We are finally experiencing a shift away from conservative authoritarian dogma towards a more tolerant and libertarian society with respect to the bodily autonomy of individuals. Marijuana, once deemed a gateway drug to addiction by millions of scientifically illiterate fools within the upper echelons of the state, is finally having its day in court.
It’s quite sad that people have to attain the permission of the state in order to use their bodies to consume whatever substance they please, but that is the unfortunate reality that we have to deal with. What’s even sadder, however, is the argument by popular left-wing politicians and commentators that marijuana should be legalised not because of the principle of bodily autonomy but rather because of the potential tax revenue it can generate to fund the subsidisation and supply of certain meritorious goods and services. This should not be the priority argument put forth in favour of the legalisation of marijuana.
Arguing that the state should legalise cannabis based on the ‘tax revenue’ argument implies that freeing individuals and their bodily freedom from the shackles of authoritarianism comes second to generating money for the government.
Producers, suppliers and consumers of marijuana should be able to benefit from the consumption thereof not because the state can come and demand a slice of the pie, but because using it falls within the ambit of their natural freedom. To hold the ‘tax revenue’ argument in higher esteem than the ‘bodily autonomy’ argument is tantamount to arguing that individuals’ freedom depends on whether the government and society in general will benefit from it. Whether somebody else benefits from stoners consuming gram after gram of marijuana is, by and large, irrelevant, because so long as they do not impair the liberty of other individuals by doing so, their actions are solely their business.
In essence, whether a person should be free to consume something or not should not be determined according to who else can possibly benefit from it, but rather according to whether somebody else’s freedom will be impaired. Legalising marijuana is warranted not because the criminalisation thereof impedes tax revenue growth, but because keeping it criminalised unjustifiably impairs the bodily autonomy of individuals the world over.
Whether VAT or the misnomer that is “sin” tax can be levied on it is something to be considered after individuals are given back the freedom taken from them in the first place. The state cannot grant natural freedoms, it can merely limit it; sometimes justifiably and a lot of the times not. In short, the legalisation of marijuana should not be motivated largely by the perceived social benefit that can be generated by taxing it. Marijuana should be legalised because failing to do so is first and foremost anathema to the concepts of individual freedom and property rights.