Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Stupid Laws

It's appropriate on 4/20 to say that I am in favor of legalizing marijuana. It is less harmful than alcohol or a variety of over the counter medicines, to say nothing of prescription drugs with a much higher potential for misuse. The push to make it illegal came from the paper industry, not out of any noble desire for social purity. It's another failed experiment in prohibition.

In the same spirit there are a host of laws which are ostensibly about protecting society which I would repeal. These laws don't keep us safe. They don't improve our lives. At best these laws keep law enforcement busy and prisons full, but at the cost of criminalizing and disenfranchising large swaths of our society. A few examples:

#1 - Legalize sex-workers. The oldest profession is rampant and never going away. Criminalizing various forms of sex-work merely serves to enrich pimps and empower organized crime. The biggest benefit of legalization is that it then offers the possibility of regulation. Disease, violence, drug-addiction, trafficking, abuse of minors... we can tackle all of these problems when the women and men in this field can get legal protection.

#2 - Abolish Three-Strikes. Treating all felonies as if they were equal is a violation of one of the most important principals of justice - proportionality. Locking anyone away for life because of felony drug-possession is a travesty. These kind of laws do not deter crime, but rather lead to hopelessness and recidivism. Basing penal codes on sports metaphors is appalling.

#3 - Shut down the Sex-Offender Registry. People will probably think I'm crazy for defending pedophiles, but stigmatizing, isolating, and therefore punishing a person for life is wrong. Especially when you consider that public nudity can get you on this list right alongside the multiple rapist. The registry does nothing to keep people safe, but it does a great job of terrifying people and ruining the lives of those who are registered.


Anonymous said...

Interesting stuff, nice post.

My biggest problem is shutting down the sex offender registry. I'd rather know if my neighbor was a sex offender, because sex offenders (particularly child offenders) have an incredibly high recidivism rate. I know that there's a big difference between an 18 year old having a relationship with a 16 year old, and a 40 year old predator acting on impulses with a 10 year old...most laws currently don't distinguish between the two. I'd rather have a more specific sex offender registry that tells me the age of the offender at the time the crime took place.

I am reading Super-Freakonimics and I think think that you're right about prostitution. In the words of Carlin...(Sex) is legal, selling is legal, why shouldn't selling (sex) be legal?

Abolish three strikes and give the power of judgement back to the judge.

Finally, on marijuana legalization, I have to ask this: would you get on an airplane with a pilot that you saw at a hash bar the previous evening, or would the law only apply to certain people with certain jobs?


Aric Clark said...

I wouldn't want my pilot smoking marijuana while flying anymore than I'd want them drinking, but getting high the night before is actually safer than getting drunk the night before. Marijuana does not cause hangovers.

Essentially the same restrictions that apply to smoking and drinking ought to apply to marijuana.

Anonymous said...

We are tested for both drugs and alcohol. Drugs show up for weeks, alcohol shows up in trace amounts for about 12 hours. My point is that there is a very specific test for alcohol presence in the blood stream. As far as I know, there isn't a test that measures that amount and recency of use for marijuana other than a full-on "stupid human tricks" interview with a policeman. Now THAT would be interesting down on the tarmac prior to a flight:)