smokers.  Smokers have been hit with repeated hikes in cigarette taxes, meant to punish them for lighting up.  So-called "sin taxes" aimed at tobacco are the easiest taxes to enact because of the way that smoking has been demonized.  The common rationale that is always trotted out is that the effects of smoking have huge affects on the health care industry and cost the state lots of money, so smokers should pay extra.  The cost estimates associated with smoking vary widely and are little better than made up numbers.  But whatever the costs, it is ridiculous to single out smoking as the sole cause of this added cost.  Obesity is more widespread than smoking.  So is a sedentary lifestyle.  These also put added stress on our health care system, yet fat, lazy people are not being forced to cough up more money to pay.  Unless, of course, they also smoke.  And only if they smoke tobacco.  If they are fat, lazy, and smoke pot, they're good.

The government needs to get out of the business of telling people how to live.  Let people be free to be stupid if they so choose.


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This page contains a single entry by Louis Core published on July 15, 2009 12:48 PM.

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