Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Editorials: Where I rant to the wall about politics. And sometimes the wall rants back.

Conservative policies go to pot

Jerry Stratton, February 4, 2014

Marijuana vs. Obama

Fun fact for Colorado Republicans.

From blog comments to the weekly standard, drug warriors are responding to the fake legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington With two arguments; often, as in John P. Walters’s Weekly Standard article, from the same person:

  1. Prohibition is necessary to keep people from using pot.
  2. Prohibition is never enforced just for using pot.

They literally want to keep the laws in place as discretionary laws enforced at the whim of law enforcement. You might as well say, of our gun laws, well, yes, everyone who owns a gun breaks some of them but very few are prosecuted, so the laws are good.

This is, after all, the Obama administration’s policy, too: we won’t enforce these laws unless we feel like it.

It’s this attitude that got us a president who uses the FEC to target only conservative groups and who exempts his cronies from the Obamacare exchanges. Prohibition is the conservative Obamacare: the law is less a consistent rule and more an aspirational idea.

Walters even argues that it is bad to remove the penalties against drug use because then dealers will no longer be able to negotiate lesser sentences. The point of the system seems to be making jobs for lawyers rather than creating an easily-understood system of laws. That is, when it comes to drug laws, conservative drug warriors are leftists. They believe in the power of the state to control the lives of the third of the country that has broken this law. They believe in the discretion of the state to choose which of those hundred million people should face criminal sanction and which should be exempted.

There are real problems with current drug legalization efforts, not the least of which is that it is hardly a test of legalization if the federal laws remain in place to be re-enforced at the whim of the executive.

Nor is it a test of legalization if the taxes that replace criminal penalties are so prohibitive that they don’t even undercut the black market. Conservatives rightly make fun of countries like Canada and other regions that increase taxes on tobacco so much that people start buying them from criminals. A marijuana tax that can’t even compete with the expensive black market is no different. It may not encourage lawlessness as much as a prohibition law that is enforced only arbitrarily, but it still encourages lawlessness.

The real crimes against conservatism in Colorado’s legalization experiment is that once again the President has chosen to prefer alter the law himself rather than go to congress for a change; and that the laws themselves use the tax power of the state to punish (now-legal) behavior.

When it comes to education, conservatives understand the importance of state-level experiments; when it comes to health care and health insurance, they understand the dangers of using taxation to control our lives. When it comes to prohibition, they ought to recognize that principles don’t change when they meet behavior they don’t personally approve of.

In response to Republican principles: When John Deere starts losing the tractor business, they don’t say “let’s make ice cream”. They make better tractors.

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