George Will Makes the Case for Drug Legalization

Or, to be more specific, George Will summarizes the same case made in Mark Kleiman, Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken’s Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know. It focuses on the sheer economic idiocy of continuing the War on Drugs:

A $200 transaction can cost society $100,000 for a three-year sentence. And imprisoning large numbers of dealers produces an army of people who, emerging from prison with blighted employment prospects, can only deal drugs. Which is why, although a few years ago Washington, D.C., dealers earned an average of $30 an hour, today they earn less than the federal minimum wage ($7.25).

I oppose the War on Drugs for reasons of general principles (it’s not the purpose of government to save people from themselves), the specific application of constitutional federalism (the Commerce Clause should not apply to the regulation of drugs manufactured and sold within the confines of a single state), and for reasons of budgetary philosophy (making drugs illegal has expanded the size and power of the federal government while increasing the budget deficit; legalizing, regulating and taxing drugs would reduce both the deficit and the harm to individuals and society). Frankly, I’d be for the immediate legalization of methamphetamine tomorrow if it meant we could stop ID-ing people with colds trying to buy Sudafed.

There has been slow but steady progress in the conservative movement for saner drugs laws, from William F. Buckley arguing for the decriminalization of marijuana, to National Review declaring that “The War on Drugs is Lost” in 1996, to Republican Presidential candidates like Ron Paul and Gary Johnson (who, like Paul once did, bolted for a doomed Libertarian Party run) making the same case.

Despite growing sentiment, almost no legislative headway has been made on the issue because there’s no consensus in the Republican Party (or the American people) for that change. When an initiative for the total legalization of marijuana fails in California (though poor wording helped contribute to the defeat), where can it succeed? But the lack of a consensus for legalization is no reason to avoid fighting for saner laws at the state or national level or trimming funding for the DEA.

Another question is how come we never hear anything about legalization from the supposedly pro-freedom Democratic leadership? If Obama, an admitted recreational drug user in his youth, has ever made a speech as President supporting legalization or decriminalization of any drugs, it’s evaded my attention. Indeed, not only does he not support decriminalization, he’s actively hostile to the idea.

George Will thinks more seriously and clearly than Barack Obama on the issue of drug legalization. Then again, the first ten words in the preceding sentence are pretty much true all the time,,,

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