I recently came across a report of an exchange with a prominent politician, I think governor Cuomo, who had admitted to past marijuana use but was not a supporter of legalization; I have now lost track of the piece. It occurs to me that it raises an interesting issue in both morality and rhetoric.
Imagine that, like Cuomo and Obama, you have admitted to past pot use. You now have a problem. Politicians like to at least pretend that their policies are based on morality and justice, not merely political prudence. So you appear to face two alternatives:
1. The use of marijuana is not the sort of thing that people deserve to be punished for. Hence by supporting existing law you are in part responsible for unjustly imprisoning thousands of people, something of which you ought to be bitterly ashamed. Also something you should stop doing—immediately if not sooner.
2. The use of marijuana is the sort of thing people deserve to be punished for. You used it, hence you deserve to be punished. Turning yourself in to the local jail immediately might be considered irresponsible, given other and even more binding obligations you face. But once your term is up, it is obviously your obligation, as a morally responsible individual, to do so. No doubt you can afford a lawyer to work out the details.
Have any politicians actually faced up to this problem and explained why they are unwilling to accept either of the two alternative conclusions?