You hear a lot of Conservatives say that when it comes to marijuana legalization, they are “libertarian” on the issue. It’s a common expression even used by Ben Shapiro.
However, the linguistic choice of the word “libertarian” implies that legalization of pot is not a conservative position. Traditionally, this is true. Not many Conservatives in the past have supported this notion. To make matters more complicated, many Conservatives have argued in favor of a “law and order” approach to the issue.
Notably, an increasing amount of young Conservatives favor legalization while older Conservatives tend to side with the “law and order”. Conservatives are often free to disagree because Conservatives are not some mob of conformity. If that’s what you want, there’s a camp called leftism, but I should warn you, you’ll ever be woke enough.
Conservatives are free to disagree on methods, but underlying principles of a limited government following through on its enumerated powers remains a consistent platform for us to unite.
However, on the issue of marijuana, there is a right and wrong position for Conservatives to hold. Bearing in mind a limited government, the Conservative movement would be most correctly aligned with its principles if it advances the legalization of marijuana, foregoing the law and order approach.
Acknowledging Government Failure
At the Conservative camp, we often talk about how government is the problem, not the solution. And when the government gets involved in things, a worse outcome results. The obvious example of healthcare is a drop in the bucket in the vast ocean that is government failure. For more failures, we can point to souring college tuition prices. It was the government that turned a depression into the Great Depression. We can look at occupational licensing hurting lower-income people. Likewise, the current marijuana rules augmented a stoner population.
Ronald Reagan said in his ingratiation:
Well, if no one among us is capable of governing himself, then who among us has the capacity to govern someone else? All of us together, in and out of government, must bear the burden. The solutions we seek must be equitable, with no one group singled out to pay a higher price.
The government has royally blundered trying to curb recreational marijuana usage, and to continue down the current pathway is to meet the definition of insanity. The Conservative worldview sees the individual, not the government as the solution to cultural problems. Government solutions so often prove to be failures.
Personal Distaste Leads to Hypocrisy
Conservatives too often argue for marijuana to be illegal based off of rather weak points. I’m going to specifically address John Hawkins from Townhall seeing as this article was referenced in a NOQ Report article back in January. The article titled “5 Reasons Marijuana Should Remain Illegal” details five weak points that I will address.
Marijuana is addictive for some people
If I accept the premise that marijuana is addictive(it’s not), by what precedent are addictive properties cause for something to be illegal. Here we find a logical disconnect in the argument. Alcohol is addictive. Tobacco is addictive. Both legal. Oreo’s have been studied to be addictive in mice as cocaine. Still legal (the only lines I do). If we’re not talking about only drugs, porn is legal. Sex is legal. Hoarding is legal. Video games are legal. They made a show about strange addictions. Human beings are creatures of worship; therefore it is a tendency for people to fall into addiction. This is no reason to make something illegal.
It’s not woking well in Amsterdam
This was an incredibly weak reason because it’s based on the Dutch being horrified that their children have access to pot. That is already the case here in the US. Legalization wouldn’t change this, while it being illegal hasn’t stopped this. The arguments against marijuana legalization that invoke children present a false consequence. And it makes us seem like hypocrites when we give our children medication as a substitute for discipline.
Mental and Physical Health(2 reasons)
It would be foolish to argue against marijuana’s medicinal benefits. However, I do acknowledge that it is fair to bring up the negative side effects. In this area, a person should take responsibility for their own health. Individual responsibility is what our culture needs not a nanny state protecting us from harm in every direction.
That being said several dangerous things are legal that if used irresponsibly could have a negative impact on mental and physical health. I could list them but you get the idea. The government is a poor arbitrator when it comes to protecting the citizens from their own choices.
Marijuana decimates people’s lives
We’re back to the “protecting people from themselves” argument. This is not logic that a conservative should use. Conservatism strives for a free market capitalist system whereby the individual is responsible for their own outcome in life. Protecting people from their own poor decisions is not the role of the government. There are things that destroy people’s lives that merit being illegal, but marijuana is not one of them. Millions of Americans use it whether in the slums or the penthouse. The lack of inherent or predictable negative consequences to potheads does is insufficient reason for keeping marijuana illegal.
At the end of the day, Conservatives only oppose marijuana legalization out of personal distaste. When we let our taste buds dictate our policy instead of our principles, we become hypocrites with power. Our personal distaste for marijuana is contradicting Conservative principles that would be most aligned legalizing the plant for recreational use. In this, we become seen as hypocrites. When we distaste something, our response should never be to make it illegal claiming some sort of cultural benefit.
For example, take transgenderism. Conservatives often distaste this practice. But no one is arguing to make being a transvestite illegal. What you do in your spare time is an individual liberty. Only based off of researched negative effects would any Conservative argue that the surgery should be illegal for a consenting adult. For children, it’s practically child abuse, therefore necessary for the state to step in because there is no absolute right of parents. If you want to, as a consenting adult, mutilate your body and get plastic surgery, most Conservatives wouldn’t stand in your way unless taxpayers are paying for it. What Conservatives are strictly opposed to is the state forcing its citizens to acknowledge transgenderism as real and punishing “misgendering” someone. Forcing a person to participate in a mentally ill person’s self-image is a violation of individual freedom.
There is a Conservative way to oppose something that you find distasteful. It is not to make said thing illegal, but instead to get the government out of the issue as much as possible. The “Law and Order” crowd have created a needless rift between Conservatives and Libertarians. The difference between the Libertarian and Conservative worldview was so well articulated by
A Note About Comparing Marijuana to Opioids:
Opioids have a far worse and predictable outcome for users who don’t stop. So for that reason, the arguments for marijuana legalization don’t apply. The state should intervene when negative externalities arise. The negative externalities for marijuana are baseless, in comparison. Although for an interesting perspective on this issue read our article here