Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Legality of cannabis

  1. Marijuana should be legal & controlled like alcohol/tobacoo

    78 vote(s)
  2. Marijuana should be legal & open market

    15 vote(s)
  3. Marijuan should be illegal with fines as punishment (misdemeanor)

    7 vote(s)
  4. Marijuan should be illegal with jail as punishment

    6 vote(s)
  1. Apr 20, 2012 #1
    So, in some cultures today's date has meaning, 4-20. A reference to marijuana.

    In ottawa, each year on this date a few "protesters" get together to, well "protest" the laws that make possession of pot illegal I guess.

    Alot pot smoking goes on along with police watching making sure it doesn't "get out of hand", and tourists looking on in wonderment. (speaks volumes of tolerance for "free speech" even in grey areas, like protesting a law by breaking the law during the protest)

    Anyways, should pot be illegal?
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2012
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 20, 2012 #2
    Re: April 20th

    Yes, the two on the same day seems fitting from a culture perspective :smile:

    just joking, all environmentalists aren't hippies, but all hippies are environmentalists.
  4. Apr 20, 2012 #3
    Re: April 20th

    I think they should try making it legal for a while so it can be taxed. Being illegal hasn't stopped people from smoking it, so I think they should at least be able to tax it.

    Having said that, I don't think anyone should smoke it, and DUI laws should apply to it just as they do to alcohol.
  5. Apr 20, 2012 #4
    Re: April 20th

    At this point it seems like marijuana is illegal simply to keep the status quo. Either the government is too lazy to make any significant changes, or they don't think we can handle immediate changes, and they instead just let the changes happen gradually over the course of decades.
    It's one of those things that everyone who is sane knows is going to happen eventually, but they just choose to slowly go down with the sinking ship.
  6. Apr 20, 2012 #5


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Re: April 20th

    My feelings as well. I wouldn't smoke due to health concerns. I like my lungs.
  7. Apr 20, 2012 #6
    Re: April 20th

    I could retort with ingest it instead. But in either case I get your point. Health concerns.

    I like to avoid alcohol for the same reasons, it's brutal the next morning. Enough incentive to keep such "episodes" few & far between.
  8. Apr 20, 2012 #7


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    Re: April 20th

    Personally I've always thought Portugal is heading in the right direction in terms of drug laws. Whilst possession is still illegal it is no longer a criminal offence, rather offenders found with a small amount of drugs usually face a mandatory interview with a social worker, psychiatrist and attorney to talk about whether or not they have a drug problem and what free harm reduction and rehabilitation programs they can join (heroin users are offered prescription sterile needles for example). For larger amounts community service and fines are given.

    This approach is far more humane IMO and effective. It essentially reduces drug use to a medical problems and ensures that no one will go to prison for it. The importance of the latter is that it saves money holding someone who doesn't really need to be held separate from public and fosters an environment where drug addicts are seen as people in need of treatment rather than punishment. This is in line with my personal views on how many crimes unnecessarily demand prison sentences in the UK. The only reason someone should be put in a prison is because they are a threat to society and people should be protected from them (rapists, murderers, thugs etc). For other crimes restrictions on freedom (e.g. curfews via electronic tag), fines and community services would act as punishment, deterrent and give back to society rather than costing society. Combine that with a number of schemes to reduce the causes of the criminals actions (e.g. offer rehabilitation for drug addicts, internships and training schemes for petty thieves caused by poverty etc) and we would hopefully move away from the overcrowded, criminal breeding grounds that the prison industrial complex currently offers. On top of that reforms to the current "large brick building with bars" model of a prison would be good so that we don't just store the worst of the worst in a place where they spend all day associating with like minds.
  9. Apr 20, 2012 #8
    Re: April 20th

    I think that's a very good take on it. Well said!

    Pretty sure in the states prisoners are a business, like old people in Canada (that could get me trouble :smile:).
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2012
  10. Apr 20, 2012 #9


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    Re: April 20th

    Thank you :smile: I've never been one to think that locking people away is a judicial panacea. Always good to see like minded people on that subject.
    I don't really know enough to comment on the situation though I have been to talks on drug use where the War on Drugs has been referred to as a keynesian stimulus for the American policing and prison system.
  11. Apr 20, 2012 #10
    Re: April 20th

    I don't think people should smoke it because of the immediate intoxicating properties, therefore, I'd be against eating pot brownies as well.

    Alcohol, as you say, has the additional disadvantage of the hangover which interferes with your ability to function as much as being high does.

    Regardless, laws against pot aren't working any more than prohibition worked. Trying to kill cigarettes with uber-high taxes isn't working either: now there's a huge black market in cheap cigarettes with the Russian mob getting involved. Here in San Diego the streets are crawling with smuggled cigarette vendors. The government should learn a lesson: pot taxes must be kept low enough that drug cartels don't just shift to the untaxed pot business.
  12. Apr 20, 2012 #11
    Re: April 20th

    I, too, agree with all this, and don't have anything to add. You pretty much covered it.
  13. Apr 20, 2012 #12
    Re: April 20th

    Just changing the perspective, the hangover is a good thing in as much as making a good deterrent from getting drunk.

    I've hugged porcelain, promising myself not to drink so much again (it take a few lessons for some :yuck:).

    One of the bad things I see with pot is it has too few inert deterrents. I'm sure cocaine & heroin give amazing "highs"; the criminal risk, the risk of violence, the cost, the culture, the physical addictions are all good deterrents.

    I guess to say it different, "cheating" life by getting high has too have some consequence greater than the "high" itself, as weighed by the general population.

    All that being said, generally speaking imho, the high from pot does not dissolve ambition towards meaningful goals, as is typically the case from "stronger" drugs; including alcohol, rarely but still.

    Would like to point out a tiny flaw in the "controlled substance like alcohol" option. Weed grows like a weed, and can have a shelf life measured in years. Option one seems inclusive of option two; for the most part. However, there is absolutely a market willing to pay X amount for something that can be grown very easily, macro-economically similar to the scenario below.
    Regardless of[/STRIKE] Including laws, the greatest factor in curbing consumption is societies perception of the substance.
    Cigarettes are a good example of this; those who buy illegal cigarettes are the percentage of the whole who smoke that are willing to break the law under circumstances xyz. I would guess the percentage of illegal cigg buyers is linearly proportionate to the population of smokers (ignoring price variances i.e. incentive to buy illegal ciggs / "circumstances xyz").
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2012
  14. Apr 21, 2012 #13
    People can debate the issue all they want but, bottom line, most people do not want it legalized. A large percentage of the population have tried marijuana and decided it is too powerful a drug to be allowed to become widely available. In particular people don't children exposed to the drug. Hence the few successful attempts to decriminalize the drug are ones that strictly regulate it such as requiring a prescription or only allowing it to be consumed in bars and tea houses.

    I'd say the biggest problem at this point is the dysfunctional manner in which the US has dealt with the issue. Nearly one in eight incarcerated in the US today are nonviolent pot offenders despite overwhelming evidence that parole is a significantly cheaper and more effective solution. One poll of US law enforcement officers indicated as many as 80% of them believe the drug should be decriminalized or legalized. While some states have legalized medical marijuana the federal government still insists it is illegal. This schizophrenic approach to law enforcement needs to change and the sooner the better. Not only for the US, but all the other western countries including places like Jamaica where pot is part of the culture, yet the US insists it remain illegal.
  15. Apr 21, 2012 #14
    Spending huge amounts of money to try and suppress it is, I'm now convinced, a gross waste since, despite any Federal efforts, anyone who wants it seems to be able to get hold of it. (Every now and then I walk by groups of kids smoking it openly on the street.) Better to stop wasting money trying to stop it and make money taxing it.
  16. Apr 21, 2012 #15


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    You've both hit on something quite key here. It's not just that there's a lot of drug X that should be taken into account but the ease in which drug X can be made and the ease in which the method to make it can be proliferated.

    This is why alcohol prohibition fails, it's one of the easiest recreational drugs to make (we've been doing it for thousands of years). For negligible amounts of money one can buy a home brew kit and the same could be said for cannabis. A concerning matter is how the internet and globalisation is making it easier for other drugs. I'm not sure of the situation in the United States but in the United Kingdom we've got an ongoing problem with "legal highs" that entered the public arena about four years ago (thus existed long before). Essentially a group of people take the chemical formula for a known drug like MDMA, modify it slightly, email their design to a chemical company in China, import several kilos and then sell them for several times the amount. The reason this is legal is because they are labelled and marketed as plant fertilizer when in actual fact they are nothing but and the shops/websites that sell them rely on word of mouth from users in the know. From then on it takes months for anyone in a position of authority to realise that a specific product is being used recreationally and months more for it to work it's way through government as a ban. By that time new slightly tweaked molecules have been designed and shipped in.

    I really feel that the current US/UK model to drug legislation is not only bad now but will get worse in the future as things like this get easier. The dangerous thing about legal highs are that every few months you get another recreational drug for which there has been no medical testing at all, can't be stopped and is banned too late.
  17. Apr 21, 2012 #16
    Why should those people be allowed to dictate what other people are allowed to do? It's a rights issue. People have the right to smoke, just like they have the right to drink.
    I doubt very many of the people who have tried marijuana are the ones who don't want it to be widely available. I'm betting that people's opposition to marijuana is proportional to their ignorance of marijuana. That's usually how it goes. People fear what they don't understand.

    I don't smoke anything and I don't even drink alcohol, so my opinion isn't influenced by habit.
  18. Apr 21, 2012 #17


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    Hmmm rights are something that society protects because they have been legally codified as rights (due to political and public will). So no people do not have a right to smoke. It's also a bit more complex than simply "what right do you have to tell me what drugs I can take?" when the knock-on effects of legalisation could have negative effects on society. I'm not advocating that this is necessarily the case (I've stated my opinions already) but highlighting that the issue is more complex than one of individual rights.
  19. Apr 21, 2012 #18
    Everyone has a right to do what they want with their body. Isn't that what the basis for abortion rights is?

    Should we no longer have the right to eat mayonnaise if, for some reason, society says we can't?
  20. Apr 21, 2012 #19


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    I think we have a semantic issue here. When you say "everyone has a right" you seem to be saying that you think "everyone should have a right" whereas when I say it I mean that "currently X is legally recognised as a right" So you're speaking in "ought" and I'm speaking in "is"

    Also I don't think there is a good argument that everyone should have a total right to do what they want with their body because of two reasons:

    1) Unfortunately not all people are perfectly rational actors who are in possession of enough facts so as to make a fully informed decision.

    2) People are not islands and what they do, even in private, can have effects on other people.

    In the context of drugs an example of point 1 could be that people are tricked/convinced into getting onto hard drugs. I'm thinking of the classic "fell into the wrong crowed" situation. If total freedom in private was in effect then the only tool society is left with at this point is education which is good but not enough IMO. An example of point 2 is easy to see; even if heroin users did only do it in the comfort of their own homes the damage they are doing to their bodies will cost in healthcare (resulting in raised taxes in some countries and raised insurance premiums in others). I mentioned Portugal earlier in the thread which is a great example of a problem with point 2 as they had a huge number of people with HIV much of which was spread via needles.

    Hopefully I've made my point clearer here; whilst "if my actions don't harm anyone I should have a right to do them" sounds brilliant like most moral platitudes it is extremely hard to find a common situation in real life to which it applies. Inevitably what people do in private has an effect on others. I don't want to sound draconian, I'm not advocating against personal freedoms (I'm all for far more than we currently have) but the role of laws is to regulate the effects of individual freedom on other individuals and on the collective society at large.
  21. Apr 21, 2012 #20
    Society wastes money on any number of things. I'm much more concerned with state and federal laws contradicting each other and people's lives being pointlessly ruined.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook