Aw Man, We Totally Vedged on the Pot

We live in a conflicted state, where we support the rule of law but ignore it when we think it unjust.

False: Prohibition doesn’t work.

In Singapore, the state imposes severe penalties for violating the drug laws (mandatory death penalty for trafficking). As a result, recreational drug use is close to non existent in the industrialized and wealthy Southeast Asian city state. Singapore is also a place where trial by jury is abolished and corporal punishment for minor offences is commonplace. However, what can be said, is that if a state is willing to go to certain lengths, prohibition is very much possible.

True: Prohibition doesn’t work in a liberal democracy.

Given the balance of our laws and values, it is very difficult to reconcile the criminalization of drugs with other laws that protect our rights to do whatever we wish with our bodies. Yes, the government can put your body in a uniform and send you off to war, grant or not grant you the right to have an abortion, quarantine you in case of disease, and lock your body up if you are  dangerously crazy. Yes, whenever the rights of others can be effected, the government may step in and curtail or inform what you can do with your person. However, short of the very logical standard of  ‘effecting others,’ our government has no business sticking its beak.

How to respond to a law you don’t agree with?

Potheads respond to laws against marijuana use by smoking pot. Their strategy can’t be called elaborate or revolutionary, but it has proved somewhat effective. Socially speaking, there is little pressure to be seen as ‘anti-pot’, and even those who rarely or never partake are often perfectly accepting of others who do. Yes, at the social-cultural level, there is a great deal of freedom to be found for pot smoking.

However, in Canada, our laws have not caught up to the will of the people. Or, is that an assumption? Is political will not directly informed by the will of the people? Yes, big business and greed and self aggrandizing personal goals may inform the decision making of many a politician, but those same ego-maniacal go getters are still subject to the will of the electorate. Perhaps the voting public isn’t ready to see their neighbour skin up a fatty.

One last thought. How do we decide what laws to break and obey? Obviously, those that voluntarily speed or rip off proverbial mattress tags are knowingly and intentionally violating the law of the land, and are prepared to accept the consequences. However, a little speeding isn’t going to cost you any friends or label you a pariah. Be that as it may, if you beat to death the man who rapes your daughter it might not cost you any friends either, but you are still going to jail.

Not such an easy question.

Robin Lindsay



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