Part 1 of “Whose Body is It?” probed whether the government has a right to outlaw the commerce of sexuality. Part 2 of this three-part series focuses on the issue of whether the government has the right to determine what citizens may consume, specifically drugs.
Frank passed the joint to his raven-haired partner Tarte. She drew in a drag and coughed. Then she complained, “I don’t feel anything.” It was her first time trying weed. As a curious, exploratory type she felt she had to try.
“I didn’t feel anything my first few times either, and then suddenly one time I had this high,” related Frank.
“But how do I do this?”
“I’m not an expert, but you’re supposed take a drag and hold it in for a while and then release it slowly.”
Frank took a drag to show her, and then he passed the joint back to Tarte. They were at a beach marijuana bar on a tropical island in Thailand. Frank was surprised to find such a bar in Thailand as he understood Thailand to be very strict about marijuana and drugs.
Frank wasn’t feeling much in the beginning either, but later he felt a little mellow. Tarte didn’t know if she was influenced. Frank told her she was mellower.
At the next table was a man who looked right out of the 1960s with shoulder length thinning hair and a tie-dye t-shirt; he held an enormously thick joint. Tarte and Frank laughed when they saw that. Not everyone, however, looked to be toking up; others were imbibing another popular drug: alcohol.
Frank railed at the hypocrisy of laws regulating the taking of certain drugs while having, what he knew to be a much more destructive drug, alcohol legally available to anyone of age.
“Are you sure that marijuana is safe?” asked Tarte.
“From what I know it is safer than alcohol, and supposedly it is non-addictive.”
“Then why is it illegal?”
“Well,” began Frank, followed by a clearing of his throat. “There is a reason why it is called ‘weed,’ and that is because it grows everywhere like a weed. But answer this question first…”
“What kind of world is it? How does the world run?”
“Huh? What do you mean? This isn’t going to be your capitalism, socialism talk, is it?” Tarte was apolitical, and talk about politics bored her.
“Well, sort of,” admitted Frank. “You are a teacher, right? You even said that teaching is not a passion of yours, so why do you do it?”
“Because it is not a bad job, and I get paid okay,” answered Tarte matter-of-factly.
“What do you do with your money?”
“I buy things.”
“You like chocolate, I know. If delicious and healthful dark chocolate grew in your backyard, would you go to the store and pay money for it?”
“Of course not.”
“How do you think the chocolate sellers would feel if chocolate grew everywhere freely available?”
Tarte got the point. The chocolate sellers would be out of the chocolate selling business. “So you mean the marijuana sellers would be out of business if people could just get their own growing freely all over the place?”
“Well, I’m looking at it a little differently because marijuana is illegal to grow for sale in most countries. Let’s look at what is legal — alcohol is legal, and cigarettes are legal. And this is big money business we are talking about. Many people drink alcohol for the same reason people smoke marijuana — to get a buzz. Well, if marijuana were a free buzz, could you imagine what impact that would have on alcohol and cigarette sales?”
Tarte nodded her head affirmatively. Playfully, she suggested, “Let’s go for a swim!” And she started running toward the ocean.
“Very funny. You don’t know how to swim.”
Tarte wanted a diversion. She stopped and turned around; soon she returned to the topic again: “Isn’t the government just trying to protect the people because marijuana is bad for people?”
“That requires a longer answer. First, are alcohol and cigarettes good for you?” Frank answered himself, “No, so hypocrisy is part of the government agenda. Second, is it really true that marijuana is as harmful as the mass media and government tell us? From what I have read, it is just so much disinformation. Third…”
Tarte interjected, “But they say marijuana leads to harder drugs.”
“Yes, they do say that. But what do the scientific studies say about that? You see, I prefer to go to the academic literature for my answers. Apparently, there is minimal evidence that marijuana, itself, should lead to hard drugs. Marijuana is not addictive, unlike cigarettes and alcohol. And third, even if marijuana is bad for us, whose decision is it what we put in our bodies? The government doesn’t outlaw alcohol, cigarettes, French fries, cola, and it is well known that these things are not good for our health. The government even subsidizes junk food. At the very least the government needs to abolish its hypocritical stance.”
“But people on drugs commit crimes, don’t they?”
“Some people under the influence of alcohol commit crimes and kill people when drunk. That doesn’t mean I think people shouldn’t be allowed to drink, or smoke, or toke, or snort, or inject. Ingesting anything should be a person’s right, but people must still be held responsible for their behaviors when they choose to come under the influence. Most people when they drink or toke don’t harm others. It is the same with driving. Most people don’t run over pedestrians, but some do. Should driving be outlawed then?”
Tarte pondered the analogy.
“So what is best for society? Is devoting resources to policing and jailing so-called users of drugs good? Wouldn’t the government be better off to control the sale of drugs, regulate the supply and quality, and collect taxes? The tax revenue could be used to educate, not propagandize, people about drugs and their effects, and it could also be used to treat addiction, and think about the money that could be saved by emptying the prisons of people who really committed no crime, and how police could focus their energy on protecting people from genuine crime and serving the community. Okay, alcohol and cigarette businesses would be unhappy about this, and so would the drug cartels, and even the CIA.”
“The CIA? Why the CIA?”
“The CIA is a major drug runner. Giving us complete dominion over our bodies would end a lucrative sideline for the CIA. And don’t think the CIA is the only governmental body involved in trafficking.”
“So these right-wingers…” Tarte shook her head at Frank, knowing that he was starting in capitalism and politics. “These right-wingers need to decide whether they support their rugged individualism or is it to be big government watching us and telling us what we should think and what we can do with our own bodies?”
Tarte laughed and waded knee deep into the water and began splashing Frank.