Liberty: Should Marijuana Be Illegal?
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Liberty: Should Marijuana Be Illegal?

A brief look at positive and negative liberty in context of marijuana laws. Should marijuana be illegal looks at how laws bind our actions or engender freedom.

The legitimacy of legalizing marijuana is often a hot topic, but rarely is the legitimacy of it’s illegalization discussed. Many liberties are violated in the way our laws presently work.  Often personal liberties have been sacrificed in order to preserve some sense of communal protection and safety.

Under positive liberty the state or in our case government posits laws that dictate punishment according to infringements. These laws include everything ranging from the ban on murder to the ban on crossing the street outside of a marked walkway. Strictly speaking positive liberties tell you what you cannot do.  The system becomes convoluted as it produces many newly needed explications of what is necessary as law.

Negative liberties on the other hand limit your freedom only in limiting your infringement on an other's liberty. For instance, there would be no law against murder; yet, murder would be punishable and illegal as one could hardly deny murdering another takes their liberty and freedom.  The nature is a matter of how the law is defined.  It is meant to protect the harm done to a individual, not to prevent the murderous act.  In other words it is not 'murder' which is illegal, but the murdering of a person.

In this sense I can full well say marijuana should not be illegal. There is no necessary infringement on others by ones use of marijuana. In so far as our forefathers have attempted to insure our liberty as Americans, as Humans, we are entitled to our liberty.  Perhaps individuals have used marijuana in unwise ways.  In this case they may even have infringed upon another’s liberty.  In which case they would be due

Negative liberties might seem like a complete and unordered freedom where an individual would be free to do anything and everything with no fear of punishment. It has purposely been portrayed along side anarchy in attempts to give both a negative ‘dark side’ in pop culture.

The key factor in the negative conception is that is easy to see when a liberty is violated. The punishments can easily be harsh or soft just like in positive systems. Perhaps the greatest flaw of all is that under negative liberties it is not always clear what actions can be completed and what actions cannot without causing harm.

This issue is due to the fact that in essence negative liberties have a single law, not to invade another’s liberty. Positive laws make it nice and simple, if you know the laws, you know what it is that you can and cannot do.  This leaves room for loop holes. Negative conceptions run into the problem of two mutually conflicting actions of freewill. If I want to perform x, and it infringes on your liberties, you therefore want to prevent my from performing x. My liberty is in danger of being violated by your liberty as your liberty is in danger of my violation.  This makes a case for cooperation as much as it does the difficulty in solving negative liberty related conflicts.

In the case of marijuana reform this can be related to the vast majority of smokers who smoke, simply to end their day. This would seem to be legitimate in so far as they are partaking in something without necessarily exposing others to it, harming others or even involving others.  In similar ways marijuana is often used as a general pain reliever.

Some might see that under this conception of law people are far more free to do what is in their interest of liberty and yet we can keep the same punitive system of law.

(even though one might question why we should

punish rather than attempt to reform


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