• Congressman Garrett (VA-R)

  • Gov. Chris Christy (NJ-R)

  • Colorado 2012

  • California Field Work, Prop 19

Modern Prohibition and Individual Liberty: Are they compatible?

If you can drink a beer, why can’t I toke on the bong?  If you can sip scotch, why can’t I snort coke?   Sound familiar?   This simple, easy-to-understand conversation has occurred a million times since the 1960s, and it strikes at the heart of the issue of personal freedom which used to be a hallmark of American democracy and history.   As the debate has been engaged on whether to repeal Modern Prohibition or at least change some of it, the liberty issue has been all but forgotten, as the prohibition crowd has raised a blizzard of other questions.   How unfortunate.  And what can one do to move public policy?

Self-proclaimed conservatives scream the loudest about liberty being an American value they cherish, EXCEPT when it comes to drug prohibition.   Or should I say that is what conservatives say in public?  As Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) is reported to have said earlier in 2009, ‘if Congress could take a secret vote, federal marijuana prohibition would end.’    Without getting into the conspiracy theories of why card-carrying conservatives support the nanny-state liberal policy of drug prohibition, the fact is they do.  Just because a conservative supports a policy does not mean their support is derived from their principles.  No more so than with drug prohibition.

Modern Prohibition is a policy whereby the government threatens its citizens with punishment, if they dare step outside the box of drugs like alcohol, tobacco, Prozac, Valium and Tylenol.  That punishment threat is backed up by government police, prosecutors and prisons.    Add to that government informants, property confiscation without benefit of trial or finding of guilt, cops threatening politicians with a ‘soft on drugs’ label, unless the elected official supports the police cash cow & job security also known as drug policy. 

To date 40 million Americans have been arrested on drug charges, damaging or destroying their lives.  Ask yourself, how many people do you know who used drugs and went on to become productive and contributing members of our society?  From Newt Gingrich to Presidents Obama, Bush 43 & Clinton, from Governor Gary Johnson of New Mexico to Willie Nelson and Michael Phelps to the man writing these words – 100 million of us have used an illegal drug and done well.  However, all of the above careers (minus Nelson and Phelps) would have never happened, if we had been busted for a prohibited drug.  Our ‘freedom’ to succeed would have been severely curtailed.   As many have correctly stated, the most dangerous & damaging property about marijuana is being busted for it.

The long sad story of how America came to and continues its drug prohibition is a tale left for another day.  What is ironic is that citizens are still allowed many, many dangerous and even deadly activities and choices.  Many states allow motorcycle riders to go 70 MPH without a helmet.  Bungee jumping kills a few every year, as does white-water rafting & snow skiing.   We can eat ourselves into a heart attack or smoke tobacco until we are dead or incapacitated.  We can take aspirin & Tylenol to our heart’s content and can’t sue anyone when those drugs kill us from long-term overuse.  Those freedoms we still have.  But then the biker who goes 70 without a helmet is later arrested for toking up with Willie on the back porch.   That is an example of how inconsistent, illogical the laws are today.

All is not lost.  Indeed, I have seen a sea change amongst the young conservatives at CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference) They ALL seem to be smitten with the Ron Paul – Libertarian Revolution.  Wearing the LEAP t-shirt (COPS SAY LEGALIZE DRUGS: ASK ME WHY) at their at 2009 gathering, I had many dozens of conversations about Modern Prohibition.  Without exception the college age students were ready to repeal this 21st century Prohibition.   A 2008 Zogby poll showed that 76% of Americans admit that the War on Drugs has been an ineffective, failed policy.    This recognition of failure keeps the prohibition crowd up at night.

The road to freedom of drug choice will be long and there are many tough battles ahead.  The faux conservative Republicans and many squishy liberal Democrats are not ready to repeal, as they set aside their principles in fear of the wrath of the voters and the police / drug industries which want their cash cow Drug War to continue.  NOTE:  the police love the overtime and job security from arresting 1.9 million citizens on drug charges each year.  Big Pharma fears cannabis as a low cost (nearly free), low side-effect, highly effective and low addiction property medicine.  Big surprise.   God didn’t make no junk.

As Peter Christ, a retired New York police captain and Co-Founder of LEAP likes to remark: ‘In America an adult should be free to be as stupid as they wish in the privacy of their own castle.’    Moreover, as my wife Karen articulates so well, ‘the government thru its police department can not stop personal stupidity.’    ‘Individual freedom and personal responsibility are two sides of the same coin,’ quipped retired Florida police Chief Jerry Cameron.   Modern Prohibition is completely incompatible with the principles of Individual liberty, personal responsibility, property rights, limited government, cost-effective government and States’ Rights.  Work for those who would repeal it.

Published July 31, 2009:   Campaign for Liberty website published article: http://www.campaignforliberty.com/article.php?view=150





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