Legalise it?


Life is dynamic and never lived in a straight line. Circumstances which are perfectly normal and mainstream at one time, may be quite old fashioned and outdated a little while later. This is true in our personal lives as well as in national events.


Not so long ago, marijuana was a dangerous, untouchable drug. Today, there is debate about whether or not it should be made legal.


Support for full legalisation is still growing, but is not yet ripe. If my reading of this is correct, marijuana will be completely legal in the not too distant future, for the United States is building up its supply to the point where they can shortly be an exporter of the drug. When they reach that stage, it will be made legal and we will follow suit.


I recently saw a story out of Canada which commented on that Country’s marijuana position. They have about thirty one growers of marijuana for medical purposes. One of these growers was complaining about the competition they are receiving from unlicensed producers. Over one hundred shops over which these growers have no control have been opened offering the drug. It was instructive to hear the reporter quote the grower as saying that when, not if, when marijuana is decriminalised, his production will still continue as it is now. 


There is less opposition to the legal use of marijuana for medical purposes. Here too, we are still dancing around the issue. It has already been established that there are medical benefits to marijuana. Wisely, we are waiting to establish the usefulness of this drug through our own research. Maybe we will eventually do the same with other legal drugs that we consume. When the music stops, marijuana use will be legal, for medical purposes, initially.


There is a legitimate debate about the proven harmful effects of the drug. Local authorities cannot ignore this issue. Those in the vanguard of the call for legalisation will paper over this fact and will not wish to debate this question. They will also cite the use of alcohol, which is also a drug that causes great harm to some users, but is completely legal. There are two sides to this story, and the debate is worthy of having, even if the outcome is certain.


Feminists have again raised their voice to the call for the legalisation of prostitution. At times in the past, this suggestion was made by persons, mainly men, who had a business interest to serve. The agenda may be different now with the new demand. This is seen by some as another step in the empowerment of women.


I am not sure that the call for legal prostitution has been thought through. It is not an offence to have consensual sex. The view has long been posited, even if facetiously, that many heterosexual relationships already involve an exchange of body for possessions. The age of relationships without meaningful commitment lends credence to this unfortunate view


The legal issue is two-fold. One is solicitation and the second is living off the earnings of prostitution. It may not be unreasonable to take different stances on these two limbs.


To take the second point first, one may understandably be in disagreement with persons establishing businesses based on prostitution. These businesses may require working women to pay a portion of their earnings to those who run these establishments. On the other hand, these establishments provide the ambiance and become the women’s place of business. These business persons are entitled to a return on their investment.


Open solicitation may have involved the accosting of persons as they go about their business. However, the concentration of this business in particular areas reduces this problem. 


The problem with prostitution is a moral one. In making aspects of this business unlawful, the legal system is merely reinforcing the society’s moral code. “[S]ociety may use the law to preserve morality in the same way it uses it to safeguard anything else if it is essential to its existence." This is the much debated view of Lord Devlin in his discourse on the enforcement of morals. The activity he was considering was homosexuality, but the principle applies to all issues of morality.


The legal defence of morals may be invoked, even where there is no evidence of particular harm to the society. It was the absence of evidence of general societal harm that grounded the view that homosexuality between consenting adults in private is not the law’s business since there was no automatic harm done to the society by such activity. More than half a century later, one is able to examine this statement in hind sight and arrive at an informed conclusion. 


Prostitution is probably as old as organised society. How has it harmed this society or any society which we may closely observe? The answer depends on who you ask.


Law is only as relevant as its ability to respond to society’s norms. At this time, marriage is often seen as an obstacle course. Both women and men are choosing to omit this challenge from their lives. Should a person be able to purchase intimate services when such services are needed as opposed to making a more expensive outlay, both financially and emotionally, when there is no accompanying commitment? 


This practical approach to life may be seen as immoral. This may be offensive to religious ideals, but we are not living in a theocracy. Individuals would continue, as now, to make decisions that suit them best, given their belief system and their other circumstances.


The law cannot outlaw adult heterosexual sex, but it officially seeks to determine in what circumstances adults may engage in this exchange. Is this still a legitimate role for the state in 2016 moral Barbados? Whatever the law says, the business of prostitution will continue. There is a view that all illegality does is force this open trade outdoors. This has no impact on those workers who do not stand beside the street but are accessible by a telephone call.


Marijuana use and prostitution are still regarded as vices, but time and circumstance change things. Are the circumstances right, and is this the time for a different legal stance on these practices?

Barbados Advocate

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