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Social Behavior and Public Policy,

The presumption of this paper is that individual liberty is the paramount political value. There is more to life than the freedom to act without political constraint, but that liberty underlies the rest of human action, including the pursuit of the transcendent. Steven Wisotsky, a law professor at Nova Southeastern in Florida, argued that “the fundamental moral premise of our political, economic, and legal systems” is “that the individual is competent to order his life to vote, to manage his own affairs and be responsible for whatever results he produces in life” (1986: 201). Some argue that the majority of people are not capable of self-governance, that only a minority of people make rational decisions (see, e.g., Bakalar and Grinspoon, 1984: 28). This argument proves too much, however, for why should such people be allowed to choose political leaders and why should officials so chosen be allowed to make decisions for others? One might not trust the decisions made by individuals with dubious reasoning ability, but one should not casually assume that collectives including the same people would make better decisions. Of course, there always will be some legal limits on human conduct. After all, laws against murder, theft, and fraud impair “freedom” in one sense, yet are required to protect liberty, properly understood. Nevertheless, human beings, as the basic moral agents in any society, should be generally free to act so long as they accept the consequences of their actions. One of the freedoms that should be treated as a legal right is drug use. Making this argument is not to encourage drug use. Rather, it is to hold that government may not properly criminalize drug use. The basic moral case was famously articulated by John Stuart Mill (Bakalar and Grinspoon, 1984: 1).2 Adults are entitled to ingest substances even if a majority views that decision as foolish