The following editorial appeared in the Centre Daily Times recently, It was sent to me by several individuals. I reprint here because of the my personal involvement in this controversy.
Many of the people demonstrating locally for marijuana legalization describe their crusade in terms
of human rights and a struggle for freedom. Some allege medicinal benefits, including glaucoma, nausea and unique pain-relieving properties. The Doonesbury comic strip has been making the same point recently.
It appears, however, that the demonstrators have a very limited grasp of the rational and historic
origins of human and civil rights. They seem to have adopted a simplistic definition, which is:"I may do whatever I wish, as long as I do not bring harm to anyone else." Exactly how they expect people to manage the second part of that statement while under the influence of a mind-altering drug remains unexplained.
Human rights are more accurately defined as those freedoms of action which are required for the
realization of the full potential and continuation of human life. John Locke described those as
broadly based on life, liberty and property rights, every one of them bringing with it a commensurate obligation for its responsible exercise.
Human beings are not born with the powerful instinctive behavior of other animals. We have only one primary tool of survival, which is the capacity of our minds to reason. We survive and are successful to the extent that, one, our minds are able to perceive reality accurately, and that, two, we are able to respond to that reality in a rational manner.
To the extent that we misread reality, or that we respond in irrational ways, we risk bringing harm to others and ourselves. The reason that lying and deception are immoral is that they distort reality for other people, leading them to respond to potentially harmful false perceptions. The abuse of intoxicating or hallucinogenic substances is intentionally lying to oneself, and is such a contemptible
act that it has no place in a serious discussion of human rights.
One of the greatest libertarians of the 20th century, Ayn Rand, described drug abuse as "the attempt to obliterate one's consciousness, the quest for a deliberately induced insanity. As such it is so obscene an evil that any doubt about the moral character of its practitioners is itself an obscenity."
Rand would have been very angered to learn that the name of her fictional hero, John Galt, was being used locally to promote the legalization of narcotic substances. How ironic that, here in State College, the movement is being led by self-proclaimed "libertarians."
Derived from our human rights, American civil rights may be defined as those freedoms of action that are required for full and active participation in a democratic society. Freedoms of speech, press, assembly, worship, petition and voting are among them. Pot smoking would be a strange bedfellow in such a list, since it is essentially an act of withdrawal.
Far from being an act of participation, drug use is an avenue of escape. It contributes nothing to active citizenship or to the democratic process.
Therefore, to describe pot smoking in terms of human and civil rights is to demean the virtue and
basis of both ideals.
With respect to the medicinal argument, we know that morphine and other narcotics have medical applications, but we do not make them available for recreational purposes, nor do we let people write their own prescriptions.
There should be no objection to legitimate and professionally prescribed medical applications of any particular substance, including whatever is useful in marijuana, although whether or not smoking is the safest and most effective delivery system is open to dispute.
Other than that, however, the medicinal argument is not persuasive, and appears to be little more than an attempt to anoint the legalization crusade with an air of legitimacy.
For the vast majority of users, the lighted marijuana cigarette is symbolic, not of freedom, but of license. Its dull glow illuminates the entry portal into what becomes, for far too many, the self-induced schizophrenia of serious drug abuse.
The inescapable conclusion is that recreational marijuana use adds nothing to civilized society or to
human productivity. It has a significant potential to detract from both. Far from being promoted, it should be actively discouraged by anyone with any semblance of social responsibility. JBF
In response to JBF's editorial I would like to say the following; Concerning the alleged medicinal benefits. These have been confirmed by medical Doctors and by patients as well as the federal government who supplies 8 users with federally grown pot for their ailments. I may add that doctors and patients are best qualified to decide what is medicine, not lawyers in Washington D.C.
He says we have a very limited grasp of the rational and historic origins of human and civil rights. That we seem to have adopted a simplistic definition, which is: "I may do whatever I wish, as long as I do not bring harm to anyone else." It is exactly those thoughts on which this country was founded. History tells us that hemp and marijuana have played a huge part in the history of this country, as medicine, textiles and yes in recreational uses. George Washington was the first president that admitted inhaling JFK was the last.
He continues "Exactly how they expect people to manage the second part of that statement while under the influence of a mind-altering drug remains unexplained.
To this I say the same way people under the influence of all the mind altering substances, dispensed by doctors and pharmacies as well as those that can be bought over the counter manage to get by in our society. He says, "We have only one primary tool of survival, which is the capacity of our minds to reason." If this is true then why do we have so many guns and other weapons on the market. He calls Ayn Rand one of the greatest libertarians of the 20th century. While the fact is that Ayn Rand's philosophy is called objectionism. He talks about drug abuse, without making any distinction between use and abuse. He follows in the governments position of labeling marijuana a narcotic although it has none of the properties of a narcotic. He calls us self proclaimed Libertarians, the protests may be libertarian sponsored, Dr. Heicklen is a registered libertarian, but Not all of us are Libertarians, I personally have great issues with their overall philosophy, but they are right about the marijuana laws.
He says drug use is an avenue of escape, so are alcohol, good romance novels, hot baths and long vacations. He states morphine and other narcotics have medical applications, but we do not make them available for recreational purposes. Let me assure you that they are used and abused for recreational purposes as are most prescription drugs. He mentioned the self-induced schizophrenia of serious drug abuse. I would ask what does this statement have to do with marijuana? I would have to say to the author that it would be wise to read up on an issue before showing his ignorance in a public forum. I will soon be returning to State College, I ask him to come listen to the facts, instead of repeating propaganda. Thomas Jefferson once said," that the greatest tryanny is the rule of the dead over the living." The laws we protest were written in 1937, they may have had a purpose then, that is debatable. They serve no legimate purpose today. In closing I say I am proud to be John Galt jr and I will continue to be me, until this issue is resolved. John Galt jr.
I sent my response to the CDT they said:
Mr. Galt ... Unfortunately, due to the huge response to the Drug War column (all of it in opposition to the war), we have had to reject all letters received or not verified by Friday, Aug. 21. We simply need to keep this forum open for other issues.
Please know that the Drug War protesters were very well represented by
all of the letters we published (most of them in our Sunday, Aug. 23
edition). There were no letters in defense of the criminalization effort.
This issue will surely surface again in the future, and at that time, we
will run more letters. Until then, however, there are other topics that
our local and Web readers want to discuss via our letters forum, and I
am obligated to make sure the space is not dominated by any one, specific topic.
Sincerely, Bill Reader
Editorial Page Editor
Centre Daily Times, State College, Pa.