Archive

Prohibition

A harbinger of an article in the The Atlantic today.

If you support marijuana legalization, as I do, it’s important to be straightfoward about this: the end of marijuana prohibition is likely to see a rise in marijuana consumption at all levels, including, as the article describes, addiction. Illegality, even ill-enforced illegality, has some limiting effect on an activity. When a ban is lifted, all else being equal, the banned activity will increase.

This is not a reason to not legalize marijuana.

After alcohol prohibition ended, the nation went on something of a fifty-year binge. In the Sixties, the Mad Men era, practically everyone had a cocktail in their hand. Drunkenness meant Dean Martin, and Dean Martin was funny. The old American tradition of temperance was dead. And so it went until the extent of alcoholism wrenched its way into public consciousness, via Betty Ford and many others, and our society started grappling with how much is too much (a conversation yet ongoing).

There’s a sea of agony concealed in the above paragraph. Bodies destroyed, accomplishments demolished, families rent apart. Alcoholism is a quiet, pervasive killer. That was the cost of Repeal.

And it was worth it. Because the problems of alcoholism are least out in the open, where a solution is possible. You’re not going to go to jail for having an illness. Organized crimes is not running rampant because of an illness; police and the judiciary are not being corrupted because of an illness. Legalization allows people to speak openly and honestly about what is happening. Prohibition merely conceals it.

There was one line that really stuck out:

Others mentioned the common belief that you can be “psychologically” addicted to pot, but not “physically” or “really” addicted.

Now this is true, to a certain extent. Marijuana does not have the same effect as opioids or alcohol, where the body begins to have a chemical need for the substance. But to say, as many might (not the author–she’s referring to others) that psychological addiction is not real addiction is to ignore the reality of the human psyche. The working of our habits is what makes us who are. The denial of that irks me in the same way I see “socially conditioned” used to mean “malleable.” Pleasure and pain, drip by drip, day by day, shape us. If we grow used to a way of life because it brings us pleasure, it’s very difficult to escape, even if it brings a high cost. We are material creatures, but we have a hard time accepting that. I think that as the decades go on, we are seeing a slow dialectic about the reality of ourselves and our relation to pleasure. The question of recreational substances is an important sector of that process.