Direct Democracy and the Legalization of Drugs

 The United States learned quickly in the 1920’s that the prohibition of alcohol was for all intents and purposes an impossibility, first ratifying and fourteen years later superseding a constitutional amendment to that end. But if the consumption of alcohol were an inherently immoral act, then irrespective of the rise of organized crime and the explosion in alcohol-related arrests, the prohibition of alcohol ought to have been retained.

Morality is a criterion for judging the social adaptiveness of a behavior. What would happen to the world were everyone to engage in a given act? If no appreciable harm would befall others, the act is at worst amoral, but it isn’t immoral. The state of the world would be no worse, even were all people engaged in the act.

Is the question of morality then even relevant when a private citizen ingests a substance? And is the mere possibility that an immoral act might be committed under the influence reason enough to prohibit ingestion altogether? Or do adult citizens retain the freedom to ingest whatever they wish within the safety of their own homes?

Since harming the innocent is by definition an immoral act — for it leaves the world in worse shape afterwards — when ingestion does cause harm, it is immoral. Pregnant women ought not ingest drugs other than those prescribed by a physician. A person under the influence who plows his car into a crowd or an oncoming vehicle, harming innocents, has transgressed what is moral.

The question for society is: Does our government enjoy the right to prohibit amoral behavior in order to preclude immoral behavior? Here we must detour into a discussion of probabilities. Harm is not certain to result from the ingestion of almost any popular drug. But isn’t it much more likely to result under the influence of some substances than others — PCP, bath salts, crack, or meth?

Addictive substances are predominantly harmful: they rob their users of their health, their values, their money, and their independence — all of which often lead to harm to others. And drugs like PCP and perhaps bath salts are predominantly harmful: they induce a psychosis in the user in which his safety and the safety of others is very likely at risk.

But do alcohol or marijuana, or most recreational drugs, fall into either such class — either destructively addictive or psychosis inducing? If the great majority of those polled, users or not, were answering candidly, they would undoubtedly answer: No.

But if our government enjoys any right to exist at all, then the protection of the innocent is the best justification for it. If it did not prohibit the ingestion of substances very likely to bring harm to the innocent — putting aside its harm to the users themselves — then it would at best be an amoral institution and likely an immoral one, one unworthy of further support.

In Amendment XV of this proposed direct democracy constitution, freedom is granted to citizens who wish to ingest those intoxicants that do not fall into the aforementioned categories:

The manufacture, sale, transportation or use by citizens of the United States, twenty-one years of age or older, of any intoxicant which is not likely to induce severe physiological addiction and withdrawal or temporary insanity, as understood by law, is hereby legalized and made subject to all laws respecting regulation of agriculture and commerce.

But the design of this document is only to lay the groundwork for a vast diversity among the American precincts — to solidify only a floor of morality below which no precinct may descend. Should some precincts choose to legalize even addictive and psychotic intoxicants, the proposed amendment does not actually bar them from this. Its purpose instead is to guarantee that inertia alone will not justify the government in continuing to prohibit almost all intoxicants, or even any amoral behavior, simply on the chance that doing so might prevent immoral behavior.

In the same amendment, the aforementioned foundational moral floor for all precincts is then made explicit in the second and third paragraphs:

But the use of any intoxicant, legal or illegal, concurrent with a violation of a federal, state, local or precinct law shall be a felony crime: an offense that suspends the self-sovereignty of the accused before and during trial and revokes it upon conviction; until the accused shall have been exonerated, or shall have served no less than one year in state or federal incarceration.

And the use of any illegal intoxicant by a custodial parent shall be, ipso facto, felony child neglect and cause the immediate loss of custody of all minor children upon arrest; whereupon custody shall be restored only upon exoneration, or completion of sentence and judicial consent.

In other words, even as our right to harmlessly alter reality is enshrined into law, this liberty, like all freedoms, is linked with responsibility to those around us, particularly to innocent children. Any crimes committed under the influence shift the behavioral category of drug use from an amoral behavior to an immoral one and so must be punished.

For we the People, under a new direct democracy, ought to be free to examine life itself so long as we harm no one else in the process while still well protected from others’ recklessness, no matter our chosen political precincts.

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