Political Compass #29: Marijuana should be legalised.

Many political debates here have included references to The Political Compass, which uses a set of 61 questions to assess one’s political orientation in terms of economic left/right and social libertarianism/authoritarianism (rather like the “Libertarian diamond” popular in the US).

And so, every so often I will begin a thread in which the premise for debate is one of the 61 questions. I will give which answer I chose and provide my justification and reasoning. Others are, of course, invited to do the same including those who wish to “question the question”, as it were.

It would also be useful when posting in these threads to give your own “compass reading” in your first post, by convention giving the Economic value first. My own is
SentientMeat: Economic: -5.12, Social: -7.28, and so by the above convention my co-ordinates are (-5.12, -7.28). Please also indicate which option you ticked. I might suggest what I think is the “weighting” given to the various answers in terms of calculating the final orientation, but seeing for yourself what kind of answers are given by those with a certain score might be more useful than second-guessing the test’s scoring system.

Now, I appreciate that there is often dissent regarding whether the assessment the test provides is valid, notably by US conservative posters, either because it is “left-biased” (??) or because some propositions are clearly slanted, ambiguous or self-contradictory. The site itself provides answers to these and other Frequently Asked Questions, and there is also a separate thread: Does The Political Compass give an accurate reading? Read these first and then, if you have an objection to the test in general, please post it there. If your objection is solely to the proposition in hand, post here. If your objection is to other propositions, please wait until I open a thread on them.

The above will be pasted in every new thread in order to introduce it properly, and I’ll try to let each one exhaust itself of useful input before starting the next. Without wanting to “hog the idea”, I would be grateful if others could refrain from starting similar threads. To date, the threads are:
Does The Political Compass give an accurate reading?
Political Compass #1: Globalisation, Humanity and OmniCorp.
#2: My country, right or wrong
#3: Pride in one’s country is foolish.
#4: Superior racial qualities.
#5: My enemy’s enemy is my friend.
#6: Justifying illegal military action.
#7: “Info-tainment” is a worrying trend.
#8: Class division vs. international division. (+ SentientMeat’s economic worldview)
#9: Inflation vs. unemployment.
#10: Corporate respect of the environment.
#11: From each according to his ability, to each according to need.
#12: Sad reflections in branded drinking water.
#13: Land should not be bought and sold.
#14: Many personal fortunes contribute nothing to society.
#15: Protectionism is sometimes necessary in trade.
#16: Shareholder profit is a company’s only responsibility.
#17: The rich are too highly taxed.
#18: Better healthcare for those who can pay for it.
#19: Penalising businesses which mislead the public.
#20: The freer the market, the freer the people.
#21: Abortion should be illegal.
#22: All authority must be questioned.
#23: An eye for an eye.
#24: Taxpayers should not prop up theatres or museums.
#25: Schools shouldn’t make attendance compulsory.
#26: Different kinds of people should keep to their own.
#27: Good parents sometimes have to spank their children.
#28: It’s natural for children to keep secrets.

*Proposition #29: * Marijuana should be legalised.

SentientMeat (-5.12, -7.28) ticks Strongly Agree.

Like the late Bill Hicks, I agree so strongly that I believe it should be not only legal but mandatory - one ought to be able to say to the impatient, complaining dickhead: “Shut up and smoke that. It’s the law.” I’d also love to see every 30 year-old in the midst of developing an unhealthy authoritarian and monetaristic outlook forced to sit in a sunny field for an afternoon, eat a couple of spacecakes (“brownies” in the US I believe?), and smile at the wonder of the universe while their inflated sense of their place in it dissipates like a puff of smoke, giggling at the absurdity of worrying about property prices. These kinds of substances have the opposite effect in the brain to anaesthetic: you’re more conscious! Why go through life half asleep?

Well, OK, I’m joking about the mandatory part. But the Prohibition of cannabinoids is also a joke considering the physical and social damage caused by its altogether less cordial brother, alcohol. There is to my mind no consistent argument for the prohibition of marijuana which cannot be applied to alcohol: Door to “harder” drugs? So is alcohol. Physically harmful and addictive? Alcohol is far more so. Not as “traditional” or “socially acceptable”? Yes it is, and yes it is, depending where you are. Only the true, universal Prohibitionist can make such arguments with a straight face, and they must face some difficult questions concerning what a shambles it was last time. The only word I can think of for non-Prohibitionists who disagree with #29 is “hypocrite”.

Here in the UK it has recently become effectively legal (ie. “decriminalised”) to use cannabis in one’s own house, for which I am very grateful. However, it can still be somewhat inconvenient to buy, and so a full-blown Amsterdam of a scenario would be more welcome still (with a few restrictions on partaking in public if necessary, rather like no smoking or anti-social drinking laws).

So, for the purposes of Proposition #29, I believe I’ve said all I need to. However, to proceed to the obvious next step, yes, I do believe that LSD, speed, ecstasy, cocaine, heroin etc. ought also to be legally available, given that they could be mass produced in pure doses which are as “safe” as other pharmaceuticals and sold for often less than 5% of the current street price. The vast sums saved on enforcement/incarceration and generated from tax revenues should be ploughed into intensive education at school level about the honest effects and consequences of their use: Drugs can ruin your life, just as alcohol can. Some drugs are so addictive that they will ruin your life, just as alcoholism will. But I and many other recreational drug users have non-ruined lives; indeed I claim that drugs have enriched and enhanced my life, and I would challenge anyone who has enjoyed a spacecake on a sunny day to deny their positive effect (on my life, at least). I do not need drugs any more than I “need” live symphonies, Welsh mountains or beautifully written literature.

If there is a “War on Drugs”, then a useful first rule of war is to do that which your enemy least wants you to do. Let us put all the drug dealers out of business permanently, not just the ones which caught and immediately replaced due to the market demand and the opportunity for profit.

Economic Left/Right: -3.88
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -3.79
(I don’t know if that’s exactly the same as last time I tested it!)


I realise there isn’t anything that can be said about cannabis that doesn’t somehow apply to alcohol and/or tobacco, but my only concern regarding its legalisation is that it might add to the social problems we already have, and maybe we already have enough.

I’m not the slightest bit concerned that someone wishes to alter their mental state.

I am the slightest bit concerned about the potentially harmful effects to the user’s health; I live in the UK, where we have the national health service(which I think is, on the whole, a good system, but that is an entirely different debate), therefore someone who deliberately damages their own health is placing a burden on a system that everybody else pays for and is diverting resources away from the care of people who have health problems that are not of their own making (and I realise that ‘problems of their own making’ is a continuum here).

I am more than slightly concerned about the issue of public order; in my experience and opinion, we have quite enough vandalism, road accidents, violence etc already as a result of alcohol; I don’t see it as practical to ban alcohol though, but at the same time, I’m very cautious about adding another intoxicant to the pot.

If there is a genuine way to legalise these recreational chemicals at negligible inconvenience and discomfort to innocent third parties; I say go for it (I’ll choose to pass on it myself though).

I strongly agree. I advocate the legalization of ALL drugs, with the proviso that there is no obligation to save a crackhead if he ODs. IOW, that person waives their rights upon purchase and are rolling the dice with each hit. Same with coke, smack, and all the other really hard stuff.

Economic Left/Right: -1.88
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -4.92

I don’t see how pot can be lumped in the same category as cocaine or PCP, but then again the only “illicit” drug I’ve ever used is pot, and that’s the subject here.

It is hypocritical for our society (US) to waste so many resources punishing those that smoke while allowing alcohol to flourish. In a supposedly free society, let the people decide how to pursue happiness, as long as it doesn’t infringe on anyone else’s life, liberty or pursuit of happiness.

Today I’m Economic Left/Right: -0.50, Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -2.36. I think that I usually score closer to 0 and +1. Must be feeling liberal today LOL.

Strongly agreed. From everything that I’ve read and experienced personally, it’s a much less damaging drug than alcohol. Besides, it shouldn’t be the State’s business what I ingest (along with a ton of other stuff that I do).

-4, -5, or somewhere there abouts.

Strongly agree.

I’ve not found a good reason why alcohol is legal but pot isn’t. Nobody gets stoned, comes home and beats up the wife and kids. Huge amounts of taxpayers money are being used to track down, arrest and prosecute marijuana users, when huge amounts of cash could be generated for the government by legalizing and taxing it.

Pot could be called a “gateway drug” but so could caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, and many others. The term is largely meaningless, IMO, and is used by those opposing it as a scare tactic.

Substance abuse exists whether “healthy” alternatives are available or not. In communities where all other alternatives are removed, people have turned to sniffing gasoline. Who needs that?

+7/-3 Agree.

What one does with one’s won body is none of the governmnet’s busniess. I don’t really have anything else to say about the matter.

True, but getting stoned and not managing to brake in time to stop your truck ploughing through a crowd of pedestrians is not inconcievable - if it is possible to design a method of detecting whether a person is intoxicated by drugs (as opposed to just having used them a week earlier), then this objection would diminish somewhat.

Does it matter? If you plow through a crowd of pedestrians, does what caused you to plow through matter?

But I know that it would be good to enforce laws against driving while intoxicated, to try to prevent those plowing-through incidents. I think what we need is a good sobriety test, combined with minicams for the officers (so they can prove the failure of the sobriety test in court). The percentage of a compound in your bloodstream is irrelevant; if you’re drunk at 0.0001% blood alcohol level, you shouldn’t drive. If you’re sober (and somehow alive) at 50% blood alcohol level, there’s no harm in you driving. The problem with this, of course, as people would take it the second way more than the first, and convince themselves that they’re okay to drive. If the sobriety test were simple enough, though, they could test themselves (or their friends could test them), which is impossible if the tests are based on special equipment.

Economic Left/Right: -5.50
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -4.87

If you get drunk and beat up your wife and kids, does what caused you to beat them up matter?
(I know the alcohol thing wasn’t your argument BTW)

It does matter if preventing the cause could have prevented the effect; if permitting a wider range of intoxicants produces a wider range (or greater volume) of dangerously irresposible acts, then permitting the wider range should not be done, but as I said earlier, if it is possible to permit the use of recreational drugs without increasing the amount of inconvenience to innocent third parties, I have no objection at all.
I do think that reducing the existing amount of inconvenience that results from abuse of currently permitted intoxicants (such as alcohol) is desirable, but hard to implement due to legacy.

I find that a little weak, Mange. Should we disallow a new kind of sleeping tablet purely on the grounds of it adding to the *already present[/]i risk of people undetectably driving under their influence?

Your problem, it seems, is with alcohol. If you are willing to accept the legal status of alcohol despite its detrimental social effects, you must do the same with marijuana. It sounds like you really advocate legalising marijuana but banning alcohol, based on the extent of the associated social problems.

Unless I’m blind and don’t see the near-ubiquitous black eyes, I don’t think we are ignoring “what” causes it. We put “it” in jail. :slight_smile:

Strongly agree. All drugs.

In my younger days, I would have checked agree or even strongly agree. Now I’m in the disagree camp.

*Marijuana vs. alcohol * Both impair driving. For alcohol, we have established blood levels of impairment and there is enough data out there so that an individual knows that under the right conditions (having a little food, observing the body weight/alcohol ingestion charts), he can have a social drink without significant harm to himself or risk to others. The liquor you drink is pretty stable in that a shot of 80 proof is fairly uniform in its true alcohol content. You can pretty well predict the effect on the body of ingesting a known quantity of alcohol. For marijuana, it’s a little different. The strength of what you’re smoking is going to vary depending on the particular sample that you have. Maybe sometimes you could smoke a joint with little driving impairment, or perhaps you get some killer weed where one joint blows you away. Not the kind of thing that you should risk your life on, and more importantly, not the kind of thing you should risk someone else’s life on. We don’t have the centuries of experience with marijuana that we do with alcohol, we know less about its effects and potential risk to the body. At the very least with alcohol, we know the devil we’re dealing with. If the FDA would standardize the strength and purity of marijuana, and if long term studies showed the medical risks to be minimal, then I’d change my mind. In the absence of better information and better control over the product, I prefer it remain illegal.

*It’s my body and you can’t tell me what to do. * To a point, but society’s medical resources are our business. If you’re going to ingest something that potentially is going to make you a burden on our finite medical resources, I would argue that you shouldn’t be allowed to do so.

Bob, do you advocate Prohibition?

No. We have experience with alcohol and there are established ways to treat alcoholism (AA). You can also get drugs that make you sick if you drink. Unless I’m mistaken, there is not an equivalent proven treatment for marijuana addiction. There are responsible social drinkers and there are boozers. I’m not certain there is such a thing as a responsible heroin user, a responsible LSD user, etc. For maijuana, I’m just not sure if one can be a social smoker with no ill effect. I’d just like to see a consensus in the medical community that marijuana poses no greater health threat to the individual or to society than alcohol.

This is circular reasoning based on the assumption that medical resources are a public issue. The exact same argument can be made about almost anything a typical person eats during the day. In fact, the number of people adversly affected by improper food choices is probably much, much higher.

As for the analogy with “80 proof alcohol”, well the reason pot varies in dosage is because it’s illegal. There is no reason a similar system couldn’t be set up to rate the potency of pot if it were legal. Again, circular reasoning: applying an aspect of the substance that is caused by it being illegal to argue why it must remain illegal.

My mistake. I didn’t mean to say that pot varies in dosage because it’s illegal, but that the dosage is largely unknown because it’s illegal. Alcohol would have the exact same problem if it were illegal.

I have a hard time with this proposition. The simplest answer for me to give is to say I’m for legalization, but with me it’s really more a position of “yes, but”. That’s to say I think it should be available to any adult who wants it, but it shouldn’t be merchandised as a typical consumer product. People should be able to grow their own, but widescale wholesaling and marketing should be regulated.

All this goes to illustrate the fact that there’s a wide, nebulous area between complete deregulation on one side, and strict prohibition on the other.

Oh well, I suppose that’s true of just about every proposition on this test.

But- you don’t impair driving by eating a triple cheeseburger. And medical resources are indeed a public issue. Taxpayer monies subsidize hospitals, physician education, drug research, etc. If you propose to legalize recreational drugs, I maintain the burden of proof is on those in favor to prove that it is not going to drain public resources.

I’m sure you’re correct to a point. But I’m not certain that it is as easy to regulate THC content of marijuana as it is the alcohol content of liquor. That might be one the botanists can answer. Can we control the content with a deviation of 10%? 40%? 0.001% I don’t know, and I think we need to know that if it will be legal.

My bottom line is that to legalize a substance, either for recreational or for medical use, there should be sound scientific research behind it. The same scientific scrutiny should be given to marijuana as there was for Viagara.