Will Wilkinson has a good essay on marijuana in The Week:
Marijuana is neither evil nor dangerous. Scientists have proven its medical uses. It has spared millions from anguish. But the casual pleasure marijuana has delivered is orders of magnitude greater than the pain it has assuaged, and pleasure matters too. That’s probably why Barack Obama smoked up the second and third times: because he liked it. That’s why tens of millions of Americans regularly take a puff, despite the misconceived laws meant to save us from our own wickedness.
The Atlantic Monthly’s Andrew Sullivan has been documenting on his blog the stories of typical, productive Americans—kids’ football coaches, secretaries of the PTA—who smoke marijuana because they like to smoke marijuana, but who understandably fear emerging fully from the “cannabis closet.” This is a profoundly necessary idea. If we’re to begin to roll back our stupid and deadly drug war, the stigma of responsible drug use has got to end, and marijuana is the best place to start. The super-savvy Barack Obama managed to turn a buck by coming out of the cannabis (and cocaine) closet in a bestselling memoir. That’s progress. But his admission came with the politicians’ caveat of regret. We’ll make real progress when solid, upstanding folk come out of the cannabis closet, heads held high.
So here we go. My name is Will Wilkinson. I smoke marijuana, and I like it.
For my part, I’ll say that my name is Matthew Yglesias. I have smoked marijuana in the past, and enjoyed it on occasion, but mostly I haven’t really liked it so I don’t expect I’ll smoke any more in the future. That said, there’s still no really compelling reason that people who do enjoy it should be legally prohibited from doing so.
Is it really true that marijuana isn’t dangerous? Well, yes and no. I’m not a libertarian. I believe in paternalist measures for the sake of public health. And smoking marijuana is not a healthy undertaking. But it ought to be put on a spectrum that includes other unhealthy things that many people enjoy—neither beer nor cigarettes nor M&Ms are good for you. My understanding is that pot is more dangerous than candy, but less so than tobacco (which is more addictive and involves similarly bad-for-you inhaling of smoke) or alcohol. I’m inclined to think that all such substances should be legal, and subject to taxation and restrictions on permitted forms of marketing, with the level of taxation roughly scaled to the actual scope of the public health issue.