(CCU Faculty) This week, The Centennial Institute hosted a debate on the question of whether, and to what degree, marijuana should be legalized in the state of Colorado. This is obviously a very important issue and extremely relevant. The Colorado legislature is currently attempting to deal with the continuing issue of how best to administer its current medicinal marijuana law.
During the Centennial Institute debate, the libertarian position favoring the easing of restrictions and possibly outright full legalization continued to surface. At the root of this argument is a belief that people should be able to make choices for themselves, without government restriction.
While respect for liberty is indeed a fine thing, liberty itself is not unlimited. The approach of most libertarians typically seeks a liberty unchecked. None of the participants at the Centennial Institute debate expressed a personal desire for to have access to marijuana, and all expressed personal reservations for themselves and their family members concerning its use. What this position amounts to is the following: its wrong for me but you can do whatever you want.
During the famous Lincoln-Douglas Debates of 1858, Senator Douglas explained how slavery had existed in his home state of Illinois for a time, but when the people of his state decided that it no longer worked for them, they voted to end it. In contrast to this, Kentucky, Illinois’ southern neighbor, had slavery and continued to have it. In Douglas’ mind, they continued to have legal slavery, as it worked for them. Douglas’ opinion of this discrepancy between Illinois and Kentucky concerning the legality of chattel slavery was an attitude of indifference. It was not right for some, but was for others.
Abraham Lincoln responded to Douglas’ indifference to slavery in the last of their seven debates, held in Alton, Illinois: