Today being a day celebrated at college campuses across this country, I thought I would briefly discuss the political status of the War on Drugs and its implications in libertarian/conservative thought. A few thoughts up front:
1) It amazes me that some of the same people that use pot most frequently also stage boycotts for sweat shops and the like. If they would do just a little research, they would realize that the drug trade (yes marijuana is part of the "drug trade") involves more humanitarian harms that that Adidas soccer ball that costs $35. Wars are fought over this stuff. So while pot may make you feel happy and turn the Home Shopping Network into Comedy Central, there is about a 50% chance you are hurting people with every purchase. Legalization within the United States would have a marginal effect on this.
2) Pot is currently against the law. Whatever your beliefs on the subject, there is not much of a difference (in the eyes of the law) between you smoking pot and the guy down the street shooting coke. You do it because you feel good. Don't look down on him.
3) I absolutely believe that if our current legislature had grown up alcoholics instead of hippies, alcohol would be illegal and not marijuana. Politicians passed these laws to distance themselves from their past.
Now, I believe the War on Drugs is a failure. Drug laws are written with racial undertones (crack/power cocaine discrepanies being the most glaring of examples) and putting addicts in jail does nothing but put them through professional criminal training. I believe the populace gains some unexplainable pleasure from seeing addicts put in jail instead of into treatment. I think our society is above this, but yet it continues. Pot smokers, being of the same legal status as coke users, and working off of the same motivations for using, SHOULD be up in arms to free their brothers in chemistry, but they're not. Instead they are using their political capital for THEIR brand of drug to be legal. Pot users already have minimal penalties for being caught (with such laws rarely being enforced), but yet want THEIR drug made legal so it would be easier to purchase.
True libertarian thought would not split the baby here. Either all in or all out. Either we let people put whatever they want into their bodies or nothing. I can't say I subscribe 100% to this, especially in an age of social programs that would foster a drug culture in a very unproductive way. Currently these social programs are cut off if drug use is established.
My solution: Become a society of treatment over imprisonment. Drug users, alcoholics, chronic gamblers, etc. all need treatment, not jail time. I'd suggest that those who want the legalization of THEIR drug instead seek out the legalization of ALL drugs and at least stay intellectually honest. They would then have to address the consequences of what that would mean.