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This Is What Happens When I Blog About Cannabis Law Reform

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I blog about tea party stuff 90 percent of the time. I get decent readership with those blogs, and I appreciate my loyal followers. Very much.

But as long as I write about stuff only conservatives and activist libertarians care about, only conservatives and libertarians will read my blog. That means our ideas won’t escape the echo chamber we’ve been yelling in for years.

When I write about the conservative/libertarian perspective on issues of wider interest, though, I bring in people who never otherwise read our views.

Here’s what happened to page views when I blogged about cannabis reform Thursday and Saturday:

Hennessy's View Page Views

And these were not my usual readers. They came from sites like UrbanSTL.com. And those new visitors from non-conservative sites came away with a more positive view of our movement.

Before you say it, I’m not a link whore. I don’t scan Google Trends to blog about the most searched topics of the day, and I don’t suck up to popular bloggers to get inbound links. I’ve advocated cannabis law reform for years, though not so publicly as I have since January 2012.

The point is this: if you want to attract people to your views, to persuade them to at least take a listen to you, you have to speak their language and interests. Clearly, cannabis reform is more interesting to more people than, say, Great Streets projects or Blue Ways or Agenda 21.

So, to those who want to know why I’d bring up something as controversial as cannabis law reform now, I’ll say this:  we won’t attract advocates and voters to our other issues if we don’t talk about their issues first.

Here Are My Replies to Most Serious Arguments Against Ending Cannabis Prohibitions

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I repeated my New Year’s Day tradition of proposing cannabis law reform in Missouri and America last Wednesday. The post has generated a lot of serious discussion. I have to thank, especially, Dennis Broadbooks and Lisa, Culture Vigilante, for raising valid issues.

Many others commented as well. I will work through your comments as the blizzard rolls through this weekend. But I wanted to pull my reply to Dennis and Lisa and to link directly to their most salient comments.

Link to Dennis’s Comment

Link to Lisa’s Comment

My response:

Dennis and Lisa,

I’ll work through your points one by one. Though I’m responding directly to Dennis’s I’m combining several points.

1. Social Symbolism of Legalization: Dennis writes, “If we legalize something as a society that’s previously been banned, it sends a signal to our youth that it’s OK. It’s even desireable.” Perhaps some will. More, I believe, would take the move as tacit acknowledge that America’s draconian cannabis laws were wrong to begin with.

Further, it seems to me that prohibition takes away the meaning of abstinence. If I don’t smoke dope because it’s against the law, I’m merely obeying the law. If I don’t smoke dope because of its purported negative effects on me or society, I’m setting an example. In this sense, the cannabis debate mirrors speed limits. Recently, Illinois raised its maximum speed limit to 70 MPH from 55. Is that an endorsement of fast driving? And how long will that perceived endorsement hold any meaning? My kids don’t remember a time when Missouri’s limit was 55, so the change in the speed limit law in Missouri has no endorsement effect on them.

2. The Fiscal Argument. You go on to say, “You’re attempting to make an fiscal argument for the legalization of pot & I say there’s just as valid a case economically against it.” Here, I’ll ask to see your numbers. The total cost of prohibition in Missouri is about $150 million a year according to Harvard and Cato Institute researcher Jeffrey Miron. You seem to imply that legalization of cannabis in Missouri would cost more than $150 million in increased medical and other costs. But even opponents of cannabis law reform admit that studies indicate that cannabis use is less physically harmful legal substances like alcohol and tobacco. It is unlikely that the combined costs of cannabis regulation and medical treatment would eclipse the $150 million in savings from ending prohibition.

3. Abortion vs. Cannabis. I’m not sure how Roe v. Wade relates to this case, but I will add something. Cannabis prohibition seeks to deny individuals the privilege of growing and smoking cannabis. It’s government vs. the individual. But the abortion debate is another matter, morally speaking. In that case, abortion opponents ask government to intervene in the murder of a human being. The two issues couldn’t be more different.

4. On the Divisiveness of Prohibition. Lisa writes, “I think this is a very divisive issue that should be set aside until we get on a more constitutional track. Republicans/Conservatives/Libertarians are busy enough trying to fight progressivism without brining the right to get high into the debate.” That’s a good question. I debated this for a long time, considering I’ve been writing a semi-regular column since 1993. I chose to make it an issue on January 1, 2013 for a very simple reason: I believe proponents of constitutionally limited government lose credibility among persuadable potential voters (especially younger people) when we oppose cannabis law reform. We lose more credibility when we choose to simply ignore the issue and hope it goes away.

Considering the history of cannabis prohibition, I could argue that it is a glaring symbol of progressivism, shoved onto America by FDR’s regulators looking for fix after the Volstead Act and Amendment 18 went away.

The fact is, others are making this an issue. Democrats are winning elections by hijacking what should be a center-right position to draw otherwise disinterested voters to polls. By championing cannabis law reform, just as we champion other regulatory reforms, we have the chance to at least neutralize the Democrats’ tactic.

I think Reason.com is more likely to draw young voters into the fight for individual liberty against a progressive statist attack on freedom. By boldly announcing our willingness to right this wrong, we become more consistent and, thereby, more convincing and attractive.

In short, if (lower-case ‘L’) libertarians were to get this issue out of the way, we’d find much easier sledding on the other issues.

UPDATE: Thanks to Gateway City for the link from UrbanSTL. I encourage readers to check the comments on that post.


The War on Weed Is Over, and Republicans Lost

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The Republicans are the Leon Spinks of politics these days.

Remember Leon Spinks? He beat Muhammad Ali. Then he got arrested a bunch, gained a lot of weight, and lost to Ali a few months later. He was pretty much done. And Ali was like 50 when Spinks lost to him.

Spinks had the whole world served up on a plate. He tried to eat it all at once. He choked on it.

The Millennials are the largest generation in American history. Bigger than the Boomers. The first 5 years of Millennials (born about 1982 to about 1987) were dyed-in-the-wool liberals. But succeeding cohorts of Millennials have become increasingly libertarian.

They’re unhappy with Obama. They hate Obamacare. They want jobs. They want something to do. Oh, and they think marijuana prohibition is stupid.

I’ve been opposed to pot prohibition since I was in college in the 1980s. Not (just) because I was smoking a lot of pot. Before that I read William F. Buckley’s views on marijuana prohibition. And I agreed.

After 2006, 2008, and 2012, Republicans knew they had a youth problem. One way to fix that problem was to reframe pot legalization as a jobs program. Had the GOP taken my advice of January 1, 2013, they would have:

In 2014, I hope Republicans and conservatives grow up and face reality. The war on pot is over, and they lost. They can continue fighting it, but they’ll lose every time.

The cannabis business is putting people to work in Colorado and Washington–growers, shop owners, distributors, truckers. Every warehouse in the Denver area is filled as a growing operation, forcing developers to build new warehouse parks. All that industry will bypass states like Missouri, whose population growth was almost zero last year.

So far, Democrats get all the credit for ending the war on week. A tiny handful of Republicans, like Missouri State Rep Paul Curtman, have the foresight to advance this issue. If the rest of his party don’t get on board soon, 2016 could be another disaster for their party and for the country.

2013 Will Go Down As A Very Weird Year

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The other one was 1975. At least in my lifetime.

1975 was weird for good reasons and bad. Saturday Night Live debuted with the Not Ready For Prime Time Players: Dan Akroyd, John Belushi, Chevy Chase, Jane Curtain, Gilda Radner, and Garrett Morris. President Gerald Ford tried to stop inflation with WIN buttons (seriously). New York City faced bankruptcy, but, after initially saying ‘drop dead,’ Gerry Ford ended up bailing it out with $2.3 billion loan. Inflation was 9.2 percent, but gasoline was only (ready for it?) $0.44 a gallon. And I got a magic set for Christmas.

Oh, and the Vietnam War ended.

Yeah, 1975 was that kind of year, where the story that dominated life and politics for a decade was number 42 on the list of the most remarkable things that happened.

2013 was somehow weirder.

The economy went sideways, but the Dow Jones Industrial Average went through the roof.

Americans, forced to decide between the US president and a Syrian dictator, chose Putin.

The President’s single most important achievement, Obamacare, failed every test it was given. It’s on double secret probation.

The IRS admitted to using NSA domestic spying data to harass and disrupt conservative grassroots organizations. Because that’s what tyrants to, dammit.

A guy named Edward Snowden released a bunch of documents detailing how the NSA has infiltrated the most personal communications of all Americans. Several members of Congress, like Diane Feinstein (D-CA) and Peter King (R-NY) shamelessly defended the NSA’s Orwellian spying, but others, like Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) are fighting domestic spying.

Weirdest part of all the NSA revelations was the news that the NSA Director spent millions remodeling the spy headquarters to look like the control room of the Starship Enterprise.

In January, Ed Martin became chairman of the Missouri GOP thanks to a grassroots takeover of Republican townships and committees. Also in January 2013, House Republicans in Washington capitulated on taxes. Then, they did it again in December. They’re getting really good caving. For example, the Sequester came and went and almost no one noticed, as I predicted last February. But the GOP, led by career insider Paul Ryan, gave back the sequester cuts in December in exchange for . . . nothing.

I spent a lot of 2013 making a case for conservatives to get out in front on ending the war on marijuana. Apparently, I have more readers in Uruguay than in Missouri. Still, most Americans now support legalization, and Democrats will get all the credit when it happens.

The 5th anniversary of the new Tea Party movement came and went with little notice, but tea partiers began realizing, in big numbers, that our fight is with political elitists. That includes a lot of big businesses that use government to keep down competition from small business. Have you seen how many small banks have failed? Companies like McDonald’s and Walmart uses the federal food stamp program to avoid paying market rates for employees. By encouraging their workers to apply for food stamps and other redistributive programs, Walmart workers are content with the money the make.

Global Warming took a break in March, as the St. Louis area received almost a foot of snow on Palm Sunday.

I did a lot of travelling in 2Q, so my political eye rested. I did have an opportunity to examine what liberalism does to people out in San Francisco: it ruins them.

From August to December, tried to bolster House and Senate Republicans to do the right thing. We succeeded–and failed. A dire prediction in this post came true:

Boehner doesn’t want to [block passage of continuing resolution]. He’s afraid that shutting down the government will hurt Republicans in the 2014 election.

Boehner could be right. If the House blocked the continuing resolution and later caved, voters would likely punish the GOP. But by committing now to defunding Obamacare, and following through on their commitment, the House would force Obama and the Democrats to negotiate.

Luckily, the launch of Obamacare on October 1 proved we were right all along.

And that brings us to the end of a very weird year. Let’s hope that 2014 brings a power shift–from central planners to the people.

That’s all we’ve been asking for all along.

I Hope You Got a Christmas Present As Good As This One

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You know the old saying: it’s better to give than to receive?

It’s almost always true. Almost. Sometimes, gifts you receive are better than the ones you give.

First, the benefits of giving. A large 5-year study shows that giving to others extends life, while receiving help (like welfare) shortens life:

“As the title of our study indicates,” Poulin says, “we tested the hypothesis that providing help to others would predict a reduced association between stress and mortality for the helpers. Specifically, over the five years of the study, we found that when dealing with stressful situations, those who had helped others during the previous year were less likely to die than those who had not helped others,” he says.

“These findings go beyond past analyses to indicate that the health benefits of helping behavior derive specifically from stress-buffering processes,” Poulin says, “and provide important guidance for understanding why helping behavior specifically may promote health and, potentially, for how social processes in general may influence health.”

That makes sense. Many other studies over many years have shown that giving benefits the giver more than it does the the receiver. I’ll try not to use these data to vilify the evil of welfare, because I’m writing about something more important: a very special Christmas gift.

I’m grateful for all the loving gifts I received from my wife, my step-mom, and others. I appreciate them. Especially the book on love from my wife and the touching note inscribed on the inside cover. But something happened that touched me even more deeply.

Christmas was a hectic day for us. We live on the very western edge of St. Louis County, far away from all our relatives. We have multiple places to visit every year, because we can’t ask a bunch of people drive all the way out to our house through narrow, winding country roads. We’ve learned that the surest way to bring a white Christmas is trying to host the Christmas party at our place.

Yesterday, we found out we had to alter our plans at the last minute. We had to be in Granite City by noon, then South St. Louis. So we put off opening presents until after the day’s travels. No big deal.

So we all made it back home and got into comfortable winter clothes about 9:30 to continue the celebration. The last to arrive was my son, Patrick. He’s twenty.

Now, I don’t expect any Christmas gifts from my kids. They’ll work their whole lives to pay taxes to fund my late-life extravagance. We have, after all, created a real-life Hunger Games in which the affluent adults feed off the impoverished youth.

But Patrick didn’t want to wait for the Social Security Administration to take its skim and pass along his earnings to us.

Patrick bought gifts for everyone in the house. He was so pleased to pass them out. He got me a Leatherman Wave multi-tool survival kit. For his step brother, who loves beef jerky, he got a half pound of homemade jerky from a local butcher shop. He gave something to everyone, and he put thought into every gift.

Yesterday I wrote about the importance of this Christmas, because every Christmas might be your last chance to make it truly special. That was about the joy of people and the joy of giving.

Last night, I learned about the joy of getting. It made me realize that I’m still learning.

Here’s what I think I learned: when your kids are grown, you’ll be tempted to think Christmas’s magic has diminished. Just then, God and your kids will conspire to make you see how wrong you can be.

Merry Christmas.

Images: Featured–Willow the German Shepherd Moose, by Bill Hennessy. Some rights reserved. Leatherman Wave Tool, by Bill Hennessy. 

Why Progressives and New Yorkers Should Fear Bill de Blasio

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Have you ever wondered why moments end?

I wrote about the Irish Moment and the Jewish Moment and the Gay Moment on Saturday. Three Moments enjoyed by identifiable groups of Americans. Moments that ended when the groups joined the main plot of the American story, leaving the artistic sub-plot to the next in line.

Demographics offer only one kind of Moment, though. There are cultural moments and fashion moments and, of course, political moments.

These Moments of the Mind cycle much faster than demographics. And political moments ebb and flow repeatedly. Progressives. Conservatives. Populists. Conservatives. Progressives. In 1996, Pat Buchanan was a viable candidate for President, but the Republicans countered Clinton’s populism with an old 1970s-style Establishment candidate in Bob Dole. (The GOP has never had a good ear for the music of Moments.)

Another difference between demographics and politics: demographic Moments end when the people experience the Moment succeed. Political Moments, on the other hand, end when the people associated with the moment fail.

Like a rampaging bull market in stocks, the dominant political ideology finally reaches maximum strength–then falls back like cresting wave.

A lot of people thought that Barack Obama represented that peak and that Obamacare was the failure that broke it. I’m not so sure. But I do think the progressive wave is cresting. The fallback–the crash–is coming.

And its name is Bill de Blasio.

To explain my feelings, I’ll have to go back to my childhood when I first became aware of the world beyond St. Louis and Epiphany and the Hennessys of Scanlan Avenue.

New York City: The Seventies

Once upon a time, New Yorkers elected a “progressive” Republican mayor named John Lindsay. As William F. Buckley once said [paraphrasing], Lindsay and Lowell Weicker were Young Republicans together back when the destruction of New York City was just a gleam in Lindsay’s eye.

William Buckley was so fearful of what a Lindsay administration would do to New York, he ran as a Conservative Party candidate to throw the election to the Democrat. (Take THAT you GOP establishment hacks!) Buckley failed, alas. Lindsay won. New York nearly died. Many New Yorkers did.

Lindsay served two terms as mayor of New York–one as a progressive Republican, one as a plain old progressive. In those eight years, New York became a laughing stock. Trash piled in streets, traffic snarled everywhere, constant strikes, and massive debt symbolized the Lindsay era. Lindsay more than tripled New York City’s spending between 1967 and 1974.

Lindsay left an unmanageable city with unmanageable finances. Abe Beam, who followed Lindsay in Gracie Mansion, asked the US government for a bailout in 1975. President Gerald Ford’s response: “Drop dead.” According to Paul Rahe on Ricochet:

By that time, of course, Lindsay had skipped out, and he had left Abraham Beame, who was elected Mayor in 1973, holding the bag. There was some justice to this, given that Beame had been City Comptroller during Lindsay’s second term, when the spending was completely out of control. Everyone knew, however, that it was Lindsay who had spent the city into the ground. In 1967, the city budget was $4.6 billion; in 1971, it was $7.8 billion. By 1974, the year Beame took over, it was $10 billion. Lindsay introduced the city’s first income tax and commuter tax, but the revenues he raised were never enough. By 1974, the annual budget deficit had climbed to $1.5 billion. Fred Siegel got it right when he described Lindsay as the worst Mayor New York had in the twentieth century and went on to remark that he “wasn’t incompetent or foolish or corrupt, but he was actively destructive.”

But Beame, and successor Ed Koch, managed to save the city the old fashioned way: they cut spending, reduced the government’s regulatory footprint, and began an assault on crime.

Lindsay employed an all-out liberal experiment on New York City and it failed. It took a long time for New Yorkers to admit defeat, but they did in 1993. Twenty years later, they have decided to roll the dice with progressive liberalism again, this time with Bill de Blasio. He comes to office with hard left agenda, not unlike Lindsay’s:

De Blasio, who will take over from Mayor Michael Bloomberg and will be the first Democrat to lead the city in two decades, won a resounding victory in November after campaigning to confront economic inequality, improve police and community relations and expand access to city services like pre-kindergarten.

And New Yorkers are confident in their bet:

Two-thirds of city voters say they are hopeful about de Blasio, while nearly six in 10 voters think he will change New York for the better, the poll by the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion showed.

If I were a betting man, I’d put my money on a repeat of the Lindsay fiasco. New York City will be a worse place to live, visit, and do business after de Blasio’s administration.

To back up my prediction of New York’s downfall, I’ll also schedule a blog linking to this one. It will post on December 26, 2017.