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July 07, 2011

Legalize Pot?

I don't expect that this will be a Republican position. On the other hand, I can see the Republican Party fighting this so half-heartedly as to constitute virtual endorsement. NRO once again calls for the decriminalization of pot, particularly of the federal role in pot-criminalization:

The War on Drugs, which is celebrating its 40th year, has been a colossal failure. It has curtailed personal freedom, created a violent black market, and filled our prisons. It has also trampled on states’ rights: Sixteen states have legalized “medical marijuana” — which is, admittedly, often code for legalizing pot in general — only to clash with federal laws that ban weed throughout the land.

That last sin is not the War on Drugs’ greatest, but it is not insignificant, either. A bill introduced by Reps. Barney Frank (D., Mass.) and Ron Paul (R., Texas) would remove the federal roadblock to state marijuana reform, and though the Republican House seems almost certain to reject it, the proposal deserves support from across the political spectrum.

While we would support the total demise of federal marijuana laws, this bill simply constrains the federal government to its proper role. The Constitution allows the federal government to restrict interstate commerce, and the federal laws forbidding the interstate transfer of marijuana would remain in effect. The feds would also still intercept drug shipments from other countries.

What would change is that states — if they so chose — could legalize pot that is grown, sold, and consumed within their own borders.

That line is fairly false, because the argument for federal criminalization is that states which legalize create a de facto regime of legalization even in states which don't legalize -- after all, there are no border patrols between states.

That said... Who cares? Pot would simply be smuggled into prohibition states illegally from another US state rather than flowing illegally from Mexico. I'm not sure that's much of a hill to die on, for anyone.

There's an interesting, and angry, argument against the five dumb reasons usually offered to decriminalize marijuana.

I agree with the writer that most of these arguments are dishonest, when they're not stoner-stupid. For example, here's the conclusion that the "it's not addictive" argument is largely bullshit:

Now, once again, it's widely believed that pot is much easier to quit than smoking, booze, heroin, and just about every other drug out there. But the belief that "it's not addictive" is bullshit. Want an easy way to see if you're addicted? Give it up for a year. I have a feeling that would be tough for a lot of you, considering how many can't go one fucking week without working it into a conversation. It's tough to give up something that you've built your entire personality around.

True enough, and honestly, I think that really gets to the heart of why conservatives are so against legalizing pot. (Apart from our own stated reasons, which tend to be sort of bullshitty too, sometimes.)

It's that we tend not to like pot-smokers and don't like the psychology of them.

A friend -- one who's fairly conservative, but who does smoke pot on occasion -- at least nailed me on that being my central animating reason for opposing legalization. Because I tend to think those who want legalization are kind of idiots, in the main, and trivially-minded people, and spaced-out hippies who annoy me by insisting on playing Grateful Dead dirges as parties.

But he did make the best possible case, as far as conservative principle, about legalizing pot to me:

Why should you care what the hell I choose to do in my own home? And why are you so eager to use the coercive force of the state to dictate to me what I do? Including throwing me in jail for doing something that, if not perfectly harmless, is certainly of a lower level of harmfulness than many things?

The liberty argument is a strong one.

The counter-argument, and the one I have previously relied upon/acceded to, was that the state has such a powerful interest in protecting people from harming themselves that our Duty to Protect outweighs the case for liberty.

But I don't believe that any more. For one thing, I am becoming, little by little, and belatedly, very suspicious of any argument that assigns liberty a lower priority than another value. And I'm becoming, again belatedly, very very suspicious of the general claim that we can use the Coercive Power of the State to make people live better lives.

It's not so much a slippery slope argument -- of the type "If we say the state can do X to supposedly improve our lives, who's to say they can't do Y, as well, making the same claim?" -- as it is an argument about that first step itself.

I don't think I want the state using its coercive power to lock people up any more for doing drugs.

What business is it of mine? I do lots of things that others may look down upon but I wouldn't be at all happy about having State Coercion brought to bear upon me for any of it.

So, cut through all the stuff about medicinal marijuana and the like... it's really just about respecting a citizens' basic right to do as he pleases without state coercion, so long as what he pleases does not produce direct harm for anyone else.

And I just don't buy the case for "direct harm" anymore.

Narcogeddon? One of the strongest conservative reasons against legalization is the argument made from doubt -- we do not know what a legalization regime would do. It could lead to exploding drug usage rates. It could lead to a Narcogeddon.

But Portugal did this, and did not seem to experience anything like that. In fact, drug abuse seems to have gone down. I don't usually trust Gleen Grenwald on anything but this paper on Portugal's legalization experience is hosted at Cato, and as far as I know (and I don't know -- I read this last year) hasn't been debunked.



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posted by Ace at 05:06 PM

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