Pot initiative proponents and opponents deserve each other

by Paul Mero

For the past 30-something years, especially the last 18 years here in Utah, I have made freedom my business. But I guess I have not done a very good job as its advocate because even really intelligent people either do not understand it or still choose to prioritize self-interest.

Throughout these ten years of commentaries, I have described freedom in minute detail – from its essence to its processes – and, regardless of the angle, I am convinced most people (even guardians elected to serve and protect it) do not really get it.

Historically speaking, it’s to be expected. Frankly, our founding fathers were shocked at what they had achieved and most figured it would not last. They predicted every possible failure ahead when they created a system of freedom knowing full well that it could not survive people of diminishing virtue – a good point at which to pick up the current narrative over Utah’s marijuana initiative.

Whether the direction of the current debate is substantive or procedural, both sides – proponents and opponents of the initiative – have abandoned freedom.

Zealous political proponents of the initiative, who should know better, miss the whole point of the problem. The problem is not pain relief. The problem is addressing one kind of pain without creating other kinds of pain. Setting aside end-of-life and life-debilitating physical scenarios wherein no potential solution is as worse as the problem, pot is not the answer. In fact, if you really believe in freedom, it creates new problems.

The process of freedom is slow and deliberative. A pot initiative is neither and neither are lawsuits to stop it. I suppose opponents of the pot initiative feel justified in filing lawsuits because proponents of the initiative bypassed primary constitutional processes through the Legislature. Pure democracy is not freedom and neither is government by judiciary.

I oppose the pot initiative because it is bad public policy and it undermines the common good essential to true freedom. The idea of “chronic pain” as legal justification to do anything is ludicrous and only minds obsessed with equating freedom with license could be so blind not to see it.

But I also oppose the strategy of the initiative’s opponents to quash the effort by lawsuit. I get that government by judiciary is the new means for victory in modern America. If you do not like something, sue. But reliance on the judiciary is hardly the epitome of freedom. And it bugs me most that my church – the LDS Church – does not see the harm in government by judiciary. Hell, the entire Book of Mormon is one eternal witness of the harm done to freedom by lawyers when we let lawyers define our existence! How can they not see that?

Quit filing lawsuits! Try winning over the hearts of the people not the interests of judges and lawyers. And understand this – your lawsuits are not justified because proponents of the pot initiative pursued an end run around the Legislature. Part of your problem has been how you work the Legislature – thinking a stealthy but heavy hand serves your interests more than an open and robust debate. That behavior is anti-freedom and gives rise to frustrations that lead to misguided political efforts like a lame pot initiative.

Likewise, for proponents, the legal initiative process, in this case, is hardly an act of a confident cause. It is intellectual cowardice. You who pride yourself on reason and objectivism are betraying your values. You think the legislative process broke down in your cause. It did not. You broke. You broke faith with reason. You quit making an argument. You are behaving in ways you claim to loathe. And for what? To legalize pot. And you wonder why I call your libertarian thinking juvenile. The politics of tantrum are unbecoming of a self-proclaimed enlightened movement.

A pox on it all. I am so sick and tired of rearguard actions to save face and winning as strategy. If you believe in freedom, virtue is the prize – virtue in substance and virtue in process. Both sides of this pot initiative are making a mockery of freedom.

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