With poll after poll showing that marijuana legalization is now a mainstream issue, it doesn't really surprise people that more liberals, moderates and libertarians are speaking out about marijuana and other drug law reforms. However, it still makes news when conservative Republicans like Chris Christie and Rick Perry speak out about the need to move away from the status quo that is only needlessly wasting tax payer dollars, law enforcement resources and people's lives. On one hand, these conservatives starting to "see the light" is political news as they are bucking the trend of the Republican Party and the policy position of a majority of people who identify themselves as conservative. However, ending federal cannabis prohibition, and letting state's decide their own marijuana policies, is a conservative idea to its core.
William F. Buckley, founder of the National Review, and economist Milton Friedman, two giants of the conservative movement, and they absolutely railed against prohibition. When the National Review recently editorialized that Colorado was making a prudent choice to legalize marijuana, many were surprised. But as John Payne, a Republican himself who heads up Missouri's legalization efforts for Show-Me Cannabis, opined on his Facebook page, "I'm glad to see that National Review has written favorably about legalization in Colorado, but it's not at all surprising. They have been pro-legalization since way before it was popular." From the editors of the National Review:
Regardless of whether one accepts the individual-liberty case for legalizing marijuana, the consequentialist case is convincing. That is because the history of marijuana prohibition is a catalogue of unprofitable tradeoffs: billions in enforcement costs, and hundreds of thousands of arrests each year, in a fruitless attempt to control a mostly benign drug the use of which remains widespread despite our energetic attempts at prohibition. We make a lot of criminals while preventing very little crime, and do a great deal of harm in the course of trying to prevent an activity that presents little if any harm in and of itself.
Perhaps most important, the legalization of marijuana in Colorado --- and the push for its legalization elsewhere --- is a sign that Americans still recognize some limitations on the reach of the state and its stable of nannies-in-arms. The desire to discourage is all too easily transmuted into the desire to criminalize, just as the desire to encourage metastasizes into the desire to mandate. It is perhaps a little dispiriting that of all the abusive overreaches of government to choose from, it is weed that has the nation's attention, but it is a victory nonetheless.
While some cannabis law reform activists are very concerned when conservatives like Christie and Perry express support for drug law reform, sensing a trap of sorts, I welcome them into the fold. Our fight to end cannabis prohibition only moves so far when seen as a political position of liberals and libertarians. We need to continue to expand our base as we move forward in our fight to end the barbaric practice of locking people in cages for using a nontoxic plant. With legalization on the ballot in Alaska and medical marijuana on the ballot in Florida this year, we need conservative voters to vote for the conservative position of ending prohibition. What is more conservative than personal liberty, states' rights and generating revenue? I welcome conservatives into the fold, but you better hurry, because if poll numbers continue to climb, the legalization bandwagon is getting pretty full.