Thursday, April 22, 2010


Believe it or not, I've never smoked pot.  Not that I'm against pot, or anything, but I'm just not the kind of person who likes to have fun by ingesting chemicals.  I don't drink very much, if ever at all either. 

I have my sympathies with people who want to legalize pot for medical purposes, and my suspicions about people who want to legalize pot for recreational purposes....  I'm not sure I'd vote for legalization for recreational purposes, but if it passed, I wouldn't be terribly upset over it.  Heck, I wouldn't be upset at all, I just might go and buy a legal joint and join in the party that would inevitably follow.

But, I think people who advocate legalization for recreational purposes have a steep up-hill climb to face.  One of the biggest hurdles is an appearance of legitimacy.  Some may have some very good legitimate arguments for recreational legalization, (I'm not convinced though...) but the movement's face isn't a very good one.

Take a look at these pictures.    These aren't exactly representative of the movement, but this is what many people think of when people think of legalization.  In particular, look at pictures 3 and 7. 

Picture 3 shows a clearly underage kid using a bong.  Not exactly a responsible face to present, although I'm sure nobody was objecting to this around them.  Encouraging children to smoke pot, or to do any kind of recreational drug, I think is rather irresponsible.  And before supporters ask, Yes, I would say that to caffeine as well.  Utilizing a drug for recreational purposes needs to have a stronger justification than its fun, in the same way as driving a Hummer is fun.  Sure, there isn't likely going to be catastrophic effects from one person driving a hummer around for fun, but it begins to foster a kind of character that I'm not sure many, if anyone would call intrinsically valuable.  What kind of character does it foster exactly?  Look at Picture 7.

Picture 7 shows a pregnant woman at a 4/20 event.  Now, it doesn't show her smoking, but second hand smoke can have adverse effects on the health of a fetus, be it tobacco or pot.  I think it shows a kind of reckless disregard of consequences, in favor of the momentary pleasure.  Basically, a hedonistic lifestyle. 

Again, I'm not strongly against legalization for recreational use, but I think at the very least it needs a better face.


  1. I'm pretty strongly against it, just because I've tried it and didn't get it...and I'm annoyed by people who seem to excuse stupid behavior by drug use. I don't know what would happen were it legalised, but I agree that these rallies aren't making me feel any better about it. And why legalise it? I'm guessing it'd be for reasons of taxation and profit, but in the long run, I'm not so sure it's a great idea. (Correct me if this wouldn't be the biggest reason for legalising it but) would this really be the best way to reduce a deficit?

  2. Well, recently its been one of the most often put forth arguments for legalization. But I find the argument lacking. We could legalize everything and reduce the deficit, using this reasoning. Heroin, cocaine, etc. We don't legalize everything because some things harm ourselves or society in some way.

    Now I'm not sure if marijuana particularly harms anyone, beyond their character. But it being illegal, has not quite produced the harms equivalent to prohibition. (No doubt there are harms produced by its prohibition though. Drug trafficking, gang violence, etc).

    But if it isn't deficit reduction, its DEA and prison budgets that get reduced. So financial arguments abound. I think the only moral argument for legalization is medicinal use, and I'm for that. The rest sounds like rationalization so that they can get high more easily.

  3. What does the numbers 4 and 20 have to do with marijuana anyway?

    Prof Yuen, this statement of yours caught me: "Now I'm not sure if marijuana particularly harms anyone, beyond their character. " I think it is statements like these that allow people to think neutrally about legalizing pot, or to be "for" it. Because there exists no "reported" crime/violence due to being under-the-influence of pot, and it is only our own character that is threatened, then in comparison to alcohol and The Prohibition, it SEEMS to be "better than" alcohol. If only we can get people addicted to pot, instead of alcohol.

    PHIL 107

  4. supposedly 4/20 is a reference to police code, 420 being posession of marijuana or something like that. So pot smokers adopted that as using marijuana.

    As for the harm issue, marijuana probably doesn't harm as much as cigarettes or alcohol, but it does still harm. People driving under the influence, impairment of judgment, etc.

    My point about the prohibition, is that alcohol prohibition produced more harms than good. Mafia wars and people killing themselves trying to drink moonshine and such severely harmed many people. Now one could argue gang wars are similar, but marijuana use isn't as wide spread as alcohol use comparatively during prohibition. Maybe if Marijuana use was more popular, then one could make a stronger case for legalization.

    And finally, I think we should seriously think about things that harm our characters. If we want to be morally outstanding people with virtuous characters, then we ought not engage in activities that harms one's own character.

    I'm sure that there are plenty of people who can utilize marijuana without harming their character, I think I know some. But I think we should err on the side of caution.

  5. California Penal Code, Section 420(

    Every person who unlawfully prevents, hinders, or obstructs
    any person from peaceably entering upon or establishing a settlement
    or residence on any tract of public land of the United States within
    the State of California, subject to settlement or entry under any of
    the public land laws of the United States; or who unlawfully hinders,
    prevents, or obstructs free passage over or through the public lands
    of the United States within the State of California, for the purpose
    of entry, settlement, or residence, as aforesaid, is guilty of a

    Snopes agrees with me:

    On the other hand, "187" lingo used in Magic to refer to creatures like Bone Shredder and Nekrataal and Flametongue Kavu which can kill a creature when they enter the battlefield IS based on CA Penal Code 187 (Homicide).

  6. Yeah, I know it doesn't actually refer to a police code, thus the supposedly. I'm not sure if it is a real reference to anything in particular, other than maybe a time of day.

  7. What about the effects on behaviour?
    If i drink alcohol my behaviour changes. I can become more flirtatious, simply obnoxious or belligerent. I would say that the effect of marijuana on an individual varies and it is not safe to say that everyone is chill, thus no foul. I wish I have research to show, but experience has showed me it does affect judgment in some negative ways, in ways that are unfortunate.

    I'm for the legalization; but it is true that the argument for recreational use of marijuana is need of better arguments, not a better face (pictures, or poster child, etc) to sway me.

  8. My problem with punishing drug use of any kind is that is that their is no clear victim. Usually, people ingest drugs willingly and fully aware of the risks and consequences. To make someone a criminal for simply using substance does not seem to make legal or ethical sense. In fact, The government should have absolutely no authority on what i choose to put into my body. People will continue use drugs regardless of its legal status so might as well benefit from the tax revenue it can bring.

    Besides the current drug laws are completely arbitrary and mostly supported through fear mongering by the DEA. Ecstasy, marijuana, LSD, and mushrooms are all scientifically proven to be safer than alcohol in both the short and long term. Drug laws are not based on empirical fact but moral the moral opinions of our government officials.

  9. You say that the only moral argument for legalization is for medicinal purposes, but I'm interested in the moral argument /against/ legalization. Off the top of my head, I would argue that it is far less moral to punish those who choose to engage in, as NDM said above, a victimless crime than it is to leave it to choice. What is immoral about getting high? We do things every week with the intent of feeling good, be it exercising, eating out at a new restaurant, or having sex. Smoking weed is just a shortcut to feeling good (and it makes the aforementioned feel even better).

  10. Jason- I think that sort of goes without saying that it affects our behavior. Like I said above, it can most definitely impair our judgments leading us to make stupid decisions, like driving while high and such.

    NDM- I don't have a problem with making things that have no victim illegal. Seatbelt laws are victimless crimes, and I think we should enforce them... Because ultimately there is a kind of victim, the person him/herself. For example, lets say that we can make child porngraphy without using children. We can use advanced computer graphics to make movies that look life-like. Victimless crime right? But it harms the character of the consumer.

    The fact that people will continue to use it despite it being illegal is no argument for legalization. People will murder even though its illegal. That doesn't mean we should legalize it and have open hunting seasons on people, and charge people for a license to make a buck off of it.

    Many of our laws are arbitrary, that doesn't make them bad, necessarily. 18 = adult is arbitrary, but practically there needs to be a delineating time between childhood and adulthood.

    As for other drugs, and their safety, those are different issues. I'm talking about Marijuana, not Ecstasy or LSD or shrooms. My argument against the legalization of marijuana makes no mention of safety, except for driving while intoxicated.

    Austin- I think the immorality is what it does to your character. It encourages a person to simply chase after a hedonistic lifestyle, The most amount of pleasure for the least amount of work. As you said, its a shortcut, I think its a shortcut that specifically disregards long term consequences.

    Just because it feels good, doesn't mean that it is good. It might feel great to murder someone who has wronged you. We shouldn't necessarily encourage it.

    Again, I'm not saying this is a super strong argument against legalization, but I didn't say I'm strongly opposed to it. I'm simply opposed to it.

  11. Hey Prof. Yuen,

    A good friend of mine is a cop and I asked him where the 4/20 name orginated from. He said ithad nothing to do with a police code. But he told me it orginated from this:

    "What is 4/20 all about?? The term originated from a group of teenagers at San Rafael High School in CA in 1971. The teens would meet after school at 4:20 pm to smoke weed at the Louis Pasteur statue. 4:20 pm evolved into April 20th (4/20). "

    Thought I'd let you know.

    Hope youre feeling better!

    -Shannon Stround
    Philo 107- 9am

  12. Granted everyone should wear a seatbelt but that is that there discretion. Where I, you, or anyone else chooses to wear seatbelt should ultimately be up to them. If you are of victim of a situation you knowing put yourself in then can you really be called a victim at all? Victimless crimes are ridiculous and should be abolished, instead of wasting tax dollars to enforce them. In the case of virtual child pornography, I would have no problems with it. At some point the individual needs to make a choice on what kind of character he is going to have. If they want to associate themselves with virtual child pornography, then go ahead. As long as they are not hurting anyone of course.

    It isnt a strong argument, but it seems a lot better than pouring billions on combating a problem that will never go away. In fact, the illegality itself problem for harms more people then drugs ever have.

    Yes, but age of the majority is a necessity. Making drugs criminal is not. When something is scientifically proven to be less harmful then alcohol, something that is already legalized, then there is something wrong with the law, not the drug.