Marijuana and Moralism

Andrew Sullivan has an outstanding column based on his appearance with David Frum on CNN to talk about marijuana.

Marijuana and Moralism

I know Ross will differ on the substance, but I doubt he will argue that my support for marriage equality stemmed from mere libertarianism (which would have led me to oppose all such marital benefits for everyone) but from a deep moral sense that we were (and are) violating the dignity of the homosexual person and perpetuating enormous pain for no obvious reason.

Now, the argument for legalizing marijuana is not quite the same. It’s much more based on the simple argument of personal liberty. But it has its moral components as well. The grotesquely disproportionate impact of Prohibition on African-Americans is an affront to any sense of morality and fairness, just as the refusal to research cannabis for its potential medical uses – to prevent seizures in children, for example – seems immoral to me. Some might argue that the right response to this is decriminalization, not legalization. But keeping marijuana illegal profoundly constrains the potential for medical research on it, sustains a growing and increasingly lucrative criminal industry, and does nothing to keep it from the sole cohort for whom it could do harm: teenagers.

Andrew has been a passionate and articulate voice for marijuana law reform for some time. It’s always nice to see him taking on the David Frums and Ross Douthats of the journalism world.

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24 Responses to Marijuana and Moralism

  1. divadab says:

    Great dissection of Frum’s sophistry in the service of unjust dominion. I swear the heading on Frum’s CV must be “Propagandist for Hire – No Cause too Evil”.

    • divadab says:

      Incidentally, Sullivan’s site has no enabled comments. I emailed him and got a prompt response on this subject as I was contemplating subscribing. He said he doesn’t allow comments but posts many subscriber emails. I asked why he was following the “we speak, you listen” model and have yet to get a response. Unlikely I will subscribe for this reason, as the comment section is where the discussion gets interesting. No idea why Sullivan isn;t interested in this, even in a controlled subscriber model, but will updatye you-all if he sees fit to respond.

      Incidentally, Pete, can you detect who the troll is who cruised through and down-voted every post in this thread?

      • Pete says:

        I don’t have any way of tracking data regarding up-and-down voting — that’s totally anonymous.

        Andrew Sullivan has chosen to go with the no comments approach — certainly not my approach, but at least he seems open to criticism, as I’ve often seen him post reader comments that take exception to what he posted earlier. Sullivan also checks out Drug WarRant fairly often and has been good enough to quote some of my posts as a response to what Mark Kleiman or Kevin Sabet might have said on a particular topic.

  2. Tony Aroma says:

    Maybe a little off topic, but it occurs to me that the DEA, by refusing to reschedule marijuana, have been cutting off their nose to spite their face (as we old timers used to say). At least by rescheduling, the DEA would have kept themselves somewhat relevant, as marijuana would still be a controlled substance. But now, with states actually legalizing marijuana, it is no longer on any schedule of controlled substances. If that trend continues, and marijuana’s no longer controlled substance (i.e., treated like alcohol), the DEA will be completely out of the picture. So after all these years of refusing to reschedule marijuana and thinking they were winning those battles, the DEA has actually insured that they will ultimately lose the war.

  3. BossIlluminati says:

    the greatest plant in the universe is almost free, LET FREEDOM RING

    from 0 states to my great state 20 years ago to now and half the country, we are almost there….from 25% to 60%, amazing….GO USA!!!!


  4. Esoteric Knowledge says:

    Is violating the Constitutional rights of someone and committing a hate crime to discriminate them from employment not “violating the dignity of the…person and perpetuating enormous pain for no obvious reason.” Is the Federal Government’s and many business’s policy of actively trying to murder a minority group creating enormous pain?

  5. Servetus says:

    Before deciding what’s moral and what isn’t, it’s useful to know what drug prohibition is. Prohibition and our current drug war can be gaged by knowing and understanding what these social controls have always been: a geopolitical human rights violation used as a means of human oppression.

    In Irene Silverblatt’s book, Modern Inquisitions: Peru and the Colonial Origins of the Civilized World, Spanish colonialists are depicted using the Inquisition’s drug enforcement arm to target or control domestic plant substances such as tobacco, coca, peyote, and the cocoa bean that originated from New Guinea. Drug use was penalized as a means of subjugating indigenous Amerindians in order to Christianize them and more easily convert them into slaves for work in the gold mines. In Peru, robbing Andeans of their culture robbed them of their identity, and thereby made them exploitable.

    Dr. Silverblatt notes another reason Spanish colonialists prohibited the use of indigenous drugs and herbs. Spanish men apparently feared their highborn Spanish ladies who traveled to and settled in the Americas might be attracted to the drugs, folklore, witchcraft, and other ancient customs of the Andeans. Such behavior would be punishable as religious heresy in Iberia. Still others believed an open society that exposed its women to alien ideas might thwart the existing male domination of women.

    In Home Grown: Marijuana and the Origins of Mexico’s War on Drugs by Isaac Campos (reviewed here by Phillip Smith), we find the conquistadors planting hemp/marijuana in the New World for the first time in 1530. Quickly thereafter, a legend is born and disseminated among Amerindians in Mexico that claims smoking marijuana causes people to become violent. There are many very old, post hoc ergo propter hoc examples of events in Mexico linking marijuana to violence among native Central Americans.

    The universality of marijuana’s black legend throughout Mexico, lasting as it did for four centuries, indicates the stories were likely created by the Catholic clergy in an organized and widespread campaign of drug fear-mongering. Campos believes these dubious stories formed the basis for Harry Anslinger’s claims in 1937, and in later years, that marijuana induces violence in its users; a position Anslinger moderated starting in 1950 when emerging facts about marijuana began to contradict his anti-drug propaganda.

    In all the cases in early Central and South American history, drug enforcement was designed to benefit conquerors and tyrants at the expense of their victims. The only time the Inquisition involved itself in persecuting Amerindians for heresy was when their moral crime involved drugs, otherwise the clergy didn’t want to do anything to discourage native Americans from converting to Christianity.

    In North American history, marijuana possession has long been used as a means of oppressing darker skinned drug consumers, or people of differing political and religious affiliations. Smoking pot is also viewed as defiling John Calvin’s Protestant work ethic that demands citizens be productive 24/7. Today’s marijuana debate remains a pivotal point in an American culture war that pits individual freedom against domination by corporatists and the clergy.

    Anthropologist Margaret Mead noted different cultures have different drugs they value for medical, religious or recreational purposes. Drug choices can be arbitrary and/or geopolitical. That’s why discriminating against a drug can have the same effect as discriminating against a race, or culture, making the technique useful to petty tyrants like Richard Nixon. Historically, a legal system flawed by drug prohibition creates an anti-democratic tool favoring state sanctioned racism and human exploitation, and is therefore immoral.

    • DonDig says:

      Brilliant, just brilliant.
      Thank you so much for that.
      Never before heard that all put together like that, and it rings completely true.

  6. ezrydn says:

    This should cause a ripple or two.

    NAACP ENDORSES HR 1523 – ‘‘Respect State Marijuana Laws Act of 2013’’.

    Neill Franklin of LEAP and Howard Wooldridge of COPs worked on this together. Howard wrote the draft letter to the NAACP, asking for their endorsement. Neill did all the rest, carrying the ball for a touchdown.

  7. claygooding says:

    Morality is taught in the home by the child’s caretakers,,if the people that raise that child raise it in a morally correct atmosphere at least the child has a reference to know what being morally right is.

    I was raised in such an atmosphere and can find nothing moral about a war on drugs,,nothing.

    The problem most parents have in teaching their kids to be morally correct is that they have to give the children good examples. But if those parents don’t bother with all that moral crap nobody can force anyone to be moral.

  8. Duncan20903 says:


    Lady Gaga has done us a really huge favor.
    Lady Gaga Kicked Her 15-Joint-Per-Day Marijuana Habit With Help From Marina Abramovic

    Quickly now, lock & deadbolt the door so she can’t get back in!

    • claygooding says:

      “”That is amazing,,does anyone remember that until 1984 marijuana did not fit the criteria for it to even be classified as addictive?

      It took the NIMH lowering the addiction bar so marijuana could be listed as addictive and even now science has reported that marijuana users can form a dependence on marijuana,not an addiction,,that is why when someone forms a dependence on marijuana they can self treat themselves out of that dependency with a little help from their friends.””

      My posting on another GaGa site

  9. primus says:

    In other words, an empathetic human contact helped her to decrease her cannabis use, merely by having her fast for three days and immerse herself in art, contemplation and meditation. IOW there was no ‘addiction’ as we understand the term. That is probably the ‘favor’ of which you speak.

    • Nunavut Tripper says:

      Just sounds like Gaga needed a tolerance break.

    • Duncan20903 says:


      Sheesh, you guys will let just anyone join the club. I suppose I should have known that when you let me in.

      Will you at least promise me that Kev-Kev is blackballed for life? No, I suppose you’d even let him in, but just keep him under the couch with the wiggle dude. Oh well. Carry on.

  10. Matthew Meyer says:

    The chart comparing polling on pot legalization and legal abortion is fascinating: little change on the abortion question but a steep upward slope on pot reform.

    That’s a pretty persuasive point in support of the contention that we are not a society in which questions of morality have become irrelevant.

    And yet we now want the Demon Weed legal. Hmmm…

    • Duncan20903 says:


      There’s not many things that are more immoral than forcing sick people to suffer more than needed.

      There’s not many things that are more immoral than stealing a person’s birthright of essential liberty. (USA only)

      There’s not many things that are more immoral than stealing children from their parents based solely on irrational fear. Did you hear the latest example? A very young boy brought one of daddy’s plants to school for show and tell. The really frustrating part about that one is that it isn’t even worth my breath to argue that it was just plain wrong. I wonder how it would have played if he brought in a bottle of daddy’s Mad Dog 20/20 kool aid?

      [sudden subject change]I’m not certain that many people can appreciate just how long the abortion controversy has persisted. We’re talking millennia, not centuries. Go read the Hippocratic Oath, and I mean the one that was actually written by Hippocrates. Included was a promise not to cause abortions or assist in a suicide or euthanasia. But Hippocrates was obviously a wacko. He also made the nascent doctors promise to train new doctors for free and to not have sex with a patient, not even the patient’s slave boys. (Hippocrates was from Greece you know)

      I guess that this one belongs in the “the more things change the more they stay the same” category.

  11. claygooding says:

    Watching Kev get his ass handed to him on CNN,,the CNN reporter is tearing him up but he missed a good chance at proving an outright lie,,Kev claimed pot and alcohol has the same addiction level according to NIH,,last time I checked they had alcohol at 25 and cannabis was 7,,that is not even close to the same.

    • Duncan20903 says:


      Q) Mr. Sabet, Mr. Sabet, how does it feel to get kicked to the curb by people you think are amotivational, worthless, and unable to set and accomplish goals?

      A) [crickets]

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