The contemporary JOLLY GREEN GIANT, (recognized trustee, celebrated advocate and acclaimed guardian of the planet’s flora) recently, seems to us, much less concerned with his celebrated role as television purveyor of frozen and canned vegetables, than with the current status of the ongoing societal debate, concerning the decriminalization of marijuana.
We would like, at this early stage of this writing, to clarify our position regarding the subject issue. Having never smoked, and not presently being a smoker of any kind, we assuage our need for oral gratification and pleasure, such as it exists, solely from the activities of eating and drinking. We do not, therefore, “have a dog in this fight.” Nevertheless, we are keenly interested in the subject of legislation, of any kind, which curtails or prevents the full exercise of promised citizen liberty.
Our Official National motto, is a recitation of an express guaranty to our citizenry, of their inalienable right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” A recognized, appropriate and necessary corollary, of course, is that no particular exercise of liberty be such, that it causes injury or damage to another citizen. Illustrative of this basic principle is the popularly known limitation on the right of freedom of speech, consisting of the admonition, that one may not falsely cry out: “fire” in a crowded theater. A similar, protective corollary, for reasons of practical necessity, is properly applicable to the exercise of all citizen rights.
Restrictions on freedom and liberty, by reason of the violation of the nation’s protective penal laws, have always been categorized into two distinct strata:
- Malem in se. These are wrongful acts which are manifestly evil in themselves, ex., homicide, robbery, assault and arson.
- Malem prohibitum. These are crimes which were created by legislation, ex., fire and health regulations, traffic infractions, and operating a business without a required license.
The criminal laws relating to the sale and use of marijuana, are inarguably, malem prohibitum, i.e., criminal, solely and only, by reason of their designation, as such, by existing statute.
In view of our nation’s publicly proclaimed guarantee of liberty for all, it is a foundational prerequisite to any statutory criminalization of an exercise of citizen liberty, that there be a rational showing that such legislation, is vitally necessary to the continued health, safety or moral underpinnings of society. In the absence of a convincing demonstration to such effect, any such limitation on citizen freedom would (ultimately) be deemed arbitrary and invalid. To our main point, we have never been made aware of any rational reason, or reasonable justification, for the Government’s declared criminalization of marijuana. In view of its expansive guaranty of liberty to every citizen, it would seem that the heavy burden of such a showing, would, ethically and responsibly, fall on the government.
It may be of some interest, to refer to an illustrative experience of decades ago, regarding legislation outlawing alcohol beverages (the Volstead Act). This period, later referred to as, “the prohibition era” was a textbook demonstration of the very theme of this post; i.e., that liberty when constrained by Statute, is required to have a rational and necessary purpose, on pain of being perceived as arbitrary and unjustified. The sole discernable cause for this circa, 1920’s instance of interference with American liberty, was limited to a relatively small, but highly influential, religious group, favoring temperance. The legislation was ultimately withdrawn; but not before a major upset was caused to American society, an enormous increase in crime, including the birth of dangerous criminal gangs and celebrated criminal personalities, the wholesale failure of numerous legitimate businesses, and at long and exasperated last, the repeal of the unwarranted limitation by Constitutional Amendment.
A strange phenomenon does exist, regarding the sale and use of tobacco. Despite consistent medical evidence showing that smoking is predictably harmful to the health, and demonstrably lethal (which would clearly seem to justify legislative prohibition) no such prohibitory laws have, in fact been enacted, or even, presented. This exotic phenomenon exists in strategic concurrence with an eternally rich and powerful tobacco industry, in existence since the colonial era. A not dissimilar dissonance, is the plentitude of scientific proof that our planet is being adversely affected by the increase in hydrocarbons produced by major industry, and the immoral and irresponsible absence of effective prohibitive, or regulatory statutes. As shown regarding the tobacco industry, political influence and profits, seem to supplant legitimate concern for the health of our nation, and its inhabitants.
Despite the two cited outliers, our hero, the celebrated Jolly Green Giant, joins us in an earnest inquiry concerning the possible existence of a legitimate basis for the criminalization of marijuana, one of JGG’s myriad verdant products; failing which, an official determination that the continued criminalization of this product is an an illegal and arbitrary breach of the traditional American assurance of citizen liberty and pursuit of happiness.
The resolution of this moral and legal dispute would, also, importantly, enable the JGG to get back to the commercial television business of selling veggies.