By Dylan R.N. Crabb
Since I’ve been old enough to question the meaning behind the words, “land of the free and home of the brave,” I have pondered over classic American ideas of freedom , specifically the apparent contradictions between the idea that Americans enjoy more freedom from tyranny than any other rationalized peoples and the punitive practices of American law enforcement agencies against non-violent criminals. If America really is the “land of the free,” why is it a crime to light up a pipe filled with cannabis in the privacy of one’s own home? What exatly is the American ideal of freedom?
In the interest of fairness, I do acknowledge that (in general) the United States of America is a decent place to live compared to many other countries across the globe. While it is not logical to act prideful in the facts of your birth (no human chooses the circumstances of their birth), I am a little prideful about the relative prosperity of Western Civilization. No society is perfect but there is prosperity relative to other countries. The West’s top rankings on global freedom indexes are no accident – they are partly due to a a general culture that respects individualism and democratic-republicanism.
However; the United States has also been catalogued with the highest prison in the planet’s western hemisphere. (See the International Centre for Prison Studies: World Prison Population List – ICPS). Amongst Western nations, that is a poor ranking and Americans can do better. I think a major factor in this high population of prisoners is the so-called “war on drugs,” which was initiated under President Richard Nixon.
The argument in favor of drug prohibition is an emotional one consisting of exclamations like, “we need to prosecute these drug addicts,” “get these lazy pot heads off the street,” people shouldn’t be using drugs,” and more. All of these exclamations are irrelevant to individual freedom. A legal case may be argued for limiting drug use in on public property reserved for the general population but, on private property, it is a simple case of individual property rights and personal freedom. Regardless how one feels about drug use, it affects no one but the individuals involved and, if tobacco and alcohol use are not criminalized actions (two drugs much more dangerous than other drugs like cannabis) there is no consistent reasoning to criminalize less dangerous drugs.
Fortunately, there seems to be a growing shift in American cultures regarding durg use (at least regarding cannabis use). More than half of the states in the union have legalized medical-based cannabis; eight states and the District of Columbia have legalized it recreationally. Opinion polls show that more than half of the general public is now in favor of full legalization at the federal level. Trends are moving in a more libertarian direction.
Content creator and YouTube pundit Wizard of Cause expresses his satisfaction towards this trend in the following video:
I think any person harboring some preconceived ideas about drugs and drug users should at least make an attempt to flip the argument around onto themselves and then ask themselves if they would want anyone else busting down their doors in a police raid for a minimal amount of cannabis. Is that kind of environment really in line with an American ideal of freedom? Are citizens really free if we have to fear law enforcement because of a personal decision on private property?