Marijuana Legalization: What Would Aquinas Really Say?

David Freddoso recently asked the question:What Would Aquinas Say about Legalizing Weed?” In particular he argues against what he considers to be a specious argument from David Brooks that legalizing marijuana is akin to endorsing it.

In his piece, “Weed: Been There. Done That” Brooks notes:

Laws profoundly mold culture, so what sort of community do we want our laws to nurture? What sort of individuals and behaviors do our governments want to encourage? … In legalizing weed, citizens of Colorado are, indeed, enhancing individual freedom. But they are also nurturing a moral ecology in which it is a bit harder to be the sort of person most of us want to be.

Freddoso responds to Brooks by arguing that legalizing marijuana “is simply an absence of prohibition,” not an encouragement. He draws on Aquinas for support of his position, noting that the Angelic Doctor argued that not everything that is immoral should be prohibited, but only serious vices that harm others and undermine the preservation of society (ST I-II, q. 96, a. 2). Therefore, he states:

Even proponents of prohibition will usually agree that the act of smoking weed does not on its own assault the civil order or harm others. At that point, the question should be a comparison between the ravages of the drug war itself and any additional damage we expect drugs to do if they become legal.

However, I agree with Brooks that the legalization will mold culture. Though he argues that legalizing pot encourages the rise of a certain kind of individual, I think that this focus also needs to be broadened to a discussion of the common good.  This is where Aquinas can help and where we see that his position, when read more comprehensively, should not be seen as favoring the legalization of marijuana. What is at stake in this question is the transfer of drugs from a strong subculture into the mainstream culture in America, which will affect the lives of us all.

We can begin by simply looking at the past. Freddoso thinks that marijuana is not akin to the debate over gay marriage, because it does not entail a public endorsement. However, we have seen consistently that controversies that begin as a matter of private rights soon create a new public culture. Take the examples of contraception and abortion. Both could be obtained (and were) before they were legal. Both were legalized in terms of private rights (particularly privacy). However, we have now reached the point where contraception is almost completely a universal practice, abortions have been performed by the tens of millions, and both are now publicly subsidized (and even mandated in the case of contraception). The effect of these practices on the general culture has been enormous, with birth rates dropping dramatically since their legalization.

One could say that lumping contraception and abortion together is unfair as the latter is much more grievous and harmful to others. The two belong together, however, because they both represent a major shift in understanding how one’s life relates to the common good. Is sexuality something that merely exists for sake of the individual, as a private right? To the contrary, sexuality is rooted ultimately in our order toward the propagation of the species, the very continuation of the human race. Sexual morality is rooted in the natural law, because we have a natural obligation and duty for the future of humanity. Our lives are not simply our own, as we are not isolated and autonomous beings, but are bound together in responsibility for our shared good.

What about marijuana? The issue is not as grave as the propagation of the species, right? It is true that drug use may be a sin of lesser gravity (depending on the details), but I have argued previously that it hits at the very foundation of human life, our rationality. The purpose, or final end, of the individual is the happiness found in the contemplation of the highest truths (according to Aristotle and also Aquinas, who extends this to the vision of God). Furthermore, the community has the same end as the individual, happiness, which it pursues by creating a just and virtuous society. As Aristotle explains: “The end of politics is the best of ends; and the main concern of politics is to engender a certain character in the citizens and to make them good and disposed to perform noble actions” (Ethics, 1099b30). And furthermore, a “city is excellent, at any rate, by its citizens … being excellent,” which means virtuous (Politics, 1332a34). When the individual is consistently impeded from pursuing the end or goal of human life, even through private, personal fault, society itself is demeaned; when this occurs, everyone is impeded in the “partnership” of the shared pursuit of the good (ibid., 1252a3).

Let’s come back more explicitly to Aquinas, who, of course, draws upon Aristotle in his understanding of law. Reason continues to be a central issue, when looking at drugs from a political, not simply a moral, perspective. Law, for Aquinas, is a dictate of reason, for “it belongs to the reason to direct to the end, which is the first principle in all matters of action” (ST I-II, q. 90, a. 1). Law is meant to reflect right reason on how we should live together to pursue the common good, which is our happiness!

The law must needs regard principally the relationship to happiness. Moreover, since every part is ordained to the whole, as imperfect to perfect; and since one man is a part of the perfect community, the law must needs regard properly the relationship to universal happiness (ibid., a. 2).

Fundamentally, Aquinas has a different conception of law than we do today. Rather than primarily securing personal rights, law is meant to lead the individual beyond the self to an exterior and shared good: “the proper effect of law is to make those to whom it is given, good” (ST I-II, q. 92, a. 1).

It is true that some immoral things need to be tolerated (Freddoso gives the example of not wiping), but this cannot be used as an excuse to permit things that undermine goodness and happiness on a fundamental level. If drugs attack the faculty that leads to happiness, reason, then there are legitimate grounds to think that it will threaten the maintenance of society and consequently hurt others. With Brooks, we have to ask what kind of citizen we want in our country. Our laws should reflect that ideal (though we do not generally have a shared ideal today).

Once again, legalizing drugs brings them into the mainstream of our culture. It makes them an ordinary and acceptable phenomenon. We can see this happening already in Colorado. After only a few days of legalized recreational marijuana, stores are already selling out. Researchers at Colorado State University offered what they considered to be a low estimate that about 12.5 percent of state residents will smoke pot (the key to the study is trying to figure out how much revenue will come in taxes). Entering a legitimate “shop” next to other legitimate businesses does not necessarily make marijuana more accessible. Marijuana already can be found easily, but it does send a different message. It legitimizes the purchase:  using your Visa card differs slightly from clandestinely slipping money to a dealer. Others, especially the youth, see this legitimacy and normalcy, and the use of marijuana will lose its remaining stigma. In fact, the Denver Post has noted already that legalizing marijuana has encouraged some Coloradans to rethink their position on pot and to give it a try, because now it is “easy, convenient and legal.” By legalizing marijuana we are saying that we no longer see it as fundamentally detrimental to human life and society.

Finally, just a word on the war on drugs. The argument that drugs should remain illegal is not the same as advocating for a continuation of the “war on drugs.” There is now widespread, popular consensus that the war on drugs has failed and has brought about new problems in its own right. If we do not wish to accept the legitimacy of drug use, we need to find new ways to combat it. As Freddoso himself notes, law has a pedagogical function for Aquinas. That does not mean that keeping marijuana illegal will in itself be enough to educate youth on its negative effects (we know from experience that it won’t), but it is an important starting point.

But really, this issue is part of a much larger problem. It is fair to say that we are living in the midst of a crisis of the common good. In fact, we tend to think that the ultimate good is the individual. Personal inclination—our pleasures, emotions, and desires—more and more are the “moral” foundation of our choices. What is shared is the common pursuit of material goods: “It’s the economy, stupid.” Wealth creation is the standard by which we judge the success of our society. In fact, marijuana is playing into this consumerist culture: the individual wants the pleasure of the commodity and the State wants tax revenues. In response, we need to rediscover the common good, a good that transcends the limits of personal whims and the fluctuations of the economy. To overcome the cultural problem of the legalization of marijuana, we need to rebuild a shared culture with ends beyond the individual—ultimately the end, which all share, and which can only make us truly happy.

Editor’s note: The image above is a photograph of Barack Obama who in his youth was known to have been a casual user of marijuana.

R. Jared Staudt


R. Jared Staudt works in the Office of Evangelization and Family Life Ministries of the Archdiocese of Denver. He earned his BA and MA in Catholic Studies at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN and his PhD in Systematic Theology from Ave Maria University in Florida. Staudt served previously as a director of religious education in two parishes, taught at the Augustine Institute and the University of Mary, and served as co-editor of the theological journal Nova et Vetera. He and his wife Anne have six children and he is a Benedictine oblate.

  • ForChristAlone

    ” It is fair to say that we are living in the midst of a crisis of the common good. In fact, we tend to think that the ultimate good is the individual. ”

    It doesn’t even rise to the level of the individual as the ultimate good since marijuana has been shown to have deleterious effects on the brain and reproductive organs as the active ingredient gravitates to and is stored in those cells. So its use has unhealthy effects on one’s body. For those few of us who still believe that there is an objective morality ordained by God, the elective use of any substance that harms (or even potentially harms) the body violates God’s law that we are to care for our bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit. I understood this principle as a 9 year old attending Catholic school when I knew that use of tobacco, alcohol, and even food to excess was potentially a moral matter. Even unnecessary risk taking behavior that places our lives in jeopardy (such as extreme sports which are now the rage) was a potentially moral matter. But such an understanding that we are to be custodians of our bodies is virtually non-existent these days since we create our own bodies and are subject to laws of our own making.

    The second problem with this legalization of pot is that the State desires to cash in on what has been shown to harm people. As a result the State at the very least does nothing to discourage its use since it profits from it. There will be undesired health effects of the use of pot and then the State (funded by the taxpayers) will be footing the bill to restore people’s health for those whose use of pot has become excessive.

    I get very concerned about the State promoting certain behaviors by its tax policies and then looking to all the citizenry to bail the individual out. Think about State lotteries for example: the States promote this, derive tax revenue from it and then go on the airwaves warning people not to overindulge in this behavior and where they might seek treatment if they do. Basically, we live in an insane world.

    • CharlesOConnell

      Imagine if, when Prohibition was repealed, instead of shielding children from harmful exposure to alcohol, state and federal governments had essentially abandoned them to the glamour drinking culture.

      We might have seen documentaries about the social problems by 1938. Socially conservative elements in society might have lamented the situation, given the fact that such conditions couldn’t have prevailed if there were an effective government of laws, not of men.

      Eventually, society would have decayed to a film noir alternate reality like that in Dashiell Hammett’s horribly cynical “Red Harvest”. The American “City on a Hill” would be well on its way to the complete dominance of brute force portrayed in Alessandro Manzoni’s “The Betrothed”.

      This is essentially the situation today, with the news announcement that the US Justice Department will not prosecute any marijuana crimes unless there is indication of organized crime infiltration—as happened in the Netherlands when cannabis and hashish possession for personal use were decriminalized.

      The core issue is that underage users are most seriously impacted. There are no public discussions about the effects upon minors of the marijuana gray market. The only group with an organized platform of political agitation is the “medical” marijuana industry, which has substantial incentives for current conditions to remain as they are, including essentially unregulated use by minors.

    • felixcox

      “For those few of us who still believe that there is an objective morality ordained by God, the elective use of any substance that harms (or even potentially harms) the body violates God’s law that we are to care for our bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit. ”

      Unless you include alcohol prohibition in your crusade, then you sound unreasonably motivated to keep pot illegal.

      “The second problem with this legalization of pot is that the State desires to cash in on what has been shown to harm people”

      You seem to have very little nuance with the word “harm.” Harm exists on a continuum; in other words, some harms are mild in comparison to others, which are lethal. alcohol, for instance, is far far more harmful and lethal to youths and to anyone else than pot. If you are fighting for a utopia in which citizens are protected from all harm by the benevolent government, then at least you’d be consistent (except for your notably absent critique of alcohol). Otherwise, you are singling out pot (and therefore pot users) for special discrimination. Most users do NOT have problems with pot. By citing dubius figures about children, you are skewing the debate. The horror stories of kids and alcohol are orders of magnitude worse (because you can have a lethal overdose with alcohol and not pot).

  • Sayre Swarztrauber

    Is it sinful to drink in moderation? We know it is not because Jesus did that. Is it sinful to use any amount of marijuana? Why do you call the use of marijuana sinful drug use and not apply the same reasoning to alcohol? Is alcohol not a drug? Does the Church make distinctions as to which drugs are sinful even in small amounts and which are not?

    • Dick Prudlo

      Although this may be too simple an answer, Marijuana is taken to get high, while alcohol is or can be taken to be sociable.

      • Truth not lies

        The opposite could also be said. Alcohol is consumed to get drunk and marihuana is consumed to be social. Both statements are true depending on the person but the real question is does it do more harm than good. Is it taken for a medical need or just for pleasure. Would it replace prescription drugs that have worse side effects including severe addiction. Does it do great harm to the body and society like alcohol, prescription drugs, and other illegal very addicting drugs like cocaine and heroin. It is the safest drug on the plant given the fact that is impossible to overdose and die from it. If you use the logic of harming society than many prescription drugs along with alcohol should be illegal, but aren’t because of the profits generated. I feel society would be better off if there was less alcoholics and other extremely dangerous addictive drugs being used and killing society. If accessible marihuana replaces more harmful prescription drug alternatives and supplies the many reasons people have to use dangerous drugs with a safe alternative, then society should serve the greater good and make it a possibility. The problem is mainstream society has been brainwashed by the institutions that will lose the most amount of money if that happens. Which are alcohol, drug manufacturers, tobacco, and ( energy/oil which is another subject all together). They have portrayed lies as the truth so hard for so long that most of society refuses to see the real truth. Sound familiar? The father of lies and master of deceit stand to gain more souls through drug and alcohol addiction (marihuana is not addictive or very harmful physically) and the greed of profit that is also fueled by the addictive drug market which includes prescription medication. I don’t think any drug use will teach us to love through self sacrifice for others without wanting a return. But I think a drug that is not physically addictive is a better path to learning this than a more harmful and extremely addictive drug like the many alternatives that are legally available like alcohol and many prescription drugs.

        • Dick Prudlo

          The bogey man is everywhere, and to see it is to avoid overindulgence. To blame those that supply certain substances such as alcohol is to see a bogey man, but there real one goes unattended and ignored. Your point is understood but blame is not just the material used or those that supply it.

    • JERD

      For some reason we have a hard time these days seeing a “difference in degree.” Although pot and alcohol may both be stimulants, they differ by degree. The later has a long history of social acceptance; the former does not. Alcohol may be consumed because of its taste and its mild effects when consumed in moderation. In contrast, people smoke pot for one reason – to get stoned. See, AcceptingReality above.

      • Truth not lies

        If marihuana wasn’t available and his drug of choice to escape reality had to be readily available Percocet or alcohol he probably wouldn’t have been able to drop it and move on. He would have been trapped by addiction and had a long hard road to recovery that marihuana users don’t experience. Many of the “scientific facts” that are mentioned in the comments are based on junk science and outright lies. The Church is open to drug use for medical reasons, which may include phycological needs some use marihuana for and don’t even realize it, which means in some cases it is not a sin. I feel Christ is the answer to the true healing that is needed but it is a path that is easier achieve than trying to get on that path from extreme drug addiction.

      • felixcox

        “In contrast, people smoke pot for one reason – to get stoned.”
        But your obvious ignorance of pot subculture prevents you from understanding that getting stoned means VERY different things to different people. And contra your comments, people do indeed enjoy the taste of pot and they DEFINITELY can tell the difference between getting a little stoned and totally baked.
        If you want to talk about different degrees, it’s notable you didn’t mention the degree to which alcohol is poisonous when compared with pot. In fact, alcohol can cause death merely by overindulgence or even when an addict suddenly stops! This means it is not only different in degree from pot, it is different in kind. You are defending a lethal drug simply because in your experience, most people don’t indulge to that extreme extent. Not coherent.

    • kmk

      Any use of Mj is sinful because you are potentially harming your body, a temple that should always be respected. Mj is never pure and always contains an unpredictable number of harmful toxins. Additionally, drugs are synthesized that contain less toxins, i.e., ‘help your body more’, but Mj proponents dismiss this evidence.
      Some people can drink alcohol responsibly, some cannot. No one can use Mj responsibly because of the contaminents inherent in the drug.

      • somebody

        Don’t kid yourself thinking there is nothing toxic about alcohol. Alcohol is broken down by the body into Acetaldehyde, which is toxic and has been shown to damage DNA.

        • kmk

          Nowhere did I state that alcohol is never toxic (some can drink responsibly, some cannot). And yes, many Rx drugs do major harm to the human body. That was not the issue of this article (I would like to see some articles researching Rx drugs and sin).
          If the purity of the substance is unknown yet people still put it into their system, there is an unhealthy reason why. Usually, the person cannot cope with life.
          Mj contains the same contaminents whether it’s been heated or not.

          • Truth not lies

            Many highly educated scientists with peer reviewed studies would disagree and prove you very wrong on the fact that burnt marihuana has the same harmful substances as marihuana that is not burnt. But the point is some form legalization for medical and industrial purposes would benefit society and be morally acceptable. Most people’s understanding about the subject is bases on lies.

          • felixcox

            “Mj contains the same contaminents whether it’s been heated or not.”
            Irrelevant. alcohol is always toxic, no matter the quantity. You’re playing a fool’s game rationalizing your demonization of pot and defending lethal alcohol. Science is simply not on your side.

      • Truth not lies

        Although I some what agree with your statement, you therefor would have to consider most prescription drugs a sin also because they also harmful effects on the body along with some desirable effects. Alcohol also because it is a poison. Marihuana when consumed in food or vaporized has very little, if any, harmful substances to the body. I don’t think recreational marihuana use is good for the soul, but I know that it is less harmful the many others that are socially acceptable. Using false statements as scientific fact and ignoring the actual truth does more harm to society than marihuana ever could by advancing the devils agenda of the destruction of souls through deceit.

    • ForChristAlone

      Is it sinful to electively use any substance if doing so causes damage to one’s health?

      If a glass of wine does not cause damage to one’s health, then it is morally neutral. If, however, I have hepatitis, it is potentially damaging to my health to consume alcohol. God gives us prudential judgement in these matters.

  • JERD

    This reminds me of a question asked by one of my 8th grade CCD students. After I made a presentation on the sanctity of human life and the objective evil of abortion, a student, age 14 didn’t miss a beat. She raised her hand and asked, “How can abortion be wrong, when they let people do it?”

    Yes, the law molds culture, and will continue to mold our culture into the next generation.

    • Truth not lies

      That is why civil law is only just and able to obeyed if it does not go against the natural laws of God as defined by The Church. We should never allow the government to form our understanding of right and wrong. The real discussion should be what is the scientifically proved effects of marihuana for medical use based on data from actual use and analytical evaluation of chemical make up, then compared to The Church teaching on what is morally acceptable. Than with our free will and understanding of Church teaching we can make a personal judgement between ourselves and God if our actions are a morally acceptable choice. We rely far to much on the laws of the government that are never able to be enforced completely, instead of letting God lead us to the truth. The truth will set us free and Gods laws will always be enforced with perfect justice, and perfect mercy.

    • hombre111


    • felixcox

      I hope you are an intelligent educator and point out that abortion rates are similar in countries with a total ban. In other words, a law’s efficacy should be a factor when evaluating it…

  • AcceptingReality

    There would be no argument, no discussion at all, if there wasn’t a subculture that counted marijuana use as something they are unwilling to do without. Or at least something they didn’t want to risk acquiring legal troubles stemming from not doing without. Being someone with ample, albeit long past, experience with the drug, this is something I don’t understand. Marijuana use doesn’t enhance one’s quality of life. It’s an escape. It alters brain chemistry thereby changing users’ attitudes and not necessarily for the better. For me it led to undue satisfaction with mediocre circumstances. Only I didn’t recognize those circumstances as mediocre because I was high. There was an esoteric quality to it’s usage. An induced sense that usage was the product of a heightened sense of liberty from accepted social norms. I stopped because I finally decided I was dumb enough without it. I came to regard time spent high as time wasted. Contributing to my cessation was the fear of how disappointed in myself I would be if I got into legal trouble over it. Thank God for the laws against it. They helped motivate me to better myself.

    • lifeknight

      Thank you for your candid assessment based on experience. The most significant sentence that I believe is true: IT’S AN ESCAPE. Our society is SO messed up that we are now promoting the use of brain numbing substances. It will be come a “norm” just like contraception and abortion.

      • smokes

        Are you a member of the Anti-Saloon League, too?

        • lifeknight

          No, but I did join Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

          • smokes

            MADD has forced college kids to turn to street drugs.It’s easier to get a dime bag than a 6 pack. Is that what you want?

            • lifeknight

              “Forced to turn to street drugs.” Right. You prove my point. Thank you.

              • smokes

                Are you high?

        • CharlesOConnell

          An average person [suffering an 8 point I.Q. loss] dropped far down the intelligence rankings, so that instead of 50 per cent of the population being more intelligent than them, 71 per cent were

    • Truth not lies

      What you wrote has been true for me also, but I am glad that I had marihuana available to me and was able to easily quit it to try and become more of the person God made me to be. Many of my Friends from high school found harder drugs more readily available because the higher profit made them more appealing to the suppliers. Less marihuana available and people wanting to escape the realities of life leads to more addictive drugs. Harder to overcome heroine addiction and alcohol addiction than chronic marihuana use and destroys your life and your future in a more profound way that is very difficult to escape. I have also discovered the truth as to some medical uses and many industrial uses that would benefit society like these have done for thousands of years but is now stifled by laws making it illegal, based solely on lies to protect corporate profit. Research historical facts and unbiased modern scientific data. The legal argument is far more complicated than the average citizen or the average pothead (in many cases they are the same person) realizes. When you take the facts and learn what the Church teaches the moral argument is also complex. The only easy argument is the only way to everlasting satisfaction and true joy is to learn how to love like God loves and only discovered through disinterested self sacrifice. But is easier said than done.

    • Vincent Milburn

      It seems that the law was a helpful deterrent for you, but I don’t know if you would have felt so positively about it if you had actually gotten caught. Ideally, law enforcement would be perfect, thus catching everyone, so if a law is only good because some people didn’t get caught, then it’s not actually good.

    • felixcox

      “Marijuana use doesn’t enhance one’s quality of life.”

      LOL! As a connoisseur with like-minded friends, I know this is patent nonsense. Imagine an atheist saying religion doesn’t enhance your quality of life because it’s an escape; it encourages the abandonment of reason when reason conflicts with faith; it, like everything, alters brain chemistry, and attitudes, not always for the better…
      I suspect you would have a few quibbles with such a narrow perspective!
      fwiw, I’ve smoked for nearly 20 years. Even so, I obtained a graduate degree and maintain a cognitively-demanding job in an extremely competitive field. Having lived on both coasts and in the north and south, I can say I’ve met hundreds of successful people who, like me, greatly enjoy marijuana as part of a balanced life. It’s the height of arrogance, paternalism, and hypocrisy to tell me I can’t do this unless you are consistent and going to advocate for alcohol prohibition as well.

  • David Mayrose

    One could add “divorce” and “state lotteries” to the list of things that are now state supported, but which have had a negative effect on the “common good”.

  • smokes

    This could be a screed by the W.C.T.U. against that darned Papist, Al Smith and his “wets”, who opposed Prohibition.

  • John Uebersax

    You wrote “marijuana … hits at the very foundation of human life, our rationality…. happiness [is] found in the contemplation of the highest truths.”

    The term ‘rationality’ includes at least three distinct mental functions: discursive thought (dianoia) , intuitive knowledge (noesis), and contemplation (theoria).

    Discursive thought is associated with the left brain hemisphere. Psychiatrist Iain McGilchrist, in ‘The Master and His Emissary’, argues persuasively that the plight of modern man is precisely that our left-hemisphere brain functions have evolved much faster than the rest of our cognitive abilities.

    One of the cultural arguments for liberalization of cannabis is that, given the right set and setting, it can help moderate this excessive left-hemisphere dominance, allowing other cognitive abilities — e.g., intuition, creativity, insight, meditation, and contemplation to emerge.

    Such potential positive effects, as already noted, suppose a favorable ‘set and setting.’ Without these, cannabis use can clearly have major negative effects — mental laziness, dependence, abuse, etc., and it is important not to deny this.

    My own view is that by criminalizing cannabis, we dissociate its use from positive social influences. If illegal, it’s not something people do or talk about openly. This removes it from those positive influences that might produce more positive, or at least less negative, forms of use. For example, responsible, educated, intelligent and moral people like you will not use it, will not discover positive modes of use, and will not help others to use it productively.

    If I may, I would also like to add that cannabis may have definite potential in reducing tobacco addiction and alcohol abuse.

    • Fred

      I can’t think of any productive uses of MJ.

      • poetcomic1

        My stoned nephew makes ugly clay pots.

      • John Uebersax

        MJ enhances creativity and aesthetic appreciation (that’s why music sounds better). One of its main justifications for medicinal use is that it helps people with suppressed appetites (e.g., on chemotherapy) enjoy the taste of food and eat more. These are not irrelevant considerations. In theory, strains of cannabis can be bred which produce these qualities, but minimize the “stonedness.”

        • Fred

          I used. I *thought* I had enhanced creativity. Most of the thoughts were irrational on further analysis (does the word “dope” ring a bell?) And there was never any product of it. I will concede that it may have limited uses for chemo patients, but that is a very small portion of people at any one time. Too small to make MJ generally available.

      • felixcox

        You simply haven’t talked to many regular adult users.
        It’s use widely varied and you cannot logically declare this about pot without indicting alcohol.

        • Fred

          Nice straw man. The alcohol discussion is that way. —>

          • felixcox

            I’m sorry you didn’t understand my post. I’ll try to help. You can’t think of ANY productive uses of MJ. I simply pointed that your ignorance of productive use is by no means proof that there is no such use. And I’m sorry you don’t understand comparisons with alcohol. In a society in which alcohol is widely used, it’s simply silly, inconsistent, illogical, and unjust to single out mj users for their choice of a safer alternative than alcohol. Let me know if you need more help understanding!

            • Fred

              It is not inconsistent. You are advocating carte blanche legalization of weed. MJ is currently not legal in most jurisdictions. Alcohol is. Why do we have to make one legal just because some other vaguely similar product is? Is this the argument you will make to legalize cocaine? Heroin? LSD? Where do you stop?

              I also argue that MJ and alcohol aren’t as similar as you propose. You can have 1 drink and not even be buzzed. You can drink for the taste. That cannot be said for MJ.

              • felixcox

                Please outline the criteria by which you decide to criminalize a substance. Then apply that criteria to all substances. You will find mj to be substantially safer than nearly any other drug. Objectively, it is relatively safe; much safer than lethal alcohol. If you are against mj being legal, then logically you must be against alcohol. Otherwise, as I said (and which you bizarrely denied without backing up), it is inconsistent. It’s not that hard, really. And pretending that alcohol is too integrated with society and denying that mj is similarly integrated is ridiculous. Nearly half of every adult has tried mj. Our past three presidents and most of the contenders too (including pious Palin) have imbibed. It’s here to stay, and prohibition’s demonstrable failure should make any clear-eyed person realize the obvious- IT DOESN’T WORK! It simply enriches criminal gangs. Bad policy, bad results.

                “ou can have 1 drink and not even be buzzed. You can drink for the taste. That cannot be said for MJ.”

                As I said in my original response to you, these comments reflect your ignorance about the wide variety of ways people use and enjoy mj. That you are ignorant of counterexamples doesn’t mean they don’t exist. And besides, that’s irrelevant to the idea of locking responsible adults in cages because you don’t prefer their intoxicant.

                “I wouldn’t object to dropping enforcement of most MJ laws, but I don’t think it should be legal.”

                Right. Tens of millions of adults responsibly use a substance that’s objectively safer than alcohol- yet you want them to remain a criminal class because why??! Because you are ignorant and afraid. That’s simply not a compelling reason to deprive responsible adults of freedom. Obviously, you don’t seem moved by the arguments for personal freedom, especially in light of mj’s relatively safety. I suggest you consider why on earth it SHOULD remain illegal, in light of similar substances. Humor me.
                We can address the legality of other drugs when society is ready for that. This thread is about legal weed. You’ve provided not one single JUST, sensible, reasonable justification for keeping it illegal. You prove my point that the prohibitionists don’t have any intellectual grounding for their bigotry. Finger wagging is not an argument.

                • Fred

                  I don’t like the way pot makes people think. I don’t like that pot makes people crazy. I don’t like how it neuters men. I don’t like how lazy it makes people.

                  I don’t believe it is as harmless as you think. Of course, you will deny all that.

                  • felixcox

                    I’ll just repeat what you have not and cannot refute: the vast majority of adults who use pot do not have problems with it. Any harm you cite is dwarfed by the lethal consequences of alcohol abuse. And yes, it’s relevant to compare. Otherwise, you are singling out mj users for special designation as criminal, even though their drug of choice is safer than alcohol. What kind of messed up message does that send? A stupid one.

                    • Fred


                    • felixcox

                      That’s a revealing reply. You obviously have no rational basis for denying tens of millions of responsible adults from enjoying a relatively safe recreational experience…

    • Truth not lies

      When our rationality (thought,knowledge,contemplation) is distorted by being convinced that things that aren’t true are facts, we are lead to believe good is evil and evil is good. When we trust the government as giving us the truth when they are more concerned with protecting profit for materialist gain than the good of the souls that make up the persons of society, we will be lead down the road to hell thinking we are going to heaven. We have to open our eyes to the truth of righteousness, in order to be truly joyful, as explained by The Church. To look to government laws to find truth and justice is a dangerous mistake. History proves this over and over, just take a close look at Hitler and how most Germans were fooled by trusting that the government had there best interest in mind. They followed the laws and the rational that the government was speaking the truth. With that truth they rationally thought that the extermination of people was the right thing to do. We are doing the same thing with abortion now. Although of less importance we did the same with making marihuana illegal, in the first place by using lies and not taking into consideration all the important positive uses medically and industrially, in order to protect the profit of big business. These lies have been told so many times we accept them as fact just like the Germans. These facts are documented in the book “The Emperor Wares No Clothes- the history of marihuana prohibition”, by Jack Herer. A rational judgement based on lies is irrational and possibly immoral.

  • Vinnie

    This essay itself is proof of the disintegration of our culture. As the collapse unfolds all we do is discuss (fiddle) everything that is killing (burning) us. We are the frogs in the water which is coming to a boil, “discussing” these topics – drugs, sodomy, state takeover of healthcare and education, “new” families, morality itself. No more discussion, no more “closer looks,” no more rationalization, it’s time to just say NO!

    • felixcox

      Vinnie, your puritan streak would find plenty of company with the taliban. Like you, they are so convinced of the one-sided nature of these things that there’s no subtlety. Just outlaw everything!

  • John O’Neill

    The legalization of pot is just one more nail in the coffin of what used to be a healthy culture. However, the main reason is and always will be that these laws bring more and more money into the State coffers and the greed and appetite of the almighty American State like Moloch can never be satisfied. In the recent past we have seen casinos and lotteries pushed by politicians with the promise of more goodies for everybody. I remember when the Trenton politicos were pushing the Atlantic City casino bill through over thirty years ago it was all about money for the “children” i.e. schools, money for the aged and money for everybody. We now know how that worked out. The pot pushers in government are looking forward to a bonanza a money that they can get their dirty little mitts on; it is a surprise that they have not pushed for the legalization of prostitution. It is a definite win if the state controlled bordellos do not bring in more millions. We have also seen that politicos who constantly preach the ill effects of cigarettes and alcohol still see no irony in their hiking taxes on tobacco in order to bring in even more filthy lucre. The American culture and government system are broken down and can only inflict more degradations on the culture. It is the American culture that pushes these things and now these all wise all knowing Americans will have all the pot they want; would not be surprised if the government does not distribute pot stamps like food stamps. O tempora O mores.

    • felixcox

      ‘The legalization of pot is just one more nail in the coffin of what used to be a healthy culture.’

      Nonsense. There never was a united, monolithic culture here. that’s a nostalgic myth. and to pretend that decriminalizing a relatively benign substance ONLY a negative means you haven’t seriously interacted with the arguments in its favor.

  • Fred

    The future archetype of our society – texting, game-playing, stoned zombies on government assistance.

  • Fred

    I predict that unemployment & crime will go up. Just because MJ is legal doesn’t mean that employers will hire people who indulge in it. These people will be unemployable and resort to crime, just like meth heads & heroin addicts. Since it is legal, there will be far more people like this.

    • Truth not lies

      Being formerly part of the marihuana subculture I can tell you there are a good number of marihuana users working beside you. For every drug test there is a way around it, and the stereotype of stoner in the couch playing video games eating chips doesn’t apply as often as you think it does. The largest majority of pot smokers don’t steal from everyone to supply their habit, unlike addictive drugs. When they are out they just wait until they can afford more because they don’t have to have it like true drug addict that need it to feel normal. (Alcohol need it to feel normal as well but don’t steal to get it because it is legal and therefor cheap). Hard drugs and marihuana are not the same and don’t have the same effects on society. Until we stop being self righteous, and think we know everything when we actually don’t know much and half of what we think we know is not based on truth, a intelligent discussion about the positive verse negative effects of marihuana use on society because of prohibition in relation to limited regulated use or total legalization can’t be had. Our current society is so ignorant while thinking we know so much, we are by far the most self absorbed society in history. Myself included.

      • Fred

        They won’t steal because they are addicted, they will resort to theft because drug tests make them unemployable. No employer in their right mind would hire a stoner because you can’t necessarily prove they are under the influence like you can with an alcoholic. It is a safety & liability issue.

        • felixcox

          “No employer in their right mind would hire a stoner because you can’t necessarily prove they are under the influence like you can with an alcoholic.”
          I agree workers should not be intoxicated. It’s interesting that you concede it’s not so obvious with pot consumption. I think if an employer notices dangerous/irresponsible behavior, THAT should be grounds from firing. If no weird behavior if observed, then no problem.

          • Fred

            How would you like to be the one that finds out the fork lift driver is stoned? Are you willing to be the one hospitalized over that?

            Once an accident happens, it is already too late.

    • felixcox

      More comments written out of a complete ignorance of the topic at hand. That you compare pot users to meth heads and heroin addicts speaks volumes of your ignorance. Most users are simply not problem users, and problem mj users are way less problematic than problem-alcohol users.

  • Pingback: What would St. Thomas Aquinas say about legalizing weed? - Christian Forums()

  • Jimbo9889

    As a Catholic, what do I make of this? Well,
    the morality of this is more nuanced than you might think. The answer
    from what I have gathered is “It depends.” How?

    Catholic Theology recognizes that man is a Rational being, imbued with an Immortal Soul that is Rational.

    First of all, the use of substances (in particular alcohol) is
    something that was welcomed yet cautioned against in both OT and NT, we
    see it the OT (via Wisdom Books) cautions against Drunkenness yet also
    counsels to help calm an uneasy soul, we see in the NT that obviously
    Jesus turned water into wine, not wine into water [and it was the best
    wine] but we see also the same warning against drunkenness too. Whats
    the point? The Virtue of Temperance, its neither disdaining mentality
    nor is it a mentality of excess when it came to substances.

    Second of all, because man possesses a Rational Immortal Soul, partaking
    in or abusing substances which divorce man from his rationality are
    frowned upon and in fact sinful, because something natural was broken
    and began to act like the beast which possess no reason. Marijuana
    affects people in different ways, some people become psychotic,
    paranoid, they enter a frame of mind which is sub-rational [below
    reason] for these people it is sinful, some people however become
    relaxed, tranquil, calm for these people if they manage to keep their
    rationality and if they act in accordance with the Virtue of Temperance
    it would seem are not sinful. Some people because they ignore the
    counsels of Temperance start in the latter position but become the
    former in their excesses for them it would be considered sinful now, the
    proof especially is if they may have developed a psychopathology due to
    it [i.e. Schizophrenia or Bi-Polar comes to mind especially]. I see
    marijuana less as something to obsess over and more as something to
    inhale on a Friday night after a busy week of work, kind of like a
    strong shot of alcohol.

    Some in their extremity might object,
    “Well what about Alcohol, you can get drunk on alcohol therefore alcohol
    should be a sin!” Drunkenness is an excess, its an abuse, its how you
    use it not necessarily what is used. If you feel that you could easily
    slide into drunkenness then don’t do it. Acute Drunkenness is something
    that won’t last, it impairs your judgment (i.e. reason) but it doesn’t
    divorce you from it entirely, you only need one hit of weed to know if
    your divorced from your rational mind or not. As for hard drugs, that
    which is hallucinogenic or can kill you even after first use Prudence
    dictates, it would be sinful because you expose yourself unnecessarily
    to pre-mature death and again, you remove yourself from your Rational

    • John Uebersax

      But why do you automatically assume that cannabis always and necessarily diminishes the rational mind? There’s a difference between taking two puffs and smoking two joints. Two puffs may, in theory, reduce the level of ambient mental anxiety to a degree that it actually produces *clearer* thinking. I’m not making this up. This is a medically plausible hypothesis. And some users will tell you this is exactly what happens when they smoke moderately.

    • felixcox

      You started off talking about the complexity and variety of responses people have with pot. But then you throw it all out the window with this: “you only need one hit of weed to know if your divorced from your rational mind or not”
      Maybe you haven’t met one, but there are tens of thousands of responsible adult mj users who don’t remotely lose our reason when we ingest mj. It certainly alters out thoughts, but reason is still there.

  • ab

    CANNABIS OIL [The ESSENTIAL OIL extracted from the cannabis plant using a solvent such as 91% isopropyl alcohol or 190 proof Everclear] cures internal cancers within 3 months and skin cancers in weeks–on record–as well as a host of other ailments [diabetes, migraines, asthma, arthritis,…] Please YouTube Rick Simpson’s video “Run from the Cure.” For medical/scientific analysis, please search: Dr. Robert Melamede [U. of Colorado-Colorado Springs]; Dr. Manuel Guzman [U. of Madrid]; Dr. Sean McAllister [CA Pacific Medical Research Institute]; Dr. Prakash Nagarkatti [U. of South Carolina]; Dr. Dennis Hill [MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston]. Also, YouTube Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s CNN Special called “Weed.” In it, he documented a 5-year old girl successfully treating her Dravet syndrome [severe epileptic seizures] with CANNABIS OIL. Nobody is selling anything. With any good strain of cannabis indica, you can make your own CANNABIS OIL and cure yourself and your loved ones.

  • ab

    CANNABIS OIL [The ESSENTIAL OIL extracted from the cannabis plant using a solvent such as 91% isopropyl alcohol or 190 proof Everclear] cures internal cancers within 3 months and skin cancers in weeks–on record–as well as a host of other ailments [diabetes, migraines, asthma, arthritis,…] Please YouTube Rick Simpson’s video “Run from the Cure.”

  • ab

    For medical/scientific analysis of how CANNABIS OIL cures cancer, please search: Dr. Robert Melamede [U. of Colorado-Colorado Springs]; Dr. Manuel Guzman [U. of Madrid]; Dr. Sean McAllister [CA Pacific Medical Research Institute]; Dr. Prakash Nagarkatti [U. of South Carolina]; Dr. Dennis Hill [MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston].

  • Rob B.

    As a Colorado resident, I thank God that local communities were given the power to ban marijuana sales inside their city limits. I don’t know what the long-term effects of this law will be on my state, but I’m certainly not at all sanguine about it.

  • Tony

    Defenders of marijuana: Would you give it to your teenager? Its medical use is a red herring; that is not the issue. When I was in college I saw a lot of people smoking pot, and never once did I see anyone smoke it who did not intend to get high. It is the direct and predictable result of smoking a joint. There is no moderate use. You can nurse a glass of wine over a half hour and it has no effect on your thinking. You can’t nurse a joint over a half hour. It doesn’t work that way, does it?

    • John Uebersax

      What is “would you give it to your teenager” except a red herring? No, of course not. But letting a 40 year old use cannabis without government prohibition is a completely different issue. One of the potential advantages of decriminalizing MJ is precisely that we can better keep it away from young people. Just as we do today with alcohol.
      There are lots of ways to take cannabis — including tinctures and edible forms, that can deliver a small or moderate dose. The problem is not that cannabis cannot be used in moderation (it can) — but that, by making the activity illegal and therefore secretive, pot users have few role models of moderate use.

      • ForChristAlone

        And if growing your own and selling it undercuts prices because government is adding costs to its production, we are going to have to have yet another layer of bureaucracy policing government oversight of a now legalized substance.

        It’s been reported in the last few days that NY is having problems with sale of illegal tobacco because government taxes have made the price too onerous.

    • ForChristAlone

      You’re correct because wine is metabolized via the gut which takes time; the effect is not immediate. MJ, on the other hand, because it is inhaled, is almost immediately absorbed by the body.

      And while our Police State is now in effect, the government might want to devise a test for those drivers under the influence of pot. And good luck with this. On second thought, maybe it won’t be much of a problem in Colorado because it’s a Green State, they all ride bicycles out there. So motorists beware of unsteady cyclists.

    • felixcox

      “Would you give it to your teenager?”

      No, only if they were sick and it was the only effective medicine. Recreational drugs are not for kids. Are you under the illusion that mj prohibition keeps mj away from kids?! Obviously, you haven’t talked to many teenagers!

      “There is no moderate use”

      Yes there is, speaking from nearly 20 years of experience. While not exactly the same as alcohol, being a little high is dramatically different from getting totally stoned. Like the flavor of wine? drink alcohol-free wine. Otherwise, you indeed are effecting your thinking with a glass of wine over an hour and a half. It’s just very subtle. But it’s obviously enough to make you keep drinking the wine. Again, if it was only the flavor you wanted, there are drug-free alternatives.

  • hombre111

    Especially appreciated your conclusion, “we need to rediscover the common good.”

  • timedonkey

    All major religions have used cannabis in all cultures. Marijuana has been considered a spiritual sacrament for thousands of years because folks like to share it and the fact that the herb helps folks gain conscious control of their fight of flight response. I suggest the writer not lose hope and try, try again …. we are all part of one, very large family and when someone smokes the herb they realize …. they realize that self evident fact.

    • Fred

      Paranoia is control of fight or flight!?

    • Gilbert Jacobi

      Gotta love that “control of fight or flight”! As in just sit there stupefied. As in everything’s groovy, man!

      • timedonkey

        who are you? and the answer, Thundering Silence … thanks

  • RS

    Aquinas argued that even prostitution should be tolerated. I seriously doubt that the legalization of marijuana would have fazed him.

  • James Milliken

    I don’t see how advocates of legalization can seriously call on St. Thomas for support. He says:

    “Now human law is framed for a number of human beings, the majority of whom are not perfect in virtue. Wherefore human laws do not forbid all vices, from which the virtuous abstain, but only the more grievous vices, from which it is possible for the majority to abstain; and chiefly those that are to the hurt of others, without the prohibition of which human society could not be maintained: thus human law prohibits murder, theft and such like.”

    The “grievous” effects of marijuana use are well documented, as many commenters have pointed out above, and if only 12.5 per cent of Colorado residents are using marijuana, it’s pretty hard to argue that the majority finds it impossible to abstain.. I discuss a similar attempt to recruit St. Thomas in support of using “conscience” to dissent from the Church’s teaching on sexuality in a series of posts on my blog (“Thomas Aquinas Said What?”

  • Caminante

    To be honest, I quit taking this article seriously when you equated marijuana legalization to the legalization of contraceptives and abortion. A more realistic comparison would be to that of the Prohibition in the early 20th century. Once the ban on alcohol was repealed, how drastically did that affect our society and culture?

  • meunke

    I actually very much favor a type of legalization of weed. And no, I can honestly say that I have never smoked it in my entire life, nor done any other illegal drug. Nor am I a Libertarian.

    The drug war has been far more caustic to our culture and rule of law in the United States than any possible benefit of keeping it illegal. What has been the effect, btw? Nothing good. Weed is now cheaper and more powerful than ever before.

    Some legal control would be a good thing, but to continue trying to add stiffer and stiffer penalties is beyond stupid. Such actions will NOT have a limiting effect and will only spawn stronger product, more violence and a more out of control federal police system. It is attacking a problem from the wrong end.

    It’s a lot like gun control in that way.

  • meunke

    “Others, especially the youth, see this legitimacy and normalcy, and the use of marijuana will lose its remaining stigma.”
    – As someone who went to a state college and has a job in the secular world, I have to say that I think Mr. Staudt might need to ‘get out a little more’.

    I say this NOT as an insult, but simply as surprise. Among young people, there really is no ‘stigma’ on weed. It’s looked at in the same way as having beer BEFORE you’re 21. That’s not necessarily a good thing, I will very much agree.

    • Gilbert Jacobi

      There may be no “stigma” – though that would be more true of children reared in a permissive, liberal-leaning household than in a family rooted in the unchangeable natural law and in Scripture and Tradition of the Church – but you can’t tell me people don’t know weed is illegal, and therefore that using it is more dangerous, if only from the standpoint of wanting to avoid a criminal record.

      • meunke

        “a family rooted in the unchangeable natural law and in Scripture and Tradition of the Church”
        – Are such people going to be big pot heads, whether it’s legal or not? I don’t think so.

        “and therefore that using it is more dangerous, if only from the standpoint of wanting to avoid a criminal record.”
        – As is pirating music/movies/software, which pretty much everybody I know has done. The chance of getting caught is ridiculously low and further, cops don’t really care, at least when it comes to the middle class.

        It strikes me by your tone that you know very few if any people who don’t think exactly like you do. I mean no offense at this. What I mean is that you don’t seem to have much knowledge of how people other than you think.

        I was raised in a middle class Traditional Catholic house, Latin Mass community, to which I still attend. Many of the people I know are Catholics exactly like me. I have never in my entire life used an illicit substance.


        I also work in C and D class real estate, which is an entirely different universe, a healthy chunk of the lowest end has a lot in common with Theodore Dalrymple’s “life at the bottom” (everyone should read that, btw). Honestly, pot is NOT that big of a problem, the legality of which the users really don’t give a thought to short of not actually smoking it in front of a cop. (cops don’t much care either, there are much bigger problems they’d rather focus on).

        The chance of getting caught and having something bad really happen to you are vanishingly small. Open drug markets in the black sections of downtown get hit because they are obvious, mostly sell MUCH harder, more dangerous stuff, and drugs in the inner city tend to produce dead bodies through turf wars. Not much happens in the shiny white suburbs where there are enormous amounts of users who get their weed from anywhere, including school (even middle schools, don’t try to kid yourself). Cops aren’t going make any serious effort to go after them because law enforcement isn’t stupid enough to attack the real tax base.

        In the end, philosophically I think spacing out for days or ruining your health (not that common, actually) are morally wrong. My point is that pushing for stiffer and stiffer laws against drugs is NOT going to accomplish what you want. In that way, it is very much like ‘gun control’. The legal means that people keep pushing since the 60s have had the following results: drugs are now insanely cheap compared to the 60s, the weed being smuggled in (tractor trailer rig at a time) is orders of magnitude more powerful than anything you would have gotten your hands on at Woodstock, a prison system packed to the bursting point with blacks on drug charges and, to a lesser extent Hispanics, all of whom wonder why THEY get hit and not the shiny white kids from the suburbs.

        You raise your children right you won’t have drug problems. Sadly many don’t. Why do I favor a narrow, restricted form of legalization? Because everything else has been a colossal failure, has served as little more than empower a federal government that has permanently the Constitution in the name of the ‘drug war’, imprisoned a LOT of non-violent people and spawned horrific civil wars in central and south America. In short, because nothing else has worked and what we are currently doing is catastrophic. Why don’t we try something different?

        • Gilbert Jacobi

          Can’t find any stigma? Perhaps you have been spending too much time with the wrong kind of people. Of course, I mean no offense at this.

          As for my argument, you have not answered it. I did not claim that the stigma would keep traditionally reared kids away from the drug – obviously, I meant that the sense of stigma was only a part of what kept them away, along with the grounding in natural law, Scripture and Tradition.

          Second, you really haven’t heard enough of my “tone” to make the leap to saying that I “know very few people if any who don’t think exactly like [I] do.” I guarantee you if you took a one block walk in any direction from my front door, you would hear from more people who don’t think exactly like you do than you ever have before, as I have been doing since the neighborhood changed color 50 years ago. Probably learn something about real estate, too.

          Finally, I’m glad and happy for you that you’ve stayed away from the illegal stuff. Keep up the good work.

          • meunke

            “Can’t find any stigma? Perhaps you have been spending too much time with the wrong kind of people.”
            – Well, the lower class isn’t all I spend time with either. The sheer number of people who engage in a bit of weed now and then, that you would never suspect of doing so since they don’t not in any way meet the ‘stoner’ criteria, would surprise you. Not just the duplex kids down the street. The 50+ couple with the Volvo next door too. That med student. The manager at Walmart…

            “I meant that the sense of stigma was only a part of what kept them away,
            along with the grounding in natural law, Scripture and Tradition.”
            – No, I’m betting that it’s practically nil. If not getting caught by law enforcement is part of what keeps them away, then you are NOT raising children grounded in ‘Scripture, Natural law and tradition.’ You are raising kids that will do it once they feel secure they have a very low or no chance of getting caught.

            ‘Might get caught’ isn’t what keeps me from sticking a needle in my arm, palming a forgotten wallet from a table, driving under the influence or smoking weed. It doesn’t even figure into the equation. It doesn’t get that far. If it does, then it’s just a matter of time. If ‘This is morally wrong’ has to be helped, even slightly by ‘you might get caught by the cops’, then your kids WILL eventually do it.

            “I guarantee you if you took a one block walk in any direction from my
            front door, you would hear from more people who don’t think exactly like
            you do than you ever have before”
            – Yet from your argument it sounds like you haven’t actually talked to any of them.

            • Gilbert Jacobi

              Look, you can continue to make assumptions about me without having the slightest idea who I am or what experience I have had – all you’re doing is exposing the shallowness of your thinking – but misrepresenting what I say is another matter.

              I did not say that stigma comes from fear of getting caught; that, apparently, is your (erroneous) definition. I clearly separated those who feel stigma from those who “know weed is illegal, and therefore that using it is more dangerous, if only from the standpoint of wanting to avoid a criminal record.”

              In fact, stigma has nothing to do with fear. Stigma, where it exists, operates whether one is caught or not, since it works on one’s self-concept, through shame. (Although in its original sense, stigmata, it was considered a mark of Divine favor.) Stigmatizing is not separate from morality; indeed, stigma cannot exist unless there is first a moral precept that stigmatizes something; that is, declares not only that something is morally wrong, but also that performing the prohibited act places one in the category of transgressor. It simply adds a cognitive element to the moral one – holding out the threat of altering the stigmatized one’s self-concept in a negative and unpleasant way – to provide further motivation to stay on the path of righteousness.

              If you are too advanced, too cool to feel the stigma, properly defined, of pot use – “Honestly, pot is NOT that big of a problem, …” – I suggest you have lost one important extra piece of protection from the cesspool all around you.

              • meunke

                “if only from the standpoint of wanting to avoid a criminal record.”
                – ‘wanting to avoid a criminal record’ is meaningless if you believe you won’t get caught. It only makes sense if you think you MIGHT be caught. Hence, fear of getting caught. If you’re talking about moral stigma, it should exist no matter what the law says. It should not exist purely because the law says XYZ.

                “that is, declares not only that something is morally wrong, but also that performing the prohibited act places one in the category of transgressor.”
                – There are lots of things that are illegal that are NOT morally wrong in themselves. A farmer selling that morning’s raw milk to his neighbor is NOT immoral, however in many places it is totally illegal and can even get you arrested. There are also many instances of it in reverse. It is not illegal to spend hours viewing hardcore pornography, yet it is VERY immoral.

                Your problem, as I have pointed out again and again, and you yourself have proven in your own posts, is you don’t know how people think at all. You miss a key point that your (very) in depth reading has totally glossed over as apparently irrelevant: THEY DON’T CONSIDER LAWS PROHIBITING WEED TO HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH MORALITY, MERELY GOVERNMENT CONTROL.

                Let me repeat that as you seem to be having trouble understanding that simple concept: These users do NOT see anything objectively immoral about smoking a joint. The law there is viewed purely as a means of artificial control.

                That is why just pushing continuous legalism, which at this point is all our glorious ‘war on drugs’ is, will never work, and indeed will continue to make things worse.

                You can pontificate all day long and copy/paste from various places to make your speech polished, but at the end of the day, you’re not convincing anyone.

                “If you are too advanced, too cool to feel the stigma”
                – Since I have never used it, I don’t see how I would feel a stigma.

                “I suggest you have lost one important extra piece of protection from the cesspool all around you.”
                – I might suggest you put your books down for a while and talk to actual people, because you quite obviously don’t. The way you argue this point proves that beyond all doubt.

                “Honestly, pot is NOT that big of a problem”
                – Yeah, it’s not. It is not worth the packed prisons, the shredding of the Constitution, the massive growth in federal power, miniature wars being fought in central and south America, etc. There are bigger issues to resolve first, that MUST be resolved first. All your blustering on this is akin to going into a leper colony and declaring very solemnly that the big problem is that the people there are eating too many transfats.

                • Gilbert Jacobi

                  OK, you fooled me. You started out sounding reasonable enough, so I ignored the alarm bells of the first ad hominem and the jumping to conclusion. But those who use these tactics almost invariably turn out to be time-wasting, scatterbrained, impertinent jerks incapable of following an argument, and you have royally proved true to the type.

                  “‘wanting to avoid a criminal record’ is meaningless if you believe you won’t get caught. It only makes sense if you think you MIGHT be caught.”

                  You’re saying that no one fears getting caught? And you accuse ME of not knowing how people think? This proves what I suggested earlier: you need to improve the quality of the people you hang with – as in less coke snorting, amoral house-flippers.

                  “If you’re talking about moral stigma, it should exist no matter what the law says.’

                  Were you AWAKE when you read my post? Because, that has been shown to improve comprehension, see. Maybe you were just doing the usual Twitterhead thing; the I-phone(s), the headphones, the laptop, all going at once, as you kept up with every stupefyingly boring detail of your three thousand friends’ meaningless lives, supplying them with your own useless life’s coma-inducing latest undevelopments, all the while (in your mind) shooting down in flames some dork who had the nerve to assault your tender ears with – OMG – “POLISHED PROSE! (Which for you must mean writing consisting of sentences of more than ten words and containing two or more words of three syllables.) Cut and paste? Refer to books? Just to deal with the likes of bimbos like you? ROFL! Now look what we find in that polished prose, where mean me inexcusably hid it right at the beginning of a paragraph but obviously beyond the limit of your Twitter-trashed attention span: “In fact, stigma has nothing to do with fear. Stigma, where it exists, operates whether one is caught or not, …” In other words, no matter what the law says – get it now?

                  “There are lots of things that are illegal that are NOT morally wrong in themselves. ”

                  And I needed this bit of profundity because … well, beats me, because I was talking about something – the “chronic”, as weed’s known here among the Trayvons in my nabe – which IS morally wrong.

                  Speaking of my neighborhood: (I’d rather not, but since you have made a misleading comparison of my turf with the burbs, [see making assumptions about people you know nothing about, supra] as in: “Open drug markets in the black sections of downtown get hit … Not much happens in shiny white suburbs … Cops aren’t going to make any serious effort to go after them because law enforcement isn’t stupid enough to go after the tax base.”)

                  1. I count, over the past two years, seven times I have looked out my back window, usually in the early afternoon of a Friday or Saturday, to see, in the alley behind my house, a line of BLACK people long enough to fill a Popeye’s Chicken at lunchtime patiently awaiting the arrival of a BLACK dealer; the arrival of said dealer; and the orderly exchange of money for drugs, all without the slightest interference from the 5 0.

                  2. Re: not wanting to arrest suburbanites. Cops and politicians here are routinely indicted for being in the pay of local gangs, whose offers are a much more personal, immediate, and lucrative motive to look the other way than concern about a tax base. The scene I described above is played out all over black and brown hoods. So much for your misplaced sympathy for ghettoites; or is it hatred for the middle class?

                  I missed your “KEY POINT”? But it’s only “key” to you. Because I COULDN’T CARE LESS about your jaded companions who DON’T CONSIDER LAWS PROHIBITING WEED TO HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH MORALITY, MERELY GOVERNMENT CONTROL.

                  Apparently, either you feel an undue need to be respected by such people , or you think that all Americans look at the law this way. The people I care about are the ones who take the law seriously, or as CK says above, the people who “look to the government and not the church to discern what is right and wrong.” many of whom do fear getting caught. And, even for those in whom a faith-based morality was instilled, this may not always be enough. Many are hanging only precariously onto their faith, under continuous assault by the popular culture as it is, and many a one is not as immune to temptation as he or she thinks. Who can say how many of these will be pushed or seduced over the line if the government gives the green light? Maybe even you.

    • Gilbert Jacobi

      No stigma, perhaps, at least among those reared in a permissive family. Certainly even the most secular young people realize pot is illegal, and therefore that using it is dangerous for anyone wishing to avoid a criminal record.

  • CK

    I do not believe it was a good idea to outlaw marijuana in the first place. However, as more and more people look to the government and not the church to discern what is right and wrong, I believe this will have dire consequences for society.

    • felixcox

      Why dire? What about pot use among adults is dire?

  • John Uebersax

    Let me try to put the case for decriminalization another way.

    1. Human beings are chronically afflicted with anxious, worried thoughts. Jesus makes a definitive statement about this in Matt. 6:25–34 (“Take no thought for the morrow…”). Anxious and fearful thoughts crowd out the basic joy of living and prevent experiencing the world and life fully. This problem is arguably worse for modern people.

    2. While rationality is part of our distinctive human nature and ‘telos’, anxious thoughts could be understood as a misuse of our rational abilities.

    3. Although consuming MJ in excess produces a dull and dopey state of mind, using a smaller quantity may serve to reduce anxious and worried thoughts – producing a state that is pleasantly relaxed, rather than ‘stoned’. In this more relaxed state, people often report enhanced creativity, aesthetic perception, conviviality, joie de vivre, rediscovery of the wonders of nature, etc.

    There is an analogy with alcohol. One can drink 4 martinis and pass out, or a small glass of wine and become relaxed. Arguably, the potential for abuse with MJ is greater — for one thing, it doesn’t produce a hangover. But my point is that we should take a nuanced approach in evaluating MJ. It doesn’t always and necessarily impair mental experience. Its use is not *intrinsically* disordered; rather, it falls into that large category of things which have a correct use, but which man manages to abuse. We can’t approach this subject with black-and-white thinking.

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  • Guest


    Pontifical Council for the Family

    “The legalization of drugs implies the risk of causing the opposite effect
    to that sought. In fact, it is easy to admit that what is legal is normal and
    therefore moral. Through the legalization of drugs, it is not the product that
    is thereby legalized, but rather the reasons leading to the consumption of this
    product that are justified. Now, no one will deny that drug use is an evil.
    Whether drugs are illegally purchased or distributed by the State, they are
    always harmful to man.

    The difference between drug addiction and alcoholism was emphasized in
    these terms by the Holy Father John Paul 11: “It is true that there is a
    distinct difference between the use of drugs and the use of alcohol: while a
    moderate use of the latter as a drink does not offend moral principles, only its
    abuse can be condemned; instead, the use of drugs is always unlawful because it
    implies an unjustified and unreasonable renunciation of thinking, desiring and
    acting as a free person” (, 19, VII, 1992, n. 1).”

    • felixcox

      “no one will deny that drug use is an evil.”
      Wrong. Jesus, for example, was pro wine. With his omnipotence, he could have turned the water into non-alcoholic wine. But he chose instead to make the party get even better by magically producing more drug (alcohol).

  • Stephen Krogh

    A more honest article would have considered the fact that Thomas argued that prostitution ought to be legal in order to avoid the social consequences of its prohibition (a damning thing for 13th century sexual morality!).

    I’m not sure how indelibly prostitution was weaved into the social fabric in Thomas’ day, but however badly Thomas thought its prohibition would go, it must have been close to the chaos the drug war has caused, e.g., a veritable civil war in Mexico, overcrowded prisons here in the US, and numerous lives ruined by prosecution, silent police entry gone bad, and so on. And, though Staudt acknowledges the abject moral and practical failure of the drug war, simply suggesting that things should change while keeping marijuana illegal seems a bit disingenuous.

    Perhaps these concerns are surmountable, but this article’s silence on them is deafening.

  • Yes, Thomas Aquinas called for something like tolerance of prostitution. But there is a difference between tolerance and legalization. This is what my friend called the “tyranny of contract”. That there is no such thing as a libertarian “allowing people to use drugs” any more than the government “allowing gays to marry”. The second the government decides it is going to recognize recreational drugs as legitimate property, or recognize mutual-masturbation arrangements as marriages, it is no longer merely tolerating, it’s giving full-throated approval, to the denormalization/marginalization of anyone trying to live virtuously, and not even the “don’t like drugs? don’t use them!” doesn’t help as the private sector becomes a proxy enforcement arm.

  • Gilbert Jacobi

    Comparisons of marijuana and other intoxicating substances are a waste of time. There is little agreement on just what the effects of pot are, in the first place, and then trying to compare them to another extremely variable effect such as that of alcohol just further muddies the waters. The important element in this, that can be debated on solid grounds, is what effect legalization will have.

    There is absolutely no basis for believing legalization would not encourage more use. Look at the other activities that have increased in incidence after prohibitions were abolished or loosened: illegal immigration, abortion, academic cheating, adultery, and divorce being among the most prominent. As the astute student in JERD’s comment noticed, it is only logical to assume that something that is considered legal is o.k. Millions more will think this way, too, and untold numbers of these will take the plunge into trying the drug, who wouldn’t have otherwise.

    The author makes an important point: that “The argument that drugs should remain illegal is not the same as advocating for a continuation of the “war on drugs.” We can and must curtail the hysterics of the drug war. Full scale legalization. however, would be a classic case of baby and bathwater, and a cowardly moral surrender, to boot.

    • felixcox

      “Full scale legalization. however, would be a classic case of baby and bathwater, and a cowardly moral surrender, to boot.”
      That’s the most cynical interpretation you can spin. If you were feeling charitable, you might add some nuance, like saying legalization will have some social negatives, but on balance, society will be more just since a consensual adult activity enjoyed by tens of MILLIONS of responsible adults will no longer be subject to criminal sanction.

      • Gilbert Jacobi

        If charity were called for, I’d be happy to dispense some. Providing greater convenience for pot smokers is not a case which compels charity. In the full article on Aquinas, which is referred to in the one above, Saint Thomas mentions tolerance only of those evils which men cannot be expected to resist or avoid – where full enforcement of the law would be expecting men to behave like angels. For evils which the majority of men can and do avoid, no tolerance. I’m willing to be more generous; i.e., a lot more looking the other way, plus ending most DEA operations, police raids, etc. But getting a little more justice for the odd toker – and the story told by prison records, rap sheets, etc., shows that very few are locked up merely for small amounts of pot, while most who are charged have former criminal backgrounds and are arrested in connection with some other crime – at the price of encouraging more people to use is a bad deal.

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