The Functional Libertarian
September 5, 2013
With the recent statement by Attorney General Holder that the federal government will not prosecute people for marijuana offenses, as long as they are acting within the laws of their states, it is simply a question of time until the entire War on Drugs is over. In fact, the proverbial “light at the end of the tunnel” is now in sight.
This is not really a victory for those who want to use marijuana as much as it is a victory for Liberty. The government should hold people responsible for their actions, but not for what they, as adults, put into their bodies.
As a practical matter, this is also a victory for the concept of Federalism, upon which our great country was founded. In my presentations on this subject, I often ask my audience how many of them believe the federal government has all of the answers. All I get in response is snickers. So why not allow the states to determine how best to protect the safety and welfare of its citizens regarding marijuana?
While on the campaign trail, Governor Gary Johnson said often that this approach would result in some spectacular successes, which could be copied, as well as some significant failures, which could be avoided. And besides, we really couldn’t be in any worse shape regarding marijuana than we are now, so why not allow our 50 “crucibles of democracy” to come up with and implement their own workable plans?
By the way, when we finally came to our senses and repealed Alcohol Prohibition, we did not say that now each state must serve alcohol. No, instead we simply restricted the role of the federal government to assisting each state in enforcing its chosen laws. So, for example, if a particular state remained dry and someone smuggled alcohol into that state in violation of its laws, the federal government would help enforce those laws. And that approach continues to work quite well even today.
So why does this new development mean the end of Drug Prohibition is in sight? Because most estimates show that of all of the people in our country who use any form of illicit substances, 80 to 85 percent use only marijuana. And soon everyone will recognize that the relatively small number of people who use all other drugs combined will not justify the enormous bureaucracy that is required to support the present system.
Fortunately, this is already beginning to happen. For example, many people are starting to see that it is easier for our children to obtain marijuana, or any other drug, if they want to, than it is alcohol. Ask them yourself! And there is no quality control whatsoever under today’s “system.” That was also a significant problem under Alcohol Prohibition, but it went away after its repeal. In fact, ask yourself, “Who do you trust more, your state’s minister of health or the mafia?” Then act in accordance with your answer.
As another example, many fire prevention professionals believe that this raging fire now burning through Yosemite Park was caused by people who were illegally growing marijuana. At least when the R.J. Reynolds Company grows tobacco for its cigarettes, or Robert Mondavi grows its grapes for wine, they do not do so in such remote areas, and if by chance they cause a fire, their employees call it in and help to fight it instead of running away.
Another pivotal question that people are starting to ask is “Who would you rather have receive the billions of dollars for these products, Mexican drug cartels, juvenile street gangs and other similar thugs, or instead have that money used to pay our police and teachers and fix our roads?”
To take that thought to another level, if our federal government were to announce that the United Nation’s Single Convention Treaty, which requires all signing countries to prohibit these drugs, should be repealed, virtually all other countries around the world would heave a sigh of relief. And they would vote and act accordingly.
For example, the government of the country of Uruguay is quite close to selling marijuana to its residents itself. In addition, former Mexican President Vicente Fox recently came out strongly in favor of the legalization of marijuana and even all other drugs as well. That, says Mr. Fox, is the only way effectively to take away the profits and power of these blood-thirsty drug cartels. “Arbitrarily imposed prohibitions have ended,” he says, “and they have ended because they don’t work.” Similarly, Justin Trudeau, who could very well be the next prime minister of Canada, recently acknowledged having regularly smoked marijuana, saying basically that it was no big deal.
Of course, Holland decriminalized marijuana and all other drugs way back in the 1970s. So how did Holland get around this treaty? In a most pragmatic way: they simply ignored it. And, according to its Minister of Health, Holland only has half of the drug usage per capita that we do – both for adults and for teenagers!
Portugal experienced similar results by decriminalizing all drugs in 2001. And what were the results? Portugal found that this approach reduced problem drug usage by a full 50 percent! Similarly, Switzerland’s program to allow medical doctors to prescribe heroin to those who are addicted to it resulted in a strong reduction of crime and even drug usage in the neighborhoods surrounding those doctors’ clinics.
So what should happen now? A logical next step for our federal government would be to legalize hemp, which I define as marijuana in which the active psychoactive ingredient THC is only 0.3 percent or less. You could almost get more of a jolt from smoking the shirt you are wearing than marijuana with that low a percentage of THC. But hemp is a major industrial product that could enrich both our nation’s farmers and merchants.
For example, we can get more ethanol from hemp per acre than we can from corn, and the hemp will not clog your carburetor like the corn will. Similarly, we can get four times more paper pulp from an acre of hemp as we can from an acre of trees, and it takes only 9 months to grow the hemp, but 20 years to grow the trees. Legalizing hemp would strongly revitalize our farms and our economy.
So please look into this entire issue. And the more you do, the more you will be appalled that we have perpetuated this failed system for so long. In fact, I hereby challenge you to name any area of life that is important to you, whether it be education, health, the economy, teenage drug usage, the environment, or anything else, and I will show you to your satisfaction how it is made worse by our policy of Drug Prohibition. My email address is given to you below, contact me, and let me prove it to you!
James P. Gray is a retired judge of the Orange County Superior Court, the author of “Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed, and What We Can Do About It: A Judicial Indictment of the War on Drugs” (Temple University Press, 2d edition, 2012), and the 2012 Libertarian candidate for Vice President, along with Governor Gary Johnson as the candidate for President. Judge Gray can be contacted at JimPGray@sbcglobal.net.