Journal of the Association of Future Philosophers
Medical Marijuana Illuminates Government’s Illegitimacy
I do not envy the apologists for government. The recent government intimidation of doctors who would help their patients with medicinal marijuana and heroin makes life difficult for the apologists.
Federal officials have threatened doctors who want to heal some sick people with the pleasurable recreational drugs marijuana and heroin. The government’s threat is oppressively serious, especially in light of the empirical evidence.
In his 1974 book, Ceremonial Chemistry, the Ritual Persecution of Drugs, Addicts and Pushers, Thomas Szasz wrote that up until 1938, “Since the enactment of the Harrison Act of 1914, 25000 physicians have been arraigned on narcotics charges, and 3000 served penitentiary sentences.”
The apologists for government have failed to provide a good ethical justification for this crime, but one attempt to justify the current intimidation is by appealing to the fact that that is the law.
Philosophy students are at an advantage in seeing through this sophistic attempt at ethical justification. This is due not only to the study of concepts such as law or justice, but also due to the legal trial and murder of Socrates.
The trial of Socrates is the paradigm of law, following all the legal rules and procedures, resulting in obvious injustice, the murder of Socrates. The pseudo-intellectuals who still confuse law and justice are over two millennia behind the curve.
Another argument is that medical marijuana is intended as a foot in the door leading to legalization. This is true, but as an argument for justifying government’s threats, it commits the logical fallacy of attacking intentions rather than attempting to reconcile government’s threats with justice.
The apologists for government might argue that marijuana and heroin have no possible medical uses. But, this denies available empirical evidence.
Marijuana is helpful to some patients who lack appetite by making them hungry, and some with glaucoma find marijuana relieves the pressure in their eyes.
Some doctors prefer to prescribe heroin to their patients since it is less likely to cause upset stomach than morphine. Obviously, the harm government officials are causing these patients is real.
Since every person has a different DNA sequence, each person has different proteins and enzymes. Therefore, chemicals that help one patient might not work with others. Hence, claiming generally that pleasurable drugs have no possible medical uses probably ignores beneficial treatments for some people.
The apologists for government who find themselves in an untenable position might criticize and wish to reform government, fantasizing about changing its behavior.
They might fantasize about a government that doesn’t harm sick people by preventing them from finding the best treatment.
They might fantasize about courts of law miraculously turning into courts of justice where victims of the drug laws get full restitution.
But, upon returning to reality and looking at the empirical evidence, they will find that even when government changes one of its unjust laws, its victims rarely (if ever) receive full restitution.
When government repealed its slave laws, slaves were not given even the appearance of restitution.
And, when alcohol prohibition was repealed, the people victimized by government officials did not receive full restitution.
Nonetheless, I’d like to see the apologists fantasizing about government becoming just and ethically legitimate.
For such fantasies are a tacit confession that real government, as it actually behaves in reality, cannot be reconciled with justice and is, therefore, ethically illegitimate.
This editorial was first published in 1997.
Copyright © 2003 The Association of Future Philosophers. All rights reserved.