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Thanksgiving, Personal Freedom … and Marijuana

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Celebrating a day of thanksgiving has a long history in this country, dating back to the first year of George Washington’s first term as president, when he proclaimed Nov. 28, 1789 “as a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favours of Almighty God.”

The tradition continued, although on different dates in different states, until President Abraham Lincoln in 1863, in the middle of the Civil War, proclaimed the final Thursday in November as Thanksgiving nationwide. Of course the Confederate States refused to recognize Lincoln’s authority, and it was not until after the war ended, during reconstruction in the mid-1870s, that all states participated in the national Thanksgiving celebration.

The date for Thanksgiving was then changed from the final Thursday in November to the fourth Thursday in November by a Joint Resolution of Congress signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on Dec. 26, 1941, during the early days of our involvement in World War II.

And we will continue that tradition this Thursday, when most of us pause for a day to consider and give thanks for the people who enrich our lives, and the freedoms we enjoy in our everyday lives. We have much for which to be thankful, regardless of our individual stories. As a member of the American family, we have been privileged in many ways by birth.

The Threat of Terrorism in the Background

It would be foolish not to acknowledge the uncertainties and fears caused by the threat of terrorism in our world today.

None of us will ever be quite the same once our sense of innocence and well-being has been dashed by the reality of a terrorist act, such as we all witnessed in horror on September 11, 2001. When we see the frightening and horrendous death and destruction caused over the last few days by a few evil terrorists in Paris, or in Mali, we can but wonder how long it will be before we experience another 9/11 in our own country.

The innocence of the victims in these attacks appears to be the purpose — to shock and terrorize — and the irrationality and unpredictability of when and where these attacks  occur only serves to make all of us fearful.

And that, of course, is the purpose of these heinous acts. And it is why we must not allow the despicable, uncivilized acts of a few extremists to distract us from our regular lives, filled with family and friends and meaning and purpose. Yes, life involves some risks, and lots of uncertainties, but as the Parisians have demonstrated, living life to the fullest, and getting back to one’s regular life, is the best revenge.

Personal Freedom

Which finally brings me to the topic I am supposed to be writing about – legalizing marijuana. The marijuana legalization movement, at least from my perspective, is only incidentally about marijuana. It is really about personal freedom.

The freedom to decide for oneself whether to smoke marijuana, free from governmental interference. The government has no business coming into my home to find out what books I read; what music I listen to; how I conduct myself in the privacy of the bedroom; or whether or not I smoke marijuana or drink alcohol when I relax in the evening. It is simply none of their business.

The freedom to be free from government searches, absent the issuance of a search warrant, based on probable cause to believe a crime has been committed, is a most important freedom that we win back for the individual, once marijuana is legalized. The sight or smell of marijuana no longer gives the police the ability to ignore our Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures. When marijuana is no longer a crime, neither is it the basis to obtain a search warrant.

So this Thanksgiving, I will be giving thanks that as a country we are moving away from the war on marijuana smokers, and moving ever so cautiously towards the legalization and regulation of the responsible use of marijuana by adults. And in doing that, we are returning a measure of personal freedom, once lost, to the tens of millions of marijuana smokers in America.