Raw Milk, Marijuana, Tobacco, and Alcohol

by | Jan 22, 2024

The year 2023 was a good year for proponents of legalized raw milk and legalized marijuana.

Forty-six states now allow the sale of raw milk, that is, unpasteurized milk, for human consumption, for pet consumption (there is no law against consuming pet food), or the distribution of raw milk through herd-share agreements. Only the states of Hawaii, Louisiana, Nevada, and Rhode Island prohibit the sale or distribution of raw milk. The states of Idaho, Iowa, North Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming all relaxed raw dairy prohibitions in 2023.

We are still far from food freedom in the United States: the right of any person to grow, raise, produce, buy, sell, share, and eat the foods they choose in the way they choose. But at least things are moving in the right direction.

Proponents of raw milk maintain that pasteurization harms the nutritional value of milk, and that raw milk not only tastes better but prevents allergies, protects against skin conditions, and reduces the risk of asthma.

However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

Drinking raw milk can lead to serious illness. Raw milk is linked to many preventable foodborne illnesses and outbreaks every year. In fact, raw milk is one of the riskiest foods.

People who get sick from raw milk might have many days of diarrhea, stomach cramping, and vomiting. Some people might develop severe or even life-threatening diseases.

Raw milk can carry harmful germs, such as Campylobacter, Cryptosporidium, E. coli, Listeria, Brucella, and Salmonella. These germs can pose serious health risks to you and your family.

States have laws that restrict the sale of raw milk because of its supposedly adverse health consequences. And yet, any adult can go into any liquor store in any state and purchase as many bottles of liquor that he wants to and drink as much alcohol each day as he chooses until he is falling-down drunk as a skunk or passes out.

The medical use of marijuana, beginning with California in 1996, has now been legalized in 38 states, the District of Columbia, and the other U.S. territories of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. The recreational use of marijuana, beginning with Colorado and Washington in 2012, has now been legalized in 24 states and the District of Columbia. The recreational use of marijuana was legalized in Ohio, Minnesota, and Delaware in 2023.

We are still far from marijuana freedom in the Unites States, that is, the right of any person to buy, sell, grow, process, transport, advertise, use, or possess marijuana but at least things are moving in the right direction.

Proponents of marijuana tout its effectiveness in treating nausea, loss of appetite, inflammation, chronic pain, seizures, spasms, depression, insomnia, and anxiety.

However, according to the CDC:

Marijuana use directly affects the brain, specifically the parts of the brain responsible for memory, learning, attention, decision-making, coordination, emotion, and reaction time.

Long-term or frequent marijuana use has been linked to increased risk of psychosis or schizophrenia in some users.

States have laws that restrict the sale and use of marijuana because of its supposedly adverse health consequences. But any adult can go into a convenience store in any state and purchase as many packs of cigarettes that he wants to and smoke as many of those cigarettes each day as he chooses until he smokes like a chimney.

Yet, drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes are much more dangerous and deadly than drinking raw milk and smoking marijuana.

According to the CDC:

Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States.

Cigarette smoking causes more than 480,000 deaths each year in the United States.

More than 10 times as many U.S. citizens have died prematurely from cigarette smoking than have died in all the wars fought by the United States.

Cigarette smoking increases risk for death from all causes in men and women.

And also according to the CDC:

Excessive drinking both in the form of heavy drinking or binge drinking, is associated with numerous health problems, including

  • Chronic diseases such as liver cirrhosis (damage to liver cells); pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas); various cancers, including liver, mouth, throat, larynx (the voice box), and esophagus; high blood pressure; and psychological disorders.
  • Unintentional injuries, such as motor-vehicle traffic crashes, falls, drowning, burns, and firearm injuries.
  • Violence, such as child maltreatment, homicide, and suicide.

Laws restricting or prohibiting adults from consuming raw milk or marijuana are all based on the underlying assumption that the government should keep people from harming themselves with something they drink or smoke, so why aren’t tobacco and alcohol likewise restricted or prohibited to adults? There is no question that tobacco and alcohol are two of the biggest killers in America. Doesn’t it make more sense for the state governments to ban the sale of tobacco products and alcoholic beverages?

In fact, alcohol and tobacco are so dangerous that the federal government requires warning labels on them.

The Alcoholic Beverage Labeling Act (ABLA), enacted in 1988, requires that all alcoholic beverages sold in the United States carry the following label:

GOVERNMENT WARNING: (1) According to the Surgeon General, women should not drink alcoholic beverages during pregnancy because of the risk of birth defects. (2) Consumption of alcoholic beverages impairs your ability to drive a car or operate machinery, and may cause health problems.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires one of the following warning labels to appear on each pack of cigarettes sold in the United States:

  • WARNING: Tobacco smoke can harm your children.
  • WARNING: Tobacco smoke causes fatal lung disease in nonsmokers.
  • WARNING: Smoking causes head and neck cancer.
  • WARNING: Smoking causes bladder cancer, which can lead to bloody urine.
  • WARNING: Smoking during pregnancy stunts fetal growth.
  • WARNING: Smoking can cause heart disease and strokes by clogging arteries.
  • WARNING: Smoking causes COPD, a lung disease that can be fatal.
  • WARNING: Smoking reduces blood flow, which can cause erectile dysfunction.
  • WARNING: Smoking reduces blood flow to the limbs, which can require amputation.
  • WARNING: Smoking causes type 2 diabetes, which raises blood sugar.
  • WARNING: Smoking causes cataracts, which can lead to blindness.

And governments in every state are worried about people drinking raw milk or smoking marijuana?

The fact that it is raw milk and marijuana that the state governments restrict or prohibit instead of alcohol and tobacco shows just how arbitrary and nonsensical these restrictions and prohibitions are.

In a free society, adults would be able to consume any substance they choose, in whatever form it was in, and in whatever quantity they choose. It is not the proper role of government to regulate consumption of any product.

In a free society, adults would be free to pursue happiness in their own way even if their choices were deemed by others to be harmful, unhealthy, unsafe, immoral, destructive, or irresponsible. It is not the proper role of government to decide what risks people should be willing to take and what behaviors are in their best interests.

In a free society, adults would be free to live their lives in any manner they choose as long as their activities were peaceful and did not violate the rights of others. It is not the proper role of government to prevent people from engaging in bad habits, risky behavior, unhealthy practices, dangerous activities, or immoral activities.


  • Laurence M. Vance

    Laurence M. Vance, Ph.D., is the Director of the Francis Wayland Institute, Adjunct Instructor in Accounting at Pensacola Junior College, and an Adjunct Scholar at the Ludwig von Mises Institute. He holds degrees in history, theology, accounting, and economics.

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