Thursday, January 25, 2007

Question of the week

I've been meaning to post this. It's been far too long since I linked to my pal Pete at Drug WarRant. It's partly because he's become so big, he doesn't need the boost and I rather assume everyone is checking routinely anyway, but in case you're not, he posts a very interesting question.
Is it better to abide by the rules until they're changed or help speed the change by breaking them?
This harks back to a debate I had with Vig over that ex-cop who is selling the video on how to avoid getting busted. Vig's position was the video was a form of civil disobedience. I disagreed that a profit making venture could be construed as working to change the law.

In terms of this question, I pretty much agree with Pete. Civil disobedience is a time honored tradition that has worked to make social change. Think back to the civil rights protests and the bra burnings and anti-war demonstrations of the 60s and they did make a difference in focusing public attention on the issues and putting an alternative view forward that was eventually incorporated into our social order.

In terms of drug policy reform, the mere act of smoking pot isn't going to change a thing. Let's face it, the majority of marijuana consumers are not making a statement by their act, in fact they're hiding their habit in order to avoid arrest. If every single person who smoked came forward and admitted it publicly, that would make a difference. I know for a fact that many respected members of the community are regular consumers. But it's not going to happen as long the penalities for honesty are so high.

Neither do I think that marijuana consumers should be arrested and I'm not willing to condemn them for breaking a law I don't believe is just. The way I figure it, people break laws every day. We drive too fast, we jaywalk, we violate laws that are on the books and aren't enforced anymore, mainly colonial era blue laws about sex. Breaking a law in a way that does no harm to another person is certainly not a moral failing in my view.

I think the answer then is it makes no sense to abide by a law that causes more harm in its enforcement than the breaking of the law does. By the same token, I believe that if you believe a law is so wrongheaded that you're willing to risk arrest to break it, you have a moral obligation to try to change it. That's largely why I started this blog in the first place. To bring the issue into public debate at least and to try to garner enough support among non-consumers to take pot smokers out of the criminal class. So, what do you think?


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