When former Representative Ron Paul retired earlier this year, I thought to myself, “What will he most be remembered for?” The first two issues that immediately jumped to mind were his dedication for ending the Federal Reserve and his passion for the legalization of raw milk. The legalization of raw milk might seem like a strange and unlikely passion, but it symbolizes a fundamental libertarian belief: the government should not tell you what you can and cannot do to your body.
Many states, including Iowa, criminalize the retail selling of raw milk. Their reasoning? Raw milk (milk that has not been pasteurized or homogenized) is more likely to induce food-borne illness in the drinker as compared to typical store-bought milk. Essentially, the government is preventing an individual from consuming something because the government thinks consuming it would be harmful for the individual.
This belief can easily be applied to the issue of drug legalization. Recently, many individuals and groups have actively tried, and some with much success, to legalize the use of marijuana. This year, a student group, Students Lobbying Against Prohibition (SLAP), was even formed on our campus. Unfortunately, as I listen to politicians and advocacy groups alike promote the legalization of marijuana use, their reasoning is not one I agree with.
Although I am not going to start drinking raw milk or smoking marijuana, I strongly believe I should have the right to make that choice for myself. When an action to do something to one’s body causes no direct harm to any individual other than the individual who makes the decision, I believe said individual should have the right to do whatever he/she/ze wishes to do.*
I often hear the same explanations as to why the use of marijuana should be legal: it would create revenue for the government, marijuana use isn’t that bad for you, it would help reduce cartel violence in Mexico, marijuana can help treat certain illnesses/conditions, it would help with prison overpopulation, etc. None of these are reasons why marijuana should be legalized, though; these are all merely positive side effects that would coincide with the legalization of it.
The fundamental reason why marijuana should be legal is because the federal government shouldn’t have the right to tell you what you can and cannot do to your body. This line of thought goes beyond the issue of the legalization of marijuana. Granted more complicated problems often arise with other substances, I believe all substances should be legal on the federal level for individual consumption: whether it be apples, raw milk, marijuana, or heroin.
This being said, I do believe state governments have the constitutional right to limit what their citizens consume. Even though I hope all state governments share my belief that limiting what a citizen can consume is an over-step of government, I believe the constitution gives individual states the right to make that decision themselves.
Realistically, no politician has a chance of getting elected if he/she/ze runs on a platform of universal drug legalization. It is no secret that Ron Paul supports the legalization of all drugs, but even he, the most celebrated libertarian in U.S. political history, only vocally advocated for the legalization of marijuana in his most recent presidential run.
In this regard, I fully support groups such as SLAP. I might not agree with their reasoning why marijuana should be legalized, but I do agree with their final conclusion; marijuana should be legal.
I expect that within the next fifteen years, the majority of states, if not the federal government itself, will have either legalized or decriminalized the use of marijuana. The legalization of marijuana will hopefully be used as a stepping-stone leading towards the legalization of all drugs, and more importantly, the end of the belief that the government should be able to restrict what one can do to one’s body.
Until next time, remember, there’s always A View From Below.
*I find it necessary to note that while this statement may appear to apply to the abortion debate, this is not necessarily the case. A fundamental aspect of my reasoning is that the action one does to one’s body does not directly harm any other individual. Clearly, this is a controversial issue within the abortion debate.