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If Republicans want to put their liberty where their mouths are, they can begin by ending the war on weed.
When I was a kid in South St. Louis in the 70s, marijuana was the weed in the field that separated traditional post-war American values from the hippies. It was an easy black-and-white issue: smoke dope, you’re un-American. It was the Boomers against the Greatest Generation, and no one questioned the pure evil of pot.
Then in about 1973, William F. Buckley confused everything by calling for decriminalization of pot on the grounds that laws prohibiting cultivation and use of marijuana an overreach by government and a detriment to society. As Buckley put it:
Even if one takes every reefer madness allegation of the prohibitionists at face value, marijuana prohibition has done far more harm to far more people than marijuana ever could.
(Here’s a later Buckley column on cannabis for conservatives.)
Or, as Buckley’s NR successor Rich Lowery puts it:
Marijuana is not harmless, and its use should be discouraged, but in the same way, say, smoking a pack of cigarettes a day should be discouraged. The criminal-justice system should stay out of it. Twelve states have decriminalized marijuana to varying degrees, fining instead of arresting people for possessing small amounts. They recognize that — as the authors of a new study for the conservative American Enterprise Institute argue — “the case for imposing criminal sanctions for possession of small amounts of marijuana is weak.”
You’re Either For Liberty Or You’re Not
Romney lost Colorado, in part, because Democrats championed the state’s marijuana reform ballot initiative, and Republicans did not. Republicans want to be the party of individual liberty. Yet their actions often defeat their rhetoric. They denounce anti-smoking laws but promote marijuana laws. They justify sin taxes on alcohol and tobacco but ignore the fiscal gains of taxes on pot.
To the young mind and its hyperactive anterior insula, Republicans look hypocritical on the issue. I really can’t argue with them.
A Simple Reform
If Missouri wants to increase spending on healthcare for the poor or mental health programs, the easiest thing to do would be to legalize and tax marijuana rather than crawl to Uncle Sam for a temporary handout with its permanent hand cuffs.
This simple reform isn’t pandering to the youth, it’s aligning a philosophy of liberty with the party’s legislative actions. The kids’ll appreciate such consistency.