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  Free Weeds: The Marijuana Debate
Posted by CN Staff on June 29, 2004 at 19:49:33 PT
By William F. Buckley 
Source: National Review  

cannabis Conservatives pride themselves on resisting change, which is as it should be. But intelligent deference to tradition and stability can evolve into intellectual sloth and moral fanaticism, as when conservatives simply decline to look up from dogma because the effort to raise their heads and reconsider is too great. The laws aren't exactly indefensible, because practically nothing is, and the thunderers who tell us to stay the course can always find one man or woman who, having taken marijuana, moved on to severe mental disorder.

But that argument, to quote myself, is on the order of saying that every rapist began by masturbating. General rules based on individual victims are unwise. And although there is a perfectly respectable case against using marijuana, the penalties imposed on those who reject that case, or who give way to weakness of resolution, are very difficult to defend.

If all our laws were paradigmatic, imagine what we would do to anyone caught lighting a cigarette, or drinking a beer. Or — exulting in life in the paradigm — committing adultery. Send them all to Guantanamo?

Legal practices should be informed by realities. These are enlightening, in the matter of marijuana. There are approximately 700,000 marijuana-related arrests made very year. Most of these — 87 percent — involve nothing more than mere possession of small amounts of marijuana. This exercise in scrupulosity costs us $10-15 billion per year in direct expenditures alone. Most transgressors caught using marijuana aren't packed away to jail, but some are, and in Alabama, if you are convicted three times of marijuana possession, they'll lock you up for 15 years to life. Professor Ethan Nadelmann, of the Drug Policy Alliance, writing in National Review, estimates at 100,000 the number of Americans currently behind bars for one or another marijuana offense.

What we face is the politician's fear of endorsing any change in existing marijuana laws. You can imagine what a call for reform in those laws would do to an upward mobile political figure. Gary Johnson, governor of New Mexico, came out in favor of legalization — and went on to private life. George Shultz, former secretary of state, long ago called for legalization, but he was not running for office, and at his age, and with his distinctions, he is immune to slurred charges of indifference to the fate of children and humankind. But Kurt Schmoke, mayor of Baltimore, did it, and survived a reelection challenge.

But the stodgy inertia most politicians feel is up against a creeping reality. It is that marijuana for medical relief is a movement which is attracting voters who are pretty assertive on the subject. Every state ballot initiative to legalize medical marijuana has been approved, often by wide margins. Of course we have here collisions of federal and state authority. Federal authority technically supervenes state laws, but federal authority in the matter is being challenged on grounds of medical self-government. It simply isn't so that there are substitutes equally efficacious. Richard Brookhiser, the widely respected author and editor, has written on the subject for The New York Observer. He had a bout of cancer and found relief from chemotherapy only in marijuana — which he consumed, and discarded after the affliction was gone.

The court has told federal enforcers that they are not to impose their way between doctors and their patients, and one bill sitting about in Congress would even deny the use of federal funds for prosecuting medical marijuana use. Critics of reform do make a pretty plausible case when they say that whatever is said about using marijuana only for medical relief masks what the advocates are really after, which is legal marijuana for whoever wants it.

That would be different from the situation today. Today we have illegal marijuana for whoever wants it. An estimated 100 million Americans have smoked marijuana at least once, the great majority, abandoning its use after a few highs. But to stop using it does not close off its availability. A Boston commentator observed years ago that it is easier for an 18-year old to get marijuana in Cambridge than to get beer. Vendors who sell beer to minors can forfeit their valuable licenses. It requires less effort for the college student to find marijuana than for a sailor to find a brothel. Still, there is the danger of arrest (as 700,000 people a year will tell you), of possible imprisonment, of blemish on one's record. The obverse of this is increased cynicism about the law.

We're not going to find someone running for president who advocates reform of those laws. What is required is a genuine republican groundswell. It is happening, but ever so gradually. Two of every five Americans, according to a 2003 Zogby poll cited by Dr. Nadelmann, believe "the government should treat marijuana more or less the same way it treats alcohol: It should regulate it, control it, tax it, and make it illegal only for children."

Such reforms would hugely increase the use of the drug? Why? It is de facto legal in the Netherlands, and the percentage of users there is the same as here. The Dutch do odd things, but here they teach us a lesson.

Source: National Review (US)
Author: William F. Buckley
Published: June 29, 2004
Copyright: 2004 National Review
Contact: letters@nationalreview.com
Website: http://www.nationalreview.com/

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Comment #16 posted by E_Johnson on June 30, 2004 at 17:02:53 PT
Yes but....
Nixon wasn't a rich frat boy. He was as suspicious of the Skull and Bones set as anyone, if not more so.

So life is unfair. But unfairness and evil are not the same thing in my book.



[ Post Comment ]

 
Comment #15 posted by Robbie on June 30, 2004 at 15:29:04 PT
An aristocracy
not just rich boys playing in a fort...2 of the 3 have been and could be president of the US, the other one being the voice of American conservatism for years

I'd say that constitutes aristocracy, and that doesn't include the thousands of others from the same deep-pocket families...whether actual members of Skull and Bones or not.

My point was not whether you were related to these people. My point was that we were supposed to be getting away from this type of government here in the US, yet we have a bunch of rich frat boys making or influencing most of the governmental decisions.

[ Post Comment ]

 
Comment #14 posted by E_Johnson on June 30, 2004 at 12:30:12 PT
That wasn't my point Robbie
My family comes from Ireland and Germany and the various gene bearers only arrived in America a century after "we" fled the British aristocracy.

But my point was that Skull and Bones is not an evil conspiracy, it's just a bunch of young rich guys building a fort, basically.



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Comment #13 posted by Zero_G on June 30, 2004 at 11:24:48 PT
Asset Forfeiture
>>We're not going to find someone running for president who advocates reform of those laws.<<

How much does Asset Forfeiture play into this? How many Police Depts. nationally now derive significant fractions of their budgets directly from those that they target?

How has this changed policing priorities in the past decades? Kerry is playing big time to the Police and Fire servicemembers, how would they view cutting their budgets?

Here in California, the prison guards are the most powerful union, we can't be letting those non-violent offenders out of prison.

At least, Mr. Buckley is a consistant conservative...

[ Post Comment ]

 
Comment #12 posted by Robbie on June 30, 2004 at 11:13:47 PT
Comment #7 and #10
EJ, no...not surprising at all. Seems like we fled the British aristocracy in order to make our own brand of it.

JR: and, while I love Dennis, he has about as much chance of winning anything as Ralph Nader does...WFB's suggestion is that the realities of perception politics won't allow anyone to take a stand on drug reform issues..it's going to take what's working now...a movement by people outside the establishment who fight for MMJ and MMJ rights

[ Post Comment ]

 
Comment #11 posted by E_Johnson on June 30, 2004 at 10:16:41 PT
What strain is that leaf?
Looks like Afghan genetics.



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Comment #10 posted by JR Bob Dobbs on June 30, 2004 at 09:57:35 PT
Great article, but...
>>We're not going to find someone running for president who advocates reform of those laws.<<

Apart from nearly every third-party candidate that has ever run, what about Dennis Kucinich?

[ Post Comment ]
 
Comment #9 posted by Valrasha on June 30, 2004 at 09:13:06 PT
Heck Ya
I say, bring it on. Everyone needs to open there eyes and see whats going on. It would be nice to see legalization nationally in my life time, though I don't know how likely this would be.

[ Post Comment ]
 
Comment #8 posted by FoM on June 30, 2004 at 09:06:53 PT
Small Gif of Cover of National Review
http://www.drugpolicy.org/images/tnr_60x85.gif

[ Post Comment ]
 
Comment #7 posted by E_Johnson on June 30, 2004 at 08:13:54 PT
An interesting group eh?
Bush, Kerry and Buckley, all products of enormous social privilege, all products of Skull and Bones.

Interesting, eh?



[ Post Comment ]

 
Comment #6 posted by Jose Melendez on June 30, 2004 at 07:51:51 PT
National Review: hit the stands Monday June 28th
from: http://www.drugpolicy.org/news/pressroom/pressrelease/pr062504.cfm

“Legalize Marijuana” says the Cover Story Of America’s Leading Conservative Magazine Written by the Drug Policy Alliance’s Ethan Nadelmann, This Week’s National Review Champions “The Growing Movement Toward Ending America’s Irrational Marijuana Prohibition”

Nadelmann Refutes Myths, Calls on Conservatives to Take a Stand Vs. Feds’ Expensive, Ineffective and Harmful Prohibitionist Policies

For Immediate Release: Friday, June 25, 2004. Contact: Tony Newman (646) 335-5384 or Elizabeth Berry (212) 613-8036NEW YORK— The cover of the July 12th National Review (which hits stands Monday June 28th) stars a marijuana leaf and the headline “The growing movement toward ending America’s irrational marijuana prohibition.”

The country’s premier conservative journal offers a fresh challenge to the federal government’s prohibitionist policies.

The article, “An End to Marijuana Prohibition,” was written by Ethan Nadelmann, the executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. It engages and refutes the principal arguments made by marijuana prohibitionists, analyzes growing public support for decriminalization and legalization, and suggests the process by which marijuana prohibition may ultimately end in the United States. 

“I’ve had countless conversations with police and prosecutors, judges and politicians and hundreds of others who quietly agree that the criminalization of marijuana is costly, foolish and destructive,” writes Nadelmann.  "Marijuana prohibition is unique among American criminal laws.  No other law is both enforced so widely and harshly and yet deemed unnecessary by such a substantial portion of the populace."

"We felt it was important to re-ignite the public debate with a cover story that provides both fresh perspectives and a compelling case for ending marijuana prohibition," said Rich Lowry, editor of National Review.

[ Post Comment ]

 
Comment #5 posted by WolfgangWylde on June 30, 2004 at 07:44:44 PT
Does anybody know...
...when Ethan Nadelman's cover story will hit the newstands?

[ Post Comment ]
 
Comment #4 posted by E_Johnson on June 29, 2004 at 21:41:10 PT
He's from Skull and Bones too
That's what I read.

It sounds like a Pirate Club for college boys.



[ Post Comment ]

 
Comment #3 posted by Virgil on June 29, 2004 at 20:16:01 PT
Buckey selling interest in National Review
Buckley is 78 and today the NYT reported he would be selling controlling interest in the National Review- http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/national/AP-National-Review-Buckley.html The Independent would use this opportunity to tell of the importance of Buckley and the importance of the National Review to the conservative cause for the last 50 years. They also report Buckley now sees the war of aggression against Iraq as a mistake- http://news.independent.co.uk/world/americas/story.jsp?story=536590

[ Post Comment ]
 
Comment #2 posted by Robbie on June 29, 2004 at 20:01:27 PT
Excellent!
Great piece!

Ethan Nadelman and Bill Buckley! Delivering it to the high and hypocritcal!



[ Post Comment ]

 
Comment #1 posted by FoM on June 29, 2004 at 19:53:16 PT
Thank You Mr. Buckley
I appreciate this article.

[ Post Comment ]

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