Pubdate: Sun, 25 Nov 2012
Source: Appeal-Democrat (Marysville, CA)
Copyright: 2012 Appeal-Democrat
Author: Steven Greenhut


SACRAMENTO - When it comes to real political change, the people 
almost always are light years ahead of the politicians, most of whom 
are so worried about re-election that they take only carefully 
crafted positions that appeal to their core constituencies.

If anything, the general election reaffirmed the big-government 
status quo, but there was one good sign from the national results, as 
voters in Washington and Colorado passed, with strong majorities, 
measures legalizing the recreational use of marijuana. Voters ignored 
the hysteria of Republican and Democratic politicians and did the right thing.

This is a serious issue that involves law-enforcement priorities, 
basic freedoms, criminal justice reform and basic economic issues 
involving black markets and taxation, not that you'd know it from the 
silly pot jokes one hears whenever discussing this matter. (As an 
example, Colorado's Democratic governor, an opponent of the state's 
measure, warned supporters,"Federal law still says marijuana is an 
illegal drug, so don't break out the Cheetos or gold fish too quickly.")

Some conservatives have chalked up the pot-decriminalization 
victories in two Western states as the indication of the leftward 
nature of the election results, but that would be a misreading that 
will harm conservatives' viability.

"What transpired in Colorado and Washington were disciplined efforts 
that forged alliances between liberals and tea party conservatives, 
often using public health arguments to advance their cause," 
according to a recent New York Times analysis. "Tuesday's vote on the 
measure in Colorado amounted to a popular revolt against the establishment."

It shouldn't surprise anyone that the grassroots left and right would 
be united in favor of a "leave us alone" policy any more than it 
should surprise us that the supposedly liberal Obama administration 
has been even more zealous in prosecuting medical-marijuana 
dispensaries in California and Colorado than the supposedly 
conservative Bush administration. Political authorities like to flex 
their muscle, and it's up to the people to band together to preserve 
their freedoms.

Attitudes toward marijuana are changing dramatically, and if the GOP 
is serious about rebranding itself in the wake of its losses, this is 
a good place to start. No one is suggesting that conservatives 
suddenly act hip by embracing pot smoking. But Republicans should try 
to live up to their own stated principles of limited government and 
states' rights by advocating a credible policy on this and other social issues.

During the election, vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan made 
sensible points about medical marijuana. "My personal position on 
these issues has been let the states decide what they want to do with 
these things," he said in a TV interview. That was before the Romney 
campaign caused him to do some back-tracking.

 From a basic consistency standpoint, it's bizarre that Republicans 
would advocate returning abortion to the states, which would be the 
effect of overturning Roe v. Wade, yet insist that the federal 
government wantonly overturn the will of the people in those states 
that allow either medical marijuana or the recreational use of a 
substance that is demonstrably less harmful than the alcoholic 
beverages one can buy in any grocery store.

It's not about weed, but about consistency. States' rights means 
states' rights, not states' rights when we agree with the policies 
independent states embrace. The GOP's rigidity only reinforces the 
cartoonish Democratic narrative that the party is beholden to 
religious moralists of the type who want to re-impose slavery and 
Prohibition. It also lets the Democrats get away with their stupidity 
on the drug war.

I was chatting recently with a couple in their mid-80s - staunch 
conservatives who told me how much they believe in ending the drug 
war and especially the war on marijuana users. These types of 
attitudes are becoming more common, yet the national parties are 
advancing attitudes from the "reefer madness" era.

There are so many public policy matters involved in this issue.

Supporters argued that legalizing marijuana would allow law 
enforcement to focus resources on genuine crime issues rather than on 
this minor issue. It would provide tax revenue to revenue-hungry 
governments, although that's an argument that leaves me cold given my 
desire to cut back government spending.

In its letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, a group of prominent 
law-enforcement officials argued: "August Vollmer, father of 
professional policing and primary author of the Wickersham Commission 
report that served to bring an end to the prohibition of alcohol, 
opposed the enforcement of drug laws, saying that they 'engender 
disrespect both for law and for the agents of law enforcement.' ... 
After 40 years of the drug war, people no longer look upon law 
enforcement as heroes but as people to be feared.

This is particularly true in poor neighborhoods and in those of 
people of color, and it impacts our ability to fight real crime."

Some conservatives, including former US Rep. Tom Tancredo of 
Colorado, endorsed legalization. Serious liberals have bucked the 
Democratic Party's equally insane prosecution of the drug war, thus 
planting the seeds of a Left-Right pro-freedom coalition outside the 
confines of the two outdated national parties.

Critics of legalizing small amounts of marijuana are using scare 
tactics to encourage a heavy-handed federal response. We don't know 
what the feds will do, given that they have been silent about the 
measures. Expect the worst.

But Seattle police, for instance, have been coming up with reasonable 
guidelines for enforcement. Is it too much to ask authorities treat 
us like self-governing adults rather than subjects?

The market will work things out. In California, one can visit quiet 
pharmacies that are less ominous-looking than liquor stores and 
choose their medicine without harassment, provided they show a card.

Some similarly regulated system will emerge for the sale of 
recreational marijuana.

The best news isn't that pot will be legal in two states, but that 
the legalization victories could point the way to a broader, 
pro-freedom movement.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom