Without guidance from Allah, human beings are so utterly confused and their best ideas are replete with contradiction.
I don’t think Bernie is the worst 2020 US presidential candidate. If he is able to implement some of his ideas, like fixing the broken for-profit healthcare system, that would help many who are suffering in the Muslim community and society at large.
But Bernie also has some very stupid ideas.
For example, have you read the marijuana legalization plan that his campaign recently published? What a complete mess.
The entire focus of his plan is on how the War on Drugs disproportionately has impacted black Americans. So to right the wrongs of the War on Drugs, minorities need to be empowered…
…to start legal marijuana businesses. That is the central pillar of the plan.
Bernie is going to make it easier for these minority marijuana entrepreneurs to get bank loans, lower the legal barriers for growers and dispensaries, even create programs to teach minorities how to best run their new weed shops. He even proposes using tax money to give ex-convicts grants so they can start their own weed farms.
I am not making this up.
This is what happens when social justice is left to its own devices. Complete lunacy.
The Spiritual and Physical Cost of Marijuana
Look, I agree that the War on Drugs and the anti drug legal and policing system has disproportionately impacted blacks and has devastated entire communities.
But do you know what else besides the War on Drugs has devastated entire communities?
Maybe the people writing Bernie’s policy proposals are too young and hip and don’t have the life experience to know this. But marijuana is a terrible drug that has ruined countless lives. Just because western pop culture makes weed look harmless, the reality is so many youth are constantly getting high, no motivation, no ability to focus, no desire to pursue anything other than the next joint.
Smoking weed is used as an escape and has become a crutch for many youth to avoid the stresses of reality. This escapism is more destructive than the physical harms the addictive substance causes. The ability to kick back, light up, and blaze away one’s worries creates apathy for everything: one’s obligations and responsibilities to Allah, family, community, and self.
I personally know plenty of Muslim families devastated right now because their kids are potheads and can’t quit. It’s not a joke. And even if no Muslim were an addict, who would want to live in a society surrounded by such addicts? What kind of society would that be?
Look at how many deaths are caused by drunk drivers. Drugged drivers under the influence of marijuana are already causing thousands of annual fatalities according to Pew Research, and that number stands to go way up if federal legalization goes into affect. How many Muslim families will lose children, spouses, loved ones to drivers high on weed?
Bernie’s plan doesn’t once acknowledge this human cost of addiction to marijuana. He talks about it like it’s frozen yogurt. He even mentions the importance of creating a system for certifying “organic” weed, because you want to make sure you aren’t getting any nasty, inorganic chemicals in the controlled substance you’re smoking.
Again, I’m not joking. That’s literally in his plan:
“We will establish a national system to certify organic marijuana to give consumers the information they need to make an informed decision.”
How about informing consumers that smoking weed kills brain cells, is highly addictive, impairs your mind, destroys your memory and ability to focus, can cause cancer, and on and on?
This is how befuddled modern man is. Ask any social justice warrior what he thinks about liquor stores in the hood and he’ll tell you about all the harms of alcoholism, the waste of much-needed money poured into that drug, and the predatory businesses that profit from the misery of minorities. But that same pro-Bernie warrior will tell you it is a good idea to empower minorities to open weed shops all over these very same communities.
How does that make any sense? It is so clearly self-contradictory that I feel like Sanders’ campaign is playing a prank.
“But What About the Exploitation?!”
Yes, economic exploitation of minorities is bad. Also bad is — stay with me here — drug addiction.
This nonsense plan is full of such contradictions. It’s quite shocking that a serious presidential candidate would put out such a poorly thought out proposal. But it does nicely demonstrate how blind secular democracy is in governing human societies. Just throw something out there and see if it works. Doesn’t matter if millions of people end up suffering. War on Drugs was also a presidential proposal from a democratically elected president. Look how well that has turned out.
Given that Bernie seems to be the favorite candidate of the US Muslim community, I’m afraid many in the Muslim yuppie class will fall inline blindly on marijuana, either because they’re users themselves or because being pro weed is considered “woke” and 100% conformant to the cultural zeitgeist.
The Islamic Reality
In opposition to this, Muslims need to remember that intoxicants like marijuana are forbidden and come with great harm to the user and society as a whole, both physically and spiritually.
The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said:
“Every intoxicant is khamr (wine) and every intoxicant is haram. Whoever drinks khamr in this world and dies when he is addicted to it and has not repented, will not drink it in the Hereafter (i.e., in Janna).” [Sahih Muslim]
“Whoever drinks alcohol, no prayer will be accepted from him for forty days. Then if he repents, Allah will accept his repentance. If he drinks it again, no prayer will be accepted from him for forty days. Then if he repents Allah will accept his repentance. Then if he drinks it again, it will be incumbent upon Allah to give him to drink of the mud of al-khabal.” It was asked: What is the mud of al-khabal? He said: “The juice or sweat of the people of Hell.” [Ahmad]
According to the Sharia, the Islamic judge (qadi) sentences for punishment the one convicted for using intoxicants. The punishment could be as severe as the hadd for drunkeness (40 to 80 lashes depending on the madhhab) or ta`zir (discretionary punishment according to the judge, which could involve lashes, imprisonment, fines, etc.) depending on the substance. These punishments are necessary to prevent people from falling into this path of self and societal destruction.
There are so many examples of how addictive substances destroy communities and entire nations. Look at what crack did to the black community. Look at what opium did to China. Look what it did to many Muslim countries under secular rule in the past 200 years. Look at what it is doing to white America today. Or tobacco or alcohol. But somehow, we are supposed to believe weed is perfectly fine to proliferate and become its own multi-billion-dollar industry?
Don’t get me started on the ironies of pro-Bernie socialists and neo-Marxists going on and on about how much net profits the burgeoning weed business will generate. Capitalism is good when it’s minorities slinging drugs, apparently.
What Is the Alternative?
Now I agree that the current policy of incarceration for using marijuana is causing more problems than helping. But the solution is not legalization plus creating a new weed industry, as Sanders proposes. The best solution is provided by Islamic ethics. And while Islamic ethics is not going to be implemented by a non-Muslim country, as Muslims we can and should support those policies that are maximally aligned with Islamic ethics.
For example, clearly mass incarceration is not a good deterrent given that going to prison in the US prison system often causes convicts to fall into more crime without rehabilitation from the addiction. Perhaps other deterrents could be implemented, though nothing beats corporal punishment. A few lashes could straighten up a lot of people. And at least one Western philosopher agrees with me on that: Peter Moskos in his book In Defense of Flogging.
Maintaining the criminality of drug use and, importantly, the selling and distribution of drugs is critical. Clearly the current system has many flaws and the War on Drugs has been a failure. But how is it the solution to open the floodgates and allow weed to become a legal industry like alcohol and tobacco? I am not convinced that the only two possibilities are 1) the failed War on Drugs and 2) full blown legalization.
But Prohibition Failed, Right?
When the prohibition of alcohol was sent down by Allah, the Sahaba quickly dumped all their wine. They did not hesitate to obey the commands of their Lord. But when the US government tried to prohibit alcohol in the 1920s, the results were not as dramatic.
In 1919, the US ratified the 18th amendment, which prohibits the manufacture, sale, and distribution of liquor. The conventional wisdom is that the prohibition failed because just fourteen years later, these things were once again legalized. Liberal secularists will often use this example to claim that legal prohibition of drugs doesn’t work and only leads to more problems, like violent crime. But some historians disagree. Harvard professor Mark H. Moore argues that Prohibition was actually a success, giving four reasons why:
First, the regime created in 1919 by the 18th Amendment and the Volstead Act, which charged the Treasury Department with enforcement of the new restrictions, was far from all-embracing. The amendment prohibited the commercial manufacture and distribution of alcoholic beverages; it did not prohibit use, nor production for one’s own consumption. Moreover, the provisions did not take effect until a year after passage -plenty of time for people to stockpile supplies.
Second, alcohol consumption declined dramatically during Prohibition. Cirrhosis death rates for men were 29.5 per 100,000 in 1911 and 10.7 in 1929. Admissions to state mental hospitals for alcoholic psychosis declined from 10.1 per 100,000 in 1919 to 4.7 in 1928.
Arrests for public drunkennness and disorderly conduct declined 50 percent between 1916 and 1922. For the population as a whole, the best estimates are that consumption of alcohol declined by 30 percent to 50 percent.
Third, violent crime did not increase dramatically during Prohibition. Homicide rates rose dramatically from 1900 to 1910 but remained roughly constant during Prohibition’s 14 year rule. Organized crime may have become more visible and lurid during Prohibition, but it existed before and after.
Fourth, following the repeal of Prohibition, alcohol consumption increased. Today, alcohol is estimated to be the cause of more than 23,000 motor vehicle deaths and is implicated in more than half of the nation’s 20,000 homicides. In contrast, drugs have not yet been persuasively linked to highway fatalities and are believed to account for 10 percent to 20 percent of homicides.
Prohibition did not end alcohol use. What is remarkable, however, is that a relatively narrow political movement, relying on a relatively weak set of statutes, succeeded in reducing, by one-third, the consumption of a drug that had wide historical and popular sanction.
What’s the Solution?
Given these facts, it seems like an effective governmental program in the present day that could be accepted by a secular non-Muslim population would combine:
- Illegality of production, distribution, sale, and use of drugs. But harsher punishments for the distributors than for addicted users. Addicted users could be sentenced with fines and mandatory service plus drug rehabilitation.
- Effective healthcare and social welfare programs to treat those with drug abuse problems and support their families.
- Education programs to proactively teach the dangers of drug use.
- Crack down on the glamorization of drugs in movies, music, TV, and pop culture in general.
Obviously, an Islamic government would ideally implement hudud as well for drunkenness and appropriate discretionary punishments of varying degrees of harshness for those contributing to people’s addiction. The conjunction of all these measures could be operationalized on a national scale.
Finally, care and concern for those who are addicted to drugs is part of the Sunna. According to a hadith transmitted by Imam al-Bukhari:
A man who had drunk wine was brought to the Prophet ﷺ and he asked us to beat him; some struck him with their hands, some with their garments (making a whip) and some with their sandals. When he (the drunkard) had gone, some of the people said: “May Allah disgrace you!” The Prophet ﷺ said, “Do not say so. Do not help the devil against him.”
As Muslims, we need to help people against the devil. And we have the best guidance on this. We should share that guidance with the world, instead of blindly endorsing the half-baked proposals of geriatric leftists.