Editor’s Note: The following post was made on the r/trees subreddit (If you don’t know what reddit is try this). We are copying the post, made by user OneYearSteakDay, in its entirety here because it’s just too good to change.
One of the biggest arguments I heard yesterday was essentially “My legislature is too conservative to ever legalize marijuana!” Well, that’s no excuse. There are a ton of conservative leaning arguments that can be made in favor of legalization. Here are just a few:
- “Why should the government be allowed to tell informed adults what they can or cannot put into their bodies?”
- “How much tax money should the US Government spend on protecting American citizens from themselves?”
- “Should the Government be allowed to break into an individual’s home to check to see if they are growing a plant in their closet?”
- “We’ve spent an estimated $1,000,000,000,000.00 (One trillion) fighting the war on drugs, how much more tax money should the government spend?
- “If all the money spent on the war on drugs were redistributed to the American people each citizen would have over $3,000.00 returned to them. How much economic growth would $3,000.00 in spending per citizen create?” (Thanks to /u/InfiniteVariable  for this one!)
- “As a free citizen I have the right to with my free time whatever I like, so long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else.”
- “Marijuana has been proven to be less harmful than sugar and less addictive than caffeine, should the Government protect citizens from those as well?”
- “I am the only person who can take responsibility for myself, why should any government try to protect me from myself and my choices?”
- “If someone can choose not to buy or drink liquor why do you think they couldn’t choose not to buy or smoke marijuana?” (Thanks to /u/BigGirl420  for this one!)
Remind them of the source of marijuana misinformation:
- “The US Government is the source of the war on drugs, do you trust them to wage war on their own citizens?”
- “Why do you trust the Government to tell you the truth about something as profitable as marijuana prohibition?”
The “State’s rights” argument:
- “Shouldn’t each state be allowed to decide for itself whether or not to legalize marijuana? How can a state exert it’s sovereignty if marijuana remains illegal on a federal level?”
- “Who is better to decide what is right for themselves, the citizens of a State or the politicians in Washington?”
- “We know that states do a good job of regulating alcohol sales, can’t we trust states to sell and regulate marijuana?” (Thanks to /u/BigGirl420  for this one too!)
- “Alcohol prohibition resulted in increased alcoholism, increased crime and deaths caused by organized crime and dirty moonshine; why would marijuana prohibition be a success when alcohol prohibition failed?” (Thanks to /u/this_nigga  for the correction!)
Religious (Note that you don’t need to be religious to make these religious arguments):
Per /u/pickledpigtits  suggestion I’m going to go ahead and discourage you from using the religious argument. I’ve been convinced that they’re a hail Mary play. I’m leaving them in just for proof that there *is a religious argument that can be made, but I can’t suggest using it. Read /u/pickledpigtits  ‘s comment below for more info.*
- “This plant was not created by man, marijuana has been around for thousands of years and used for just as long. What gives man the right to regulate God’s creation?”
- Genesis 1:29 – And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which [is] upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which [is] the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.
- Genesis 9:3 – Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things.
- Genesis 1:12 – And the earth brought forth grass, [and] herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed [was] in itself, after his kind: and God saw that [it was] good.
- “Legal sellers would be required to ask for photo ID as proof of age, drug dealers don’t care how old the customer is; shouldn’t marijuana be as hard for a minor to obtain as alcohol?”
- “Every American has access to a closet, legalizing marijuana could create tens of thousands of small business opportunities with jobs to match. In this recession can we really afford to turn down an opportunity to create jobs?”
- “Marijuana prohibition is exporting billions of dollars a year to Mexico and South America, shouldn’t we try to keep that money in the United States?”
- “The basic tenant of free market capitalism is that as long as there is a demand a supply will be found. Why not let American farmers provide the supply instead of cartels and the mob?”
- “Legalizing marijuana will make open the door to the production of hemp, a very versatile and profitable crop.” (Thanks to /u/Nev2k  for this one!)
- “Even many police officers and federal law enforcement say that it’s time to legalize marijuana, shouldn’t we listen to the leading authority on crime and crime prevention?”
But it’s a gateway drug!
- “Most people smoke cigarettes before they ever smoke marijuana, most people drink alcohol before they smoke marijuana, many people receive prescription medication before they ever smoke marijuana. Why should marijuana be treated any more harshly than those drugs that come before it?”
- “The only gateway aspect of marijuana is that it’s often the first time someone commits a crime, if we legalize marijuana don’t we eliminate the gateway effect?”
- “An estimated 80% of Americans have tried marijuana in their lives but we don’t see 80% of Americans using crack, where is the evidence of marijuana being a gateway drug?”
- “Drug dealers will always try to up-sell and get their customers onto harder, more addictive drugs. Wouldn’t it be safer for everyone if marijuana production and sale was regulated and monitored?”
- “The gateway drug effect has been dis-proven time and time again, and is widely considered to be fallacious. What other arguments are preventing you from supporting legalizing marijuana?”
- In response to the “What’s next, cocaine?” argument – “We aren’t discussing legalizing cocaine, we’re discussing legalizing marijuana.”
But, what about the children!?
- “No drug dealer asks for ID, do we want our children turning to criminals to get access to marijuana?”
- “Marijuana is one of the most profitable products for gangs, mobs and cartels; wouldn’t it hurt them more to legalize marijuana and take it out of their hands?”
- “Wouldn’t it be better for marijuana users to give their money to a state regulated, taxed institution than to give their money to criminals?”
Many of these arguments are interchangeable, and I encourage you to make them your own. Respect and respond to your audience’s concerns and you should do just fine.
A bonus closer for if you “lose” the argument:
- Drug dealers don’t want to see marijuana legalized either, they stand to lose a lot of business from legalization.
General rules: * DO NOT ARGUE WHILE UNDER THE INFLUENCE!! Seriously, argue with a clean, sober head on your shoulders. The fewer “Uhhh…”s and “Uhmm…”s and “Duuuuude….”s in your conversation the better.
- Questions should be your bread and butter. You want people to make your point for you, hearing themselves make your point can go a long way towards changing minds.
- Leave the official debate rules at home, you aren’t trying to score points you’re trying to change minds. Informing someone that “That’s a strawman argument!” will shut the conversation down right then and there. Use logic, just don’t name the rules.
- NEVER attack alcohol, tobacco or caffeine. Many, many people like to have a drink or a soda on occasion, by demonizing alcohol and caffeine you’re criticizing their choices and run the risk of shutting the argument down. You can compare marijuana to alcohol and caffeine, but do so carefully.
- Appeal to the individual and their beliefs. Not all arguments work on all audiences. For example: Generally speaking the “Small Government” argument won’t have much impact on those of a liberal persuasion, while the “Reducing the prison population” argument won’t have much impact on conservative minded individuals. If we switch who gets which argument though and it’s a homerun.
- Reference pro-legalization individuals that your audience respects. If you told me that Lil’ Wayne supports legalization you would be granted with a blank stare, because I have no idea who that is or why he matters; tell me that Morgan Freeman supports legalization and you’ll have piqued my interest. There are too many pro-pot politicians and celebreties to list, so there are plenty to choose from.
- Passion is persuasive, anger is not. Never, ever express anger at the person you’re talking to or their arguments, no matter how inane. You are trying to appear as an authority on your topic, raising your voice, insulting the individual or their beliefs, or “Pushing their buttons” drains all authority instantly. Be calm, keep smiling, do not dismiss their concerns. You are making a logical argument, not trying to brow beat or scare them.
- The facts are wrong, not the person. This one is important: For the past eighty years people have been told that marijuana is a demon herb, here to destroy lives by leading to brain damage and hard drug abuse. If you approach the debate with the mindset that “This person is wrong and I’m going to show them how wrong they are!” you’re gonna’ fail miserably, approach the debate with the mindset that “This person is working with old, faulty data and I’m going to show them how wrong that data is!” you’ll have much more success
- There is such a thing as a half-victory. Just because your audience doesn’t go out and vote pro-legalization or sign your petition doesn’t mean that you didn’t change some minds. Opposition to anything; as well as support of anything, is a matter of degrees. Moving someone from abject hatred to uncomfortable tolerance is a huge victory, and the first step toward acceptance.
- Mind your language. NEVER swear or curse when having this discussion, be respectful and respectable. Avoid pronouns, seek proper nouns. Avoid slang, seek correct terminology. Be specific, pinpoint your subject. “Hey dude, pot sure is swell, let’s get it goin’! 420 blaze it stick-bundle!” is what you want to avoid “Mike, marijuana has a lot of proven medical benefits, let’s talk about getting it legalized in our state!”
- Try to avoid numbers and statistics when you can, they can be effective but they can also be confusing. It is better to make an argument that is true independent of the statistics, than one that is dependent on the statistics.
- Be patient! You’re trying to undo eighty years of brainwashing and doublespeak, the opinions so many people hold on marijuana were formed with the best of intentions. Anti-legalization voters are genuinely concerned about the gateway drug hypothesis, about children smoking weed all day, about pot-induced violence, about pot-overdoses and about too many other things to list. These fears a very real and should be respected as such.