Following the trend of public opinion, the state of Illinois, following 10 other states, legalized the “recreational” use of cannabis beginning in 2020. Reading reports from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on the physiological and psychological effects of its use make one wonder how much, if any, critical analysis was done by Illinois (or any other state’s) elected officials when determining the wisdom in legalizing this drug.
However, CDC experts are doctors and scientists whose mandate and focus is to emphasize medical facts and advise on what would best eliminate risks to a person’s— and the public’s — health, irrespective of other considerations. As we have seen with the coronavirus, their recommendations for shutting down the economy to mitigate virus spread did “flatten the curve” and without any economic “reopening” likely would have been even more successful and prevented some of the current surge.
But at what cost?
Many people, especially young people, have decided not living their lives under a rock is worth the risk of contracting the coronavirus. From what is currently known, that decision will be tragic for some, challenging for more, and largely inconsequential for most. The repercussions of individual marijuana use will follow the same pattern — from catastrophic to insignificant.
One can find any number of articles supporting or opposing cannabis legalization. They are often contradictory. For example, one headline, documented with research, claims “Legalizing marijuana results in decreased teen use” while another, equally researched, says “Legalizing marijuana increases use by teens, with harmful results.”
Regardless of the pros and cons, the writing seems to be on the wall as far as ending legal sanctions on
this drug is concerned. The opinion of voters, well-
informed or not, in favor of legalization has increased from 12% in 1968 to 66% in 2018. Popular opinion, especially when aligned with the self-interest of vote-pandering politicians and the greed of our bloated government, gives officials powerful incentives to overlook the negatives of decriminalization.
Whether Iowa is the next domino to fall legitimizing marijuana or not, we should probably be resigned to the fact that it will happen sometime.
In a less permissive culture, or at least in a culture or society where individual freedom and responsibility were indivisible, legalizing marijuana — or many things — would be of minimal concern.
Unfortunately, our increasingly progressive culture has mostly divorced personal responsibility from the equation. Today, through a sprawling network of often overlapping social programs, much personally destructive behavior is effectively subsidized by national, state, and local taxes.
Our entitlement culture has reversed and rewritten JFK’s inaugural appeal. Today it would be restated as, “Ask not what I can do for my country, ask what my country can do for me.”
When people are not held responsible for the negative consequences of their choices and remedial costs are transferred to others, what lessons are learned? Is it any wonder social pathologies are increasing? If there are no repercussions to “turning on, tuning in, and dropping out,” many will do just that.
Several studies have determined the annual costs to society from the use of alcohol and tobacco are
$223.5 billion and $193 billion respectively, far outpacing the $24 billion in combined tax revenue they raise. It seems reasonable to expect a similar disparity between societal cost and revenue gained with the legalization of another harmful substance.
As previously noted, marijuana legalization for “recreational” use, like alcohol, is probably inevitable and, just as “society” bears the financial and social costs of alcohol abuse, we (or more accurately, our children and grandchildren) will bear the costs of whatever effects marijuana legalization ultimately yields.