Mexico City Professor Says Prohibition Promotes "Evil"

By David Jenison on February 10, 2018

Guillermo José Mañón Garibay is a researcher and professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, a century-old university with a UNESCO-inscribed campus that boasts murals by Diego Rivera and David Alfaro Siqueiros. The professor has been with the Mexico City-based school for nearly two decades, and he recently made a strong argument for ending cannabis prohibition in the Mexican Law Review. His argument tackled issues like the limits of personal freedom, the definition of health, the double standard in regulating alcohol, and the government's duty to encourage "the social good." The professor admits he views cannabis as potentially harmful, but he questions how society should respond to these potential risks. 

Mexico's National Supreme Court of Justice essentially declared cannabis prohibition unconstitutional in November 2015. Regarding this move, Garibay argues, "The Supreme Court's main concern was not to decide whether or not marijuana is harmful to health, whether it has proven therapeutic uses, or whether it constitutes an acceptable recreational form, but whether the State has the right to interfere in the private life of every Mexican. This issue is relevant from the very moment freedom is a human right, recognized in the first article of our constitution."

PRØHBTD made a similar argument last year, calling prohibition an affront to the rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The professor acknowledged that few human rights are absolute (the exceptions being prohibitions on the right to torture, slavery, discrimination, etc.), so he looked at legal and philosophical arguments about freedom. This includes differences between private acts and public ones that might affect third parties, the paradox between private and public interests and a discussion of Sigmund Freud's idea that happiness consists "in procuring pleasure and avoiding pain."

The entire editorial is deep, insightful and worth a read, but the professor ultimately concludes, "The paradox of freedom consists in being able to do everything that pleases the individual, including what hurts him, but without affecting third parties…. Personal happiness never matches social needs and interests, hence the discrepancy between personal obligations and desires. Consequently, there will always be tension between the individual and society, and the resulting malaise will be mitigated by the announcement or decriminalization of the use of drugs, alcohol or other substances, as well as activities that do not contribute to the individual's 'health,' but to mitigate pain or social unrest." 

The professor believes cannabis can be harmful to one's health, but he states, "We cannot ignore the discomfort caused by social life, due to the demands on public duty at the expense of private interests. This results in a tension between the individual and society that is only mitigated by tolerance for drug abuse, alcohol or permission of 'red zones,' because only in this way are social conflicts dissipated."

He adds, "Therefore, permissibility of marihuana should not be decided for the good it does, but for the evil it avoids. This seems to be a point that escapes the analysis of doctors and legislators…. The consumption of marijuana, although it does not seek medical welfare, reduces social tensions and conflicts, and this justifies its decriminalization by the State."

Garibay's conclusion is interesting for a major reason: While others argue for the good legalization will bring, he emphasizes the evil that prohibition fosters in society as a whole. This includes the perpetuation of social conflict, discomfort and personal pain that legalization can help abate. 

Photo credit: Flickr/pontla.

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