The Perception of Right and Wrong Through Legality
Are illegal actions specifically illegal because they are wrong, or do things become wrong because we make them illegal, for whatever reason? Certainly there are actions which are universally accepted as wrong — murder, rape, stealing the moon — but nearly everyone in the world will live under laws that they don’t believe in. For the purposes of this short contemplation I’ll use a relatively benign illegality, the partaking of marijuana to alter your state of mind.
Marijuana has not always been illegal, therefore one would have to assume that it was accepted as wrong before it became illegal. As a base, we can say that it has always been wrong to commit murder. Our oldest stories, in the Western Christian world being Cane and Abel, reflect this. Some actions, such as incest, are so wrong that even animals know instinctively not to partake in such acts. But other actions come through discovery and the progression of technology. Who can say if stem cell research or tampering with a baby’s DNA is wrong? These things have not had enough time for society to make that decision.
Marijuana has been illegal in the United States long enough for many people to not only think that it is, in fact, morally wrong, but so much so that it’s actual effects have been drastically exaggerated, as though the drug was as powerful as LSD or that it could instantly addict you, causing you to look like a 10 year heroine addict after just one puff. In fact, even though scientific studies have not proven marijuana to be very dangerous at all, save for a heavy smokers increased chances of lung cancer (hardly enough to merit the drug as morally wrong given our laws’ desire to appease tobacco so easily), marijuana continues to be illegal and therefore perceived as wrong.
Chicken or egg, perhaps such questions aren’t completely answerable, because it is more based on culture, or even individual perception. I do wonder what would happen to those who’ve come to believe that certain actions, such as a good stonering, are wrong if those laws were suddenly changed. Would parents be happy for their children to light up a joint after Thanksgiving dinner, suddenly? Or would there be a transition of a generation or two where regardless of the law, parents raised their children and laid out their own stipulations.
Marshall law at Mom’s house.
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