by Joe Hargrave
Readers of this blog know I am as socially-conservative as they come. But I am also libertarian-minded on a number of issues, and I have to admit, the legalization of marijuana is one of them. I’m going to be taking a much closer look at all of the ballot propositions before I head to the polls on Tuesday, but right now I am inclined to vote yes on prop. 19, which would legalize marijuana in California and subject it to regulation and taxation by the state. I will give a few reasons why.
1) Irrational Double-Standard
Why on Earth should marijuana be illegal while alcohol and tobacco remain legal? While I admire the consistency of the handful of Protestant fundamentalists and Mormons who abstain from all stimulants, I find it hard to believe that the average conservative opponent of marijuana legalization would also support the reinstatement of prohibition on alcohol or the banning of smoking. In the case of the latter, it is almost always nanny-state leftist types, such as the junta ruling the town of San Luis Obispo here in CA, that are behind the bans. Conservatives know this, rightly rejecting such initiatives as beyond the proper scope of government.
On marijuana there appears to be an irrational blind spot, however. I can certainly understand being personally opposed to recreational marijuana use; I don’t touch the stuff, and for that matter I rarely drink alcohol. But it is another matter to insist that the state ought to be wasting time and resources arresting, prosecuting, and incarcerating people for consuming a substance that doesn’t really do that much more harm than alcohol, and possibly less.
2) Costs of Prohibition
On that note, I will also point out that the US spends a whopping 1 billion dollars incarcerating people for marijuana-related offenses. This is a waste of taxpayer dollars.
And there is also a moral cost, or hazard, involved in locking up people who are really innocent with hardened criminals in our brutal prison system. For heaven’s sake, is it more immoral to tolerate marijuana than it is put young men in prison to be coerced into homosexual acts?
As with most big-government “solutions” to what ought to be handled at the local level, or not at all, the War On Drugs has really amounted to little more than a war on taxpayers. Drug use continues to rise, with some fluctuations over time, right along with spending on this futile war.
3) Breaking the Cartels
The Mexican drug cartels are a menace to the United States and to all of human civilization. Opinion is divided as to what the impact of marijuana legalization would be on the profits and power of the cartels, but I have to believe that taking away one of their most lucrative markets would have some effect. I do buy the argument that legalization in CA won’t have much of an impact itself, since most Californians grow, buy and sell their own pot, but the passage of 19 could inspire other states to move forward on this as well.
The “War on Drugs” is an unjustifiable intrusion into the private lives of American citizens, it is a massive waste of taxpayer dollars, and for those who are moved by neither point, it simply doesn’t work. I don’t like pot: I think it makes some stupid, others paranoid, and some both. I don’t like drunkenness either, for that matter. I think Christians should avoid getting stoned or getting drunk. But should anyone go to jail for simply possessing or selling either substance? I have to say no. So I’m probably going to vote yes on 19, though I am open to persuasion if someone has a good reason not to.
Oh, and for those who want to point to abortion and gay marriage as examples of hypocrisy on my part, well, let me say quite clearly: I respect the US Constitution and the basic idea of a federal republic, which is contained in the 10th amendment. This matter ultimately belongs to the states to decide, all of which are required to have a republican form of government (per Art. IV, Sec. IV of the Constitution) and I will respect the decision of the electorate while working to promote my own views on the matter.