Backpacking, Camping and Marijuana

marijuanaThe legalization of marijuana in several states has been the leading  nightly news story lately.

It appears that a majority of folks on both the left and right of the political spectrum think marijuana should be legalized, but both sides are advocating for the wrong reason.

The issue of marijuana use involves two important thoughts that at first glance seem to be contradictory.


  1. The government has no right to tell adults what they can do with their own life or health.
  2. Using any recreational drug is immoral.

Let’s take a look at point #1.

The government’s only purpose in the issue is to protect us, the citizens, from any criminal consequences of the people who use drugs. Whether or not it is moral is none of the government’s business. Of course, it is just for the government to ensure minors, who usually cannot make good decisions, to keep drugs from getting into their hands.

I will say the government has finally figured out the war on drugs is too expensive, and drugs would be much cheaper if government would get out of the drug enforcement business.

Now consider point #2.

If something is immoral, shouldn’t the government make it illegal? No, of course not. Morality is the responsibility of the individual. This is the basis of individual freedom. The government’s job is to ensure that no individual restricts the freedom of another to their right to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness. That is the only purpose of government; to ensure people do not initiate force (not limited to the physical) against others.

If an adult should be free to use drugs, then why is it immoral?

Consider the following story:

Several years ago a friend of mine came to me and asked for help. He told me his son was caught smoking pot and he could not overcome the kid’s rationale that since his dad drank wine at dinner, which can make a person drunk, it was okay to smoke dope since the outcome is the same.

I told him it was not the same thing.

The desire or need to use recreational drugs is a character defect.

The intent and consequence of using pot is that you will get high. A glass of wine with dinner will not make you high, and for most drinkers getting drunk is not the intent. Two very different scenarios; and yes, abusing alcohol does have a similar affect on the brain. The intent of a single glass of wine at dinner and smoking a joint are completely different issues.


Because it alters a person’s state, and often leads to other health problems. Rational people do not alter their state, but deal with life. They continuously strive to live a good life; they don’t hide or cope with life by using drugs.


I have been accused of using backpacking and camping as a means to escape reality. They are activities that help me cope with the real world. They are my drug, I am told.

Really? What is more real than walking through the wilderness, using only what I carry on my back, to ensure I am safe and come home alive? Life doesn’t get any more real than this. I don’t escape the reality of city life; I like city life. Society and the wilderness are both good.

As a parent it is my responsibility to guide my children. They are now grown, and make their own decisions on how to live life; and they make good ones. But I know that the time we spent together when they were children, in the wilderness, helped formulate their values.

I think more parents should take their kids out camping, hiking, backpacking, and engage in other outdoor activities – they all build character.


Yes, and it should be at the family level. It is a parental responsibility, not a government responsibility. And in today’s societies around the world, it is not working. If the family cannot stop it, then we will fail as a species. There is no government that can save us.

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