Opinion: Legality does not equal morality

Due to the societal attitude that legality and morality are inherently synonymous, immoral laws regularly remain unchallenged. Even when such laws are challenged, they can be incredibly difficult to alter or overturn. Laws made for immoral reasons maintain their legal status purely based upon the fact that they are laws.

The general legal status of marijuana exemplifies this dilemma. Veterans with PTSD often benefit from using marijuana, but due to its criminalization, they are barred from their ability to actually improve their quality of living. Countless other conditions — ranging from glaucoma to Parkinson’s — can be treated through its use. Sadly, because marijuana is criminalized, it has been viewed as immoral for decades, and has consequently been fought at every potential chance for legalization.

The legal status of harder drugs is also problematic, as it limits addicts from receiving the help that they desperately need. The usage of drugs — like heroin and meth — are not a matter of morality, but the way we provide users with treatment is. Heroin and meth use are exceptionally self-destructive, but that in no way means using them is amoral.

Rather than locking addicts up or punishing them for trying to cope with difficult situations and alleviate pain, we should instead put the money currently being spent on tracking them down and incarcerating them on rehabilitation. Incarceration doesn’t benefit addicts, it simply compounds the issues in their lives. Negative discipline rarely provides positive effects on those who commit nonviolent crimes, so society’s continued insistence on perpetuating this aspect of the status quo is baffling.

Politicians, as well as citizens, need to stop conflating legality and morality. Their separation is necessary since, otherwise, we as a society will continue to remain stagnant, suffering under unjust laws which do nothing more than cause pain. Improving the lives of those who are under the greatest levels of affliction should be our priority. To do this, we need to undermine the eminence of laws.


Lucas Waggoner

Lucas is a PPE major in University of Washington Tacoma, and he is graduating with a Bachelor's in philosophy. His primary interests are philosophy, politics, and law. He is currently working as a teacher at a secondary school while preparing to attend law school immediately following graduation.