Conservatives Should Embrace Marijuana Legalization

By: Julie Borowski

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I pass on grass. 

I think it smells like roadkill skunk. 

This disclaimer is important because it’s difficult to speak about marijuana legalization without people assuming you’re a pothead. 

I’ve heard many times, “oh, you want to legalize weed just because you want to smoke it!” Nah. If I wanted to get high, I would just go down to the local high school and ask anyone how to score some weed.


I get the druggie assumption. Admittedly, some libertarians can be a little too Miley Cyrus circa 2013 when it comes to marijuana. The old Miley wearing a leotard with weed leaves on it while humping around like a dachshund in heat on stage didn’t do the legalization movement any favors. 

We get it. You smoke weed. Oooh, edgy. You’re not in the 8th grade anymore. There’s no cool points rewarded to grown adults for bragging about toking up.

I understand where people who are anti-marijuana legalization are coming from. Believe it or not, I used to think the problem was that drug punishments weren’t harsh enough in my early teens. Such a good little statist I was. 

So, why would someone who doesn’t smoke care about legalizing weed?

I’m glad you asked. 

Here are ten reasons why even non-tokers should support legalization and/or decriminalization of marijuana:

1. Personal freedom. 

Conservatives rightfully believe that the government which governs least, governs best. They despise the Nanny State. They got super pissed when Mayor Bloomberg banned Big Gulps in New York City. Give me my 30 ounces of soda or give me death!

Maybe not that serious, but tread on them at your own risk. 

Yet, some of them make an exception for marijuana. They claim that marijuana negatively affects the brain and other health risks. I think there is lot of research that still needs to be done on marijuana which currently cannot be done due to its federally illegal status. 

My point, though, is not to argue whether marijuana is harmful or beneficial. That’s irrelevant. The fact of the matter is that you still own your own body and should be free to put whatever you want into said body.

Yes, even if it’s stupid. That’s what the whole freedom thing is about. If you only have the freedom to make the right decisions, are you free? No one is stopping people from putting kale or quinoa in their own bodies. But not everyone wants to live a healthy boring life eating rabbit food. 

I’m not saying that weed is good for you. I’m saying that it should be your choice. Do you, man.

2. Prohibition ain’t cheap!

Conservatives rightfully believe that the government spends too much dang money. The national debt is sky high and we need to cut back before China owns us all. I don’t know about you, but my Mandarin could use some work. 

One area to cut is marijuana prohibition. A Harvard Study found that legalizing marijuana would save $7.7 billion annually. That’s no drop in the bucket! 

Think of all that goes into marijuana prohibition: the police, courts, jails. 

An American Civil Liberties Union study found that states together spend about $3.6 billion just enforcing marijuana possession laws.  In 2016, nearly 600,000 people were arrested for marijuana possession. That’s more than the arrests for all violent crimes—murder, rape, assault, robbery—combined that year.

The amount a state spends differs based on various facts. But the study found that a low-level estimate is $750 per arrestee. Is it really worth it? 

Some conservatives are in favor of drug testing people on food stamps. They don’t want to pay for the lifestyle of druggies and I don’t blame them. 

(Let’s ignore for a second that it hasn’t been proven to save taxpayers any money—the program ended up costing Floridians even more money due to the high cost of drug testing.) 

Of course, taxpayers are paying to imprison drug users, which includes feeding, medical care, hygiene, housing, etc.  

On average, it cost taxpayers $95 a day to house an inmate arrested for a marijuana-related offense. That adds up to almost $35,000 a year! 

There’s nothing fiscally conservative about marijuana prohibition.

3. Jails are too overcrowded.

On a related note, jails are jam packed!

The United States has the highest prison population in the world at about 2.2 million people. I know that statistic is somewhat misleading because some backwards countries would rather just shoot people in the head than imprison them but still.

We’re number one!

And it’s not because we have a large population. We also have the highest prison population rate in the world at about 724 people per 100,000. 

And it’s not because we happen to have a more violent population. Over half of federal prison inmates are there for drug offenses. 

Yes, most of them are in there for harder drugs. But marijuana possession accounts for more than 5 percent of all incarcerations. 

The number of prisoners has quadrupled since the 1980’s when the War on Drugs ramped up and mandatory minimum sentencing went into effect. 

Mandatory minimum sentencing laws require that a person convicted of a certain offense spend a set amount of time behind bars. Judges may not shorten a sentence based on the individual circumstances of the case. It’s inflexible and their hands are tied. 

As a result, violent criminals are sometimes let out early to make room for non-violent drug offenders. 

Do I need to explain the problem with this? 

4. Police officers have better things to do. 

Is going after marijuana users really worth their time? 

Some cops say no. 

Law Enforcement Against Prohibition is a non-profit “composed of police and other criminal justice professionals dedicated to educating the public about the harms of drug prohibition.” They have over 100,000 members.  

Executive Director Neill Franklin is a 34-year veteran of the Maryland State Police and the Baltimore Police Department. He says: “Marijuana prohibition has been a spectacular failure — in terms of rates of use, in terms of wasted resources, in terms of wasted lives and human potential, particularly in Black communities. Take it from someone who tried for 34 years to arrest a way out of this problem: It’s not working.” 

I don’t pretend to understand the relationship struggles between the police and the black community. While NWA was rapping F**K Tha Police, I was petting police dogs at the local police station.

I would imagine, though, that it would be beneficial to reduce hostile interactions between the two groups. Former DC police chief Cathy Lanier says, "All those [marijuana] arrests do is make people hate us.”

More people would respect the police if they felt they were truly there to protect and serve, rather than arrest people for victimless crimes. Unlike drunkards or people on PCP, cops generally don’t have to worry about someone high on pot attacking them. To their credit, potheads aren’t known to be a violent bunch. 

5. Marijuana prohibition hurts young people. 

A Yahoo News and Marist Poll found that 52 percent of Americans, 18 years or older, admit to having tried marijuana. 

Those are just the ones who admit it! 

Like we found out in the 2016 election, polls aren’t always accurate partly because people are liars. 

Here’s a list of current political figures that have admitted to smoking marijuana: Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, Bernie Sanders, Rick Santorum, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich, John Kerry, and a load of other people.  

Trump is likely the only president in 24 years to have never used an illegal drug. 

Of course, none of those people were ever caught smoking marijuana. Would they have been able to become so successful if they were arrested? 

Young people make stupid mistakes. Even young Rick Santorums! Most of these teen stoners will stop smoking regularly once they reach boring adulthood and get excited over good deals on vacuum cleaners.

A marijuana arrest from when they were teenagers should not follow them for the rest of their lives. We want them to become productive members of society—not held back by something they smoked many years ago.

6. Marijuana is not a gateway drug.  

Some people who support marijuana prohibition will even admit that marijuana isn’t that bad.

There are no documented cases of a fatal overdose from marijuana. 

Yet, they still want it illegal because “it’s a gateway drug.” A gateway drug is defined as, “a habit-forming drug that, while not itself addictive, may lead to the use of other addictive drugs.”  

Now, it’s true that almost everyone who does heroin has priorly smoked marijuana. 

I highly doubt anyone who has lead a clean-cut life just decides to try to give hard drugs a try one day out of the blue. Meth, eh, why not? 

But hard druggies also likely started with alcohol, cigarettes, even caffeine! It’s not fair to put all the blame on Mary Jane. 

Studies have found that the majority of marijuana users do not go on to harder drugs. There’s a big difference between marijuana and meth. Not only is it possible to stop at marijuana, it is extremely common. 

7. It’s a winnable issue. 

Over 64 percent of Americans support marijuana legalization, according to a 2017 Gallup poll. 

That’s a big change from a decade ago! Back when I first started supporting marijuana legalization, I felt like a radical. Watch out. My views are outside the mainstream, man.

Nowadays, more than half of freaking Republicans support marijuana legalization. Even people like Bill O’Reilly, Sarah Palin, and Pat Robertson have said positive things about marijuana legalization. 

What is a contrarian to do?!

Look, no matter what Internet trolls say, I consider myself to be a libertarian. That means that I’m not used to winning things. I realize that many of the things that I believe have a snowball’s chance in hell of becoming reality. 

One exception is marijuana legalization or decriminalization.

So, yes, some of you may be annoyed by libertarians talking about pot…again. But let us try to win something for once! Please? 

8. Ending marijuana prohibition will reduce violence.

Remember all the violence associated with alcohol prohibition? 

Al Capone, the gangs, the mobs. People still wanted to drink, and the black market gladly provided. There were globs of money to be made!

As soon as alcohol was re-legalized, it took away the power from the gangs and all the violence vanished. When’s the last time there was a gang shoot out over alcohol? 

Likewise, legalizing marijuana would help take away power from the drug cartels. They don’t profit on marijuana as much as the harder drugs, but it would be an improvement.

9. Marijuana legalization is going well in the states. 

As of this writing, recreational marijuana is legal in 10 states. Medical marijuana is legal in 33 states. Most surprisingly, medical marijuana is legal in Utah. Mormon Utah?! Those other states have zero excuses.

I’ve been to the weed shops in Denver, Colorado (for research purposes!).

There was a cop standing right in front of the shop as I entered. 

I wasn’t even high and I felt a sense of paranoia.

He’s going to realize what’s going on and bust the place any second. Look around to find the best exit, in case I need to make a run for it. 

Oh wait, there is no illegal activity going on here. 

Just good ole capitalism. People engaging money for goods and vice versa. No one’s getting hurt. If anyone steals or frauds one another, then the cops will get involved. Unlike in prohibition, when it’s up to gangs to solve their disputes- often violently. 

Violent crime is down overall in states that have legalized marijuana. Washington state legalized marijuana in 2012. Violent crime dropped by 10 percent from 2011 to 2014 in the Evergreen State. Colorado legalized marijuana in 2014. Denver saw a 2.2 percent drop in violent crime rates in the year after legalization.  

Sure, correlation does not imply causation. But it proves that the reefer madness hysteria was overblown. 

Understandably, some people are concerned about people driving while high. Impaired driving is still illegal and the bigger threat is drunk driving. 

In 2014, the Drug Policy Alliance found that “in Colorado and Washington the post-legalization traffic fatality rate has remained statistically consistent with pre-legalization levels, is lower in each state than it was a decade prior, and is lower than the national rate.” 

Still don’t drive while stoned, kids. 

10. Marijuana prohibition hasn’t reduced drug use.

If the goal of marijuana prohibition is to reduce marijuana use, it has failed miserably. 

Even in states where marijuana is totally illegal, teens have said that it is easier to buy marijuana than alcohol. 

A study by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse found that 40 percent of teens thought they could get marijuana in a day, and a quarter said they could get it within an hour. 

It’s likely that anyone who wants to smoke marijuana is already smoking it. 

State surveys in Colorado and Washington haven’t found any significant changes in marijuana use in teens since each state has passed legalization. 

Surveys may not be the most reliable, but it’s undeniable that marijuana is already readily available to teens.

To sum it up, marijuana legalization is catching on and it’s not something that believers in capitalism should be afraid of. It’s a freedom issue that would save taxpayer money, improve police-community relations, and has been proven to work just fine in states where it has been tried. 

But are there any problems with marijuana legalization? 

From a libertarian perspective, the biggest issue is government involvement. It’s true that one of the reasons why some state governments are so eager to legalize marijuana is because they want that juicy tax money. 

The tax rate depends on the state. Alaska has a $50 per ounce tax, California has a 15 percent sales tax, Oregon has a 17 percent sales tax, and Washington has a 37 percent sales tax!

37 percent?!

This high tax rate is why the black market still thrives in Seattle. You don’t have to pay any taxes for weed on the black market. Why pay for expensive legal weed when a drug dealer can get you the same thing for much cheaper

I get why some people prefer decriminalization over legalization. Decriminalization generally means the loosening of the criminal and monetary penalties for marijuana possession. Some states have backed off from punishing people found with a small amount of marijuana. Though, many libertarians would prefer the zero punishment regardless of the amount approach. 

The benefit of decriminalization is that government is not involved in regulating or taxing marijuana. It’s still illegal though and drug cartels can continue to operate using violent means.   

I think that either approach is better than current marijuana prohibition. 

"But why stop at marijuana? Shouldn’t all drugs be legalized?" 

I know, I know. I’m such a statist sell out. If I don’t dedicate an entire blog to legalizing heroin, am I even a libertarian? 

Many of the above arguments for legalizing marijuana also apply to harder drugs. If you have a right to put marijuana in your body, you still have a right to put even stupider things in your body. People addicted to harder drugs need help rather than to be thrown in jail where these types of drugs are rampant. 

Right now, though, the national debate is about marijuana legalization. 

That's why I'm focused on what can be changed at the moment.

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  • Stan Swartz

    I agree, marijuana should be legal for all of the reasons you mentione. I also be all drugs should be legal for the same reasons. What is your opinion.

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