Is cannabis legalization ethical? That is, is there an objective good and bad and does cannabis fall on the good side?

If you’re reading this site, the likelihood that you agree ending cannabis prohibition is ethically superior to the alternatives is assumed.

But, can one derive the right to cannabis cultivation, exchange, and consumption without referring to some “natural law” that others can choose not to recognize? And, if prohibition is a violation of natural law, how can one argue for government taxation and regulation of cannabis when this demonstrates a less mild form of prohibition (i.e. it will still be illegal to cultivate, exchange and consume cannabis without the approval of the regulatory state)?

Instead of relying on vague natural rights that others see as unscientific, it is better to follow the intellectual tradition of Hans-Hermann-Hoppe and focus instead on the nature of argumentation. No one can reasonably deny that there is an argument about cannabis legalization in this country and, with the Liberal Party promising to replace prohibition with a milder, less absolute form, it is worth examining how the praxeological approach solves this ethical issue by, instead of appealing to natural law theory and human nature, focuses on propositional exchanges and argumentation.

In essence, argumentation ethics says that certain norms are presupposed by the very act of arguing. One cannot argue that one cannot communicate and argue anymore than one can say that “I am dead” without performing a contradiction.

Argumentation, that is, verbal discourse, is by its very nature a conflict-free way of interacting, which requires the individual doing the arguing have control and ownership of their body. Like comedian Doug Stanhope said, “you own your own meat.”

But of course, in nature we are vulnerable and inept at surviving without appropriating nature-given resources, so it follows that if you have self-ownership, you also own the resources that you appropriate to keep you alive (e.g. private property). People will disagree about what is said during an argument, but by using our words we demonstrate each person’s exclusive control over his or her own body. This ownership of yourself and the resources that keep you alive and comfortable are presupposed in argumentation and it is impossible to deny this without implicitly admitting to its truthfulness.

Therefore, in the same way that Stephen Harper can’t state that he is dead because the very act of proposing it presupposes that he is alive, it is also a performative contradiction for Stephen Harper to argue against the right for others to cultivate, exchange and consume cannabis since in order to act upon that belief, he negates the inherent self-ownership that is presupposed by his argument.

In other words, he’s trying to have his cake and eat it too.

But how does Trudeau’s Liberal Party compare, since they are advocating a legalization scheme?

Since Trudeau advocates for the taxation and regulation of cannabis, he too is performing a contradiction since his argument that government force is needed to regulate the plant negates the self-ownership of the individuals who cultivate, exchange and consume cannabis. That said, any argument for government force is a performative contradiction since the mere act of argumentation presupposes self-ownership and property rights which government force denies.

The denial that human beings have self-ownership to cultivate, exchange and consume cannabis involves asserting a proposition that is incompatible with the truth. No position on cannabis legalization is rationally defensible unless it can be justified by argument.

But no position can be justified by argument if it denies one or more of the preconditions of the argumentative exchange. Since argumentative exchange requires that each individual enjoys exclusive control over his or her own body, to deny the right of cannabis cultivation is to deny exclusive control over one’s own body.

Therefore, the denial of cannabis legalization is rationally indefensible.

Footnote(s)