James Schultz: Ohio’s Marijuana Ban Must End For The Sake of Justice!
The subject of legalizing marijuana use for recreational purposes may soon be up for discussion among Ohioans once more. Identifying the pertinent political and moral principles and then applying those principles to the pertinent facts are necessary for answering this type of inquiry. Our choice should be based on at least three principles.
First, it is immoral to restrict someone else’s freedoms without first demonstrating that something really bad—and not just slightly bad—will occur, or is unacceptable likely to occur, if their freedom is not restrained. Second, our legislation should at the very least follow a coherent chain of reasoning. Because fairness demands it and since the law should be just, we ought to handle similar circumstances similarly.
Third, if we must limit someone else’s freedoms, we should try to do so as little as possible. The prohibition of marijuana use for recreational purposes is unjust and ought to be lifted when these principles are applied. The banning of marijuana severely curtails freedom. In 2021, law enforcement in Ohio arrested 6,450 people for marijuana possession and 219 people for marijuana sales, according to the FBI Crime Data Explorer. 6% of all arrests in Ohio are made in this manner.
Possession of 100 grams or less of marijuana is a petty misdemeanor in Ohio, according to the Revised Code. A conviction carries a fine of up to $150 but no additional jail time beyond the time linked with the arrest. Even though an arrest does not result in a conviction, it can nevertheless have serious negative effects.
Depending on the amount, people who are caught with more than 100 grams may be prosecuted with a misdemeanor or a felony. There won’t be a catastrophe if the prohibition is lifted. Given that the current wave of legalization in this country, which has now reached 21 states plus Washington, D.C., began in 2012 with Colorado and Washington, we do not need to speculatively consider the potential negative effects of legalization.
Additionally, a lot of individuals have been using marijuana illegally in huge quantities before that. Barack Obama, the previous president, and 48% of American adults, as per a 2022 Gallup Poll, have admitted to consuming marijuana at least once. I believe we would already be aware of the devastating effects of legalizing if they were to occur, but those nations that have done so, both inside and outside of the United States, have remained stable.
Marijuana use for recreational purposes is illegal, thus not all cases are the same. There are similarities between smoking marijuana and smoking cigarettes, alcohol, and junk food. All of these can be fun things to do, but they can also be harmful to you and those around you, especially if you do them frequently.
The major causes of avoidable fatalities in the United States, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, are alcohol, cigarettes, poor food, and low physical activity. Legalizing marijuana will undoubtedly result in some issues, but claiming that these issues will be more severe than those brought on by other things we permit doesn’t seem plausible to me.
Last but not least, outright banning marijuana use for recreational purposes is not the least restrictive way to stop the negative effects that banning marijuana is intended to stop. The fact that more young children will unintentionally consume marijuana-infused candy and end up in the emergency room is one of the arguments Gov. Mike Dewine has made against legalization.
An additional one is an increase in drunk driving. These are legitimate worries, but proponents of prohibition have exaggerated them. Less strenuous measures, such as mandating child-resistant packaging for edibles, allowing the sale of only smokable marijuana, or enhancing public transportation, can be taken to address these issues instead of outright banning it.
Any one of these three principles is not upheld by marijuana prohibition. It needs to end because it is unfair. I fervently hope that 2023 marks the end of this state. James Schultz is a graduate student in philosophy who previously served as an Indiana public defender. In Bowling Green, he resides.