The legalization of marijuana, or the decriminalization of any drug for that matter, is the third rail of American liberalism.
Any politician or public figure that touches it, or any self-respecting Democrat that wants their other views to be taken seriously, can't go near it without their hair standing on end. They can't touch the issue without being jolted from the public arena at the speed of light.
Such a stance is soft on crime, is indicative of irresponsibility and points to a lack of values or a failed appreciation of American cultural mores.
Yet why is it such a distasteful idea that we legalize drugs? Why is it that, "drugs are bad, mmkay?"
I ask because at the end of the day, it is not the laws erected against drugs that I have come to question. It is this fundamental belief that they have no place in society, and that those who seek to use them are somehow inferior or delinquent.
Why do we cringe when we see a heroine user injecting himself? Is it because we know he might, or soon will be, addicted? Or, is it because we are all a little bit afraid of needles?
Why do we turn our heads in disgust from the girl doing cocaine? Because it is sad that she needs this escape from her life, or because we fear for her mind and body, or instead because we have been conditioned to do so?
Why are we, as a society of college students, so much more accepting of marijuana?
Is it because it has less addictive properties than other drugs and stands to cause less brain damage; or because it looks not unlike a cigarette?
I cannot help but believe that there is some fundamental psychology at work in our fear of drugs and drug users. I want to understand it better so I know that the decisions I make on the issue are the right ones for the right reasons.
Let me just make the comment, before I continue, that intuitively I understand why drugs are bad for you. I've seen the MRIs of a patient's brain with holes in it, and I've watched the egg fry first hand as good friends have degenerated under the influence.
I also consider addiction to be one of the saddest situations in which a person can find themselves. To be dependent on any substance is the ultimate erosion of a person's individuality and character.
Yet, by the same token, I have seen recreational drug users live their lives responsibly. There is no doubt in my mind that many readers know someone using drugs "stronger" than marijuana and aren't even aware of it.
These people have made choices about what to do with their own body and can remain constructive members of our society. They may be an exception, but they are a walking contradiction to everything we have been taught about the effects of drugs.
They are model students, businessmen and professionals.
Are they as despicable as the desperate junkies, with bloodshot eyes and a tremble in their fingers, frantically looking for their next fix?
Maybe not, and what does that mean for our stereotypes? Does it really come down to a case by case basis as to whether or not a person is able to use drugs without becoming a burden on society?
If so, what does it mean for the people who are able to snort cocaine or take pills recreationally, in the truest sense of the word?
Granted, they are supporting a criminal element in America, but only criminal because we have made it so.
I think perhaps it comes down to an ultimate question of what it is we are targeting about drug use. Is it the actual drug use because it is harmful to people and to their neighbors?
Or instead, are we trying to fight against the people who just aren't equipped to deal with drugs in a responsible and informed manner?
If it is actually the latter ( at least it should be the latter ), we need to make some fundamental changes in our nation's drug policies.
I recognize that I have offered a lot more questions than answers, but that is because questions are all I really have.
Like many, I am just waiting for the day when we will be able to sit down and have a rational discussion about the issue without it being a career ending circus.
When that day will be? Yet another good question.
Andrew Friedman is a junior majoring in international affairs. His column appears Mondays.
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