We all have our vices: some of us enjoy the occasional cigarette; others prefer a nice beer after a hard week at work. These vices have developed as a way of dealing with the realities of life, allowing us to escape our often stressful and challenging daily challenges.
We often look at our vices and excuse ourselves from the negativity that comes from it; we allow our moment of sin. Yet we often forget that by allowing ourselves this vice we contribute to a negative factor within our community and the wider society. We find comfort that by purchasing our vice from a legal vendor and contributing in a positive way we help balance the negative consequences that may arise from the said vice. In the case of alcohol we pay significant tax, and most of us understand that this is for good reason.
Alcohol causes hundreds of millions of dollars in damage to our health every year, it causes serious harm within family environments and much crime within our society stems from the overindulgence of this vice. Yet the tax we pay from purchasing our alcohol goes toward an attempt to create equilibrium with this harm, because of course none of us would be able to live without our vice, right?
We also live within a society where we believe in freedom of speech, freedom of expression, of liberty and progression. We see the harm caused by our vice as acceptable because we feel that as individuals we should be allowed to make decisions that affect our own health. We also don’t appreciate being told that we can’t smoke inside; but we appreciate that because other people have the right to avoid second hand smoke, we inevitably go outside.
Yesterday, Dakta Green was jailed for eight months on drugs charges. The judge held that the law must be followed, and I agree. That is what makes this situation so much more tragic. Our laws should represent our belief structures, they should recognise that as a democratic society, we should be entitled to our individual vices if they can be controlled and the harm minimised. Yet today we have failed ourselves; we have failed because we’ve created laws to imprison a 61 year old man for enjoying his vice that arguably causes little harm to those around him while we continue to see no issue with the uncontrollable harm that our own vices cause.
Isn’t there an ingrained hypocrisy that we have laws forbidding people like Mr Green from enjoying their vice, while the majority of us have no problem with allowing our own vice to cause serious damage?
What is wrong with debating this issue like any other in our society? Is it because the ignorant reply is always that ‘you’re just a stoner’ when a person raises the point? As if everyone out there with a reasonable view on progressive drug reform must be a crazed user like an out of control drunk demanding everyone see their idiocy as just them joking around the next day? Are most people simply too afraid to challenge this view?
I wrote this article because after hearing of Mr Green’s sentence I spoke with a friend in her 50’s who enjoys a glass of wine every evening; I asked her what defines her position on the issue. Her reply was that ‘marijuana is illegal’ and managed to back this up with a comment that she had seen some ‘spaced out’ people high. Is that really the only argument those supporting reform have to fight against; and doesn’t that go against her own position that alcohol is acceptable?
I wrote recently about Kronic and the disturbing consequences of it on our society, and I feel now that we must start some rational debate on the issue of broader drug policies. The focus needs to move from being removal to control, from having a legal objective to one centred on health. How much money could be made from taxing Mr Green’s café? Could that tax be then used to reduce harm caused by marijuana and educate our children to avoid it? It seems that a tax would be more appropriate than spending thousands of dollars keeping this harmless man in prison in any case. States in America and other countries around the world are beginning to have a progressive approach to drug laws, what is stopping us?