In just a few days, Montanans will go to the polls and vote their preferences on office holders and issues. One of these issues is whether marijuana should be legalized for general use among the public. This question will be settled democratically, once and for all, on Nov. 3 when a majority of voters choose to impose their viewpoint on the opposing minority. Settled, that is, until the losing minority can gin up enough of whatever it takes to bring the issue into contention again.
There are usually only two sides promoted as pertains to this question and, of course, there are all the shades of gray between these two extremes.
1. People have a “right” to use marijuana no matter what anyone else says, thinks, or believes. The State must grant the privilege of exercising that right, making it completely legal to do so for any consenting adult.
2. Marijuana use should not be legalized, condoned, or allowed under any circumstances. It is a “gateway” drug, the use of which leads to more dangerous drugs and, ultimately, the degradation of society.
In the case of the first, the State is seen as an indulgent parent, granting favors to its subordinate children, who are always asking for more and always shielding them from the consequences of their actions.
In the case of the second, the State is seen as a strict parent, refusing its subordinate children the opportunity to decide for themselves, never allowing them to make mistakes out of a sense of overbearing “paternalism” and breeding rebellion among those thwarted.
That is about all there is to it. Summed up, it can be expressed in one of two ways: “I will do as I please!” or “You will do as you’re told!” Stubborn, rebellious, immature selfishness vs. tyrannical, hide-bound, rules-reliant selfishness. A neat, tidy, us vs. them standoff.
But there are questions which cry out for answers.
Why should anyone of a legally defined adult age have to gain permission from the Law in order to ingest, inhale, or inject any foreign substance into his or her own body? Why should anyone have the authority or power under the Law to order and control the actions of anyone else according to his or her own opinions? Should anyone be able to act in any way which might be “beneficial” to them privately, but detrimental to the society around them? Are there or should there be limits to personal behavior?
I will not take part in the ‘either-or’ proposition. Neither side will get my vote. I will not “grant permission” to my neighbor because it is not mine to give. Neither will I “refuse permission” because I do not hold that authority over him. Instead, I will allow him to live his life freely, as he sees fit, and be there to help him if and when he needs it. Exactly the way I want him to treat me—as a responsible, mature, person able to make my own decisions.
Otherwise, as Stevie Ray Vaughn put it in his hit song, Crossfire,
“Whatever happened to the Golden Rule? We got stranded, caught in the crossfire.”
Yes, caught in the crossfire. Perhaps we should approach this from a new direction—that of liberty, freedom, and love for humanity instead of power, popularity, and love of money?