Dear Tea Party,
This is an open letter to all my conservative friends out there in the resurgent liberty movement taking this country by storm: Please throw your support behind the legalization of marijuana. It actually makes a lot more sense than you might think.
To begin with, you're skeptical of the federal government's ability to do things right and you should be. Look at its failed entitlement programs and disastrously misguided war on poverty. They have had unintended consequences that took a bad situation and made it worse- usually because of poor economic thinking that created perverse incentives. Welfare checks essentially ended up as a subsidy for poverty, and entitlements like Social Security and Medicare threaten to bankrupt our entire country sooner than expected.
Is it such a leap to examine the unintended consequences of the failed war on drugs? Keeping marijuana illegal simply acts to create a lucrative, violent, and untouchable cartel of dangerous drug dealers. Criminalization limits the amount of marijuana in the market. As any student of economics can tell you, this acts to dramatically force up its price and therefore its marginal profit. That's why drug lords in border cities are willing to kill each other (and any innocents that get in the way) in turf wars.
Let's put it in language that all conservatives will understand. Second Amendment proponents claim that "If you outlaw guns, only outlaws will have guns." The same holds true for marijuana. If you outlaw the sale of drugs, only outlaws will sell drugs. It will be a violent, nasty business that keeps our inner cities bereft of peaceful, productive, and happy co-existence- just like prohibition of alcohol did last century.
But if we legalize the sale of marijuana, law-abiding corporations will sell it. You could buy a pack of marijuana cigarettes at the 7-Eleven down the street. Against their massive economies of scale and base of capital investments, the violent drug dealer on the sidewalk would be put out of business overnight and our cities and suburbs would start becoming a lot safer. That's right- if you're hard on crime, you should support marijuana legalization.
Then there's the whole "freedom-dimension" to this issue. For a year now, conservative Tea Party activists have flooded their town halls in cities across America, flying those yellow flags that say "Dont Tread On Me." Really stop and take that message to heart. Are you going to tread on a peaceful citizen with a job who wants to come home and smoke a joint to relax just the same way Joe-six pack comes home and drinks a few beers?
As a conservative who abhors the nanny state always telling us what's best for us, do you really support going in and arresting that productive citizen for making a personal choice without threatening or treading upon others? No person who has ever waved a Gadsden Flag can defend such a policy without serious damage to their credibility.
Then there's the fiscal dimension. We spend billions of dollars of taxpayer money to lock up, try, and convict that peaceful pot-user. We also cost the country billions in tax revenue by forcing the sale and purchase of marijuana into the black market, instead of integrating it into our legal system and enjoying the sales tax revenue it would generate. At a time when government at every level seems to be struggling with budget issues, does our drug policy make any sense fiscally?
See? Drug legalization is actually a conservative issue. It is the necessary conclusion of an outlook that is skeptical of government's ability to get things right. It's hard on crime- indeed it will put a whole industry of criminals out of business virtually over night! It rejects the nanny state's condescension to regulate the personal aspects of our lives out of some superior knowledge about what's best for us. For goodness' sake, pot legalization is even fiscally conservative!
So think it over. If you are conservative at heart, you may have always been against the legalization of marijuana as some sort of left-wing, hippie issue, but looking at it logically, doesn't it match up well with your conservative values?
With Liberty Love,
PS: If states started legalizing marijuana, it would represent a direct challenge to federal authority and an assertion of the states' right of nullification. A nationwide movement of this kind could spur on further devolution of federal authority and increase the power of states- something I think most conservatives would like to see. There's your bonus reason.