I have no personal interest in marijuana. Can’t smoke it; don’t want to eat it.
But the idea of persecuting people for their simple pleasures strikes me as obviously unjust, and bespeaks of a busy-bodyism that I loathe.
Besides, the first obvious failure of Progressivism was Prohibition. The attempt to destroy America’s alcohol culture was mostly a disaster, and cost many, many innocent lives, and helped criminalize whole classes of people, including but not limited to the reactively ruthless supplier sector. Prohibition is called the “Noble Experiment,” but I deny to it any nobility — just as I deny to communists their comfy moral cushion that their favored forms of forced cooperation is “a good idea at heart” or “in theory.” Just as “sharing” that entails theft is evil, so, too, is “protection” that entails persecution.
Jacob Sullum, in his recent Reason Hit&Run piece, notes that Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) is the sole U.S. Senator to support marijuana decriminalization. My trouble with Merkley’s support is twofold:
1. He says that “both sides” of the debate have good arguments, while ultimately siding with decriminalization. In the context of Prohibition and the War on Drugs, I believe that this is utter nonsense. All my life I’ve heard the “case” against legal recreational drugs. It all rests on the goofy premise that, since one can ruin one’s life by over- or misuse of some drug, it is the business of “society” or “the state” to ruin the lives of dealers and users to prevent them from . . . ruining their lives. Yeah, right. It’s a brain-dead argument that thinks that coercion running counter to the normal division of responsibility (every person responsible first, for himself or herself) can end in more personal responsibility.
2. He’s so hesitant. Politicians are such cowards, unless they think they have a groundswell of tribal anger on their side. Have a little backbone!
Sullum ably addresses this problem, and Merkley’s singular status on the subject:
On the face of it, Merkley’s status as the Senate’s sole legalizer is puzzling, since recent polls indicate that somewhere between 48 percent (CBS News) and 58 percent (Gallup) of Americans think marijuana should be legal. You would think that more than 1 percent of the U.S. Senate would agree by now. The picture is similar in the House, where many members seem to agree with Roberts and Alexander that states should be free to legalize marijuana but very few are prepared to say it’s a good idea.
Legislators are much less shy about taking controversial positions on other contentious issues. When it comes to, say, abortion or gun control, there are plenty of senators and representatives on both sides of the debate, even though they are bound to alienate many voters by taking a stand. But on the subject of marijuana, politicians seem terrified of saying anything that could be portrayed as soft on drugs, even when dealing with reforms, such as legalizing medical use, that have had solid majority support for years. Presumably that’s because they think prohibitionists are more passionate than legalizers and therefore more likely to vote based on this issue. The only way to really test that hypothesis would be to follow Merkley’s lead and see what happens.
But he may be off in his conjecture. I think the reason is not one of prohibitionists’ passion, but of endemic statism. Both pro- and anti-abortion positions have a strong component of The State As Savior mentality, endemic, in their different ways, left and right in America. Gun control is a tribal issue for liberals, and one for conservative gun proponents as well. But marijuana decriminalization just seems too . . . individualistic.
And, at base, that’s neither conservative nor progressive. So it doesn’t fit in with politicians’ usual narrative voice and mythic stance. It’s basically a libertarian position, and that makes people who enter politics uncomfortable, because government these days assumes a great deal of power and a very small commitment to freedom.
In an addendum, Sullum takes up the case of Patty Murray, one of the two women senators from my state. She has expressed some vaguely “I am with my fellow state voters” sentiments about legal marijuana. But she’s more hesitant and cautious than her Oregon counterpart, she doesn’t count, yet, as a full supporter.
She just seems like another coward to m. And a progressive who distrusts freedom. But, even if compelled by the votes of her fellow Evergreen State citizenry, at least she’s less of a coward than most on Capitol Hill. Maybe there is hope for this airhead in tennis shoes yet.
Again, I have no personal interest in marijuana. But I support justice and the division of responsibility of a free society. So all drugs must be decriminalized. The war must stop.