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Former Under Secretary of Homeland Security, Author of “Deadly Indifference”, National Security Blog Expert - The National Journal, Political Blogger - The Daily Caller, Radio Talk Show Host - "The Michael Brown Show", Founder & Chairman - Apoklayyis, Inc.

On Being Told I’m Liberal Because I Believe Marijuana Should Be Regulated Like Alcohol

During tonight’s radio program I was accused (I choose that word specifically because I took it as an accusation) of being a liberal because I support the legalization of marijuana. Since when did advocating for smaller government, less government spending, advocating for individual rights, became a liberal cause?

Colorado will be voting on Amendment 64 next month. This amendment is an effort to regulate the sale and possession of marijuana in a framework similar to that used to regulate alcohol. You can read the proponents’ website here. I recognize this is a volatile subject, but people who reflexively argue that marijuana should not be regulated are acting on emotion, not rationality.

William F. Buckley, the founder of modern conservatism, also believed the war on drugs (all drugs, not just marijuana) was a failure as far back as 1996 and earlier, and provided some lucid arguments for legalization. For those that grew up reading and studying William F. Buckley, we know that his arguments, while cogent, were not always lucid.

In 1996 his magazine National Review reprinted a statement to a panel of New York Bar Association lawyers considering the drug question. He made his argument, portions of which were:

We are speaking of a plague that consumes an estimated $75 billion per year of public money, exacts an estimated $70 billion a year from consumers, is responsible for nearly 50 per cent of the million Americans who are today in jail, occupies an estimated 50 per cent of the trial time of our judiciary, and takes the time of 400,000 policemen — yet a plague for which no cure is at hand, nor in prospect…

A conservative should evaluate the practicality of a legal constriction, as for instance in those states whose statute books continue to outlaw sodomy, which interdiction is unenforceable, making the law nothing more than print-on-paper. I came to the conclusion that the so-called war against drugs was not working, that it would not work absent a change in the structure of the civil rights to which we are accustomed and to which we cling as a valuable part of our patrimony. And that therefore if that war against drugs is not working, we should look into what effects the war has, a canvass of the casualties consequent on its failure to work. That consideration encouraged me to weigh utilitarian principles: the Benthamite calculus of pain and pleasure introduced by the illegalization of drugs…

This is perhaps the moment to note that the pharmaceutical cost of cocaine and heroin is approximately 2 per cent of the street price of those drugs. Since a cocaine addict can spend as much as $1,000 per week to sustain his habit, he would need to come up with that $1,000. The approximate fencing cost of stolen goods is 80 per cent, so that to come up with $1,000 can require stealing $5,000 worth of jewels, cars, whatever. We can see that at free-market rates, $20 per week would provide the addict with the cocaine which, in this wartime drug situation, requires of him $1,000…

My mind turned, then, to auxiliary expenses — auxiliary pains, if you wish. The crime rate, whatever one made of its modest curtsy last year toward diminution, continues its secular rise. Serious crime is 480 per cent higher than in 1965. The correlation is not absolute, but it is suggestive: crime is reduced by the number of available enforcers of law and order, namely policemen. The heralded new crime legislation, passed last year and acclaimed by President Clinton, provides for 100,000 extra policemen, even if only for a limited amount of time. But 400,000 policemen would be freed to pursue criminals engaged in activity other than the sale and distribution of drugs if such sale and distribution, at a price at which there was no profit, were to be done by, say, a federal drugstore…

That, my friends, is the conservative argument for legalizing marijuana – from 1996. Today, if you’re a conservative, here is a chart, from the liberal magazine, Atlantic, that might persuade you of the failure of the war on drugs:

In this day and age of an ever-expanding domestic security force, of out-of-control government spending, of more and more freedoms being limited by an overreaching federal government, I believe William F. Buckley was ahead of his time.

So, to my listeners who think I’m liberal because I support Amendment 64, what say you now? Legalizing marijuana and regulating it like alcohol is the conservative, rational position on the subject.

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One Response to “On Being Told I’m Liberal Because I Believe Marijuana Should Be Regulated Like Alcohol”

  1. Mike Hyde #

    As much as I think ALL drugs are a waste of money, much like alcohol – I do however agree with you that it is a waste of time, money, effort by the courts and law enforcement to pursue drug cases involving marijuana.

    The lessons learned (or that should have been learned) from prohibition must apply here. The simple fact that we have created this monstrosity in the criminalization of something that for all intents and purposes is no worse nor better than alcohol is beyond ridiculous.

    I do not use or advocate the use of marijuana. But I do not believe I have the right to tell someone they should not use it. It is something in my mind that is up to the discretion and judgment of the individual.

    So that being said, let us make it legal, let businesses sell it, and let us tax it and use the funds for the public good.

    October 24, 2012 at 8:12 am