I ran into a situation recently, or at least it seemed ironic to me. It was after a family dinner where I had been the lone supporter of decriminalization, of weed in particular. It can be a little bit lonely when you have a lone opinion in a family like mine that considers arguing a great pastime. I mean they seriously love to argue and debate.
It was after I had left the family dinner on my way home that I encountered a wreck that must have happened just before I rounded over a hill. It meant that one driver with a broken leg needed to be pulled out of an absolutely crushed and demolished burning car, while the shockingly unharmed mini-van carrying a mother and small child that had been knocked across the intersection needed consoling.
As I spoke to the man that we had to pull out of his absolutely crushed and demolished smoking car (and I can’t believe this crash was survivable), and as we watched the car start to burn, I began to realize from the way he spoke and acted that he seemed under the influence of something. Now, it may have just been the effects of shock, and I do not want to publicly accuse anyone of DUI without knowing for certain. But, there were no tire burn marks, and no one had heard him even make an attempt to stop. That, coupled with the slurred and odd speech, there was no hint or smell of alcohol, but a DUI involving some sort of drug is probably a safe assumption. I thought it ironic after the family argument.
I don’t really think weed was responsible for this particular wreck, but it brought the argument to mind as a backdrop. Most of the earlier family argument seemed to center around the effects and dangers of people driving while under the influence. This is something that has been a crime for a long time, and deservedly so. If you’re going to drive while high, you must face the consequences of that decision, and I feel strongly that a person endangering the lives of others in that manner should receive a severe penalty.
However, if we all agree that the real argument against decriminalization is the potential to harm others, then we are basically saying that it’s really more about personal responsibility. Already, it’s illegal to drive after smoking or consuming pot. That doesn’t need to change. The argument I’ve heard from family members in law enforcement is that they don’t have adequate tools to measure THC in a person’s system, and there aren’t strict standards for what constitutes a person being high, like there is for alcohol. I agree that there should be a real effort to give law enforcement better tools. But, criminalizing those that do not leave their homes while under the influence is sort of a shotgun approach to the issue.
I hate weed! I can’t stand the smell of it, and I despise when people smoke it near me. It smells like BO, and I don’t have anything good to say about its recreational use. I think when people are using weed, they turn a little bit stupid for several hours until it’s out of their system. I don’t want to be around stupid people. But, that’s just my own personal thoughts and feelings regarding marijuana. It’s not about catering the world to my whims, or no one would be allowed to drive on the street when I’m driving, because I don’t like that either. It’s about personal responsibility and personal accountability. If we all agree that the real issue is the danger to others, then we should shift focus away from the drug and instead, focus on the real crime – driving under the influence.
Just as it’s a bad idea to blame guns for gun violence, it also doesn’t make sense to blame the drugs for driving under the influence. Instead, the people who do the driving are the ones responsible. The drugs don’t rush into the car to drive. It’s the people who consume the drugs then drive that cause the problems. There isn’t any question that drugs (and I am including marijuana) inhibit cognitive ability, and I know many argue that weed does not, but I disagree. Nevertheless, it isn’t about whether drugs impair. It’s about people being responsible for their own behaviors, whether impaired or not. If you consume weed, or any other drugs you are responsible for what happens next. If you make decisions that you wouldn’t make otherwise, and it causes you to act irresponsibly, then you are the one at fault. The drug didn’t act out on its own. You chose to take the drug and you acted out the behavior. Blaming the drug is misplaced blame.
In a sense, placing laws against possession of items that are not the result of harming others (such as stolen goods) is similar to removing a person from their own responsibilities. It’s like telling the person that they weren’t responsible for their own behaviors because the blame rests on the drug rather than the person. If the crime against another person is the real issue, then that should be the focus. Why give the person any room to throw off responsibility for his own actions? If the crime is consuming or possessing drugs, then logically the drugs are at fault and we can’t logically hold that person accountable for their own actions. Humans are accountable. Not inanimate objects.
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