The Conservative Case for Ending Cannabis Prohibition

What if I told you it is impossible to be both a Conservative and a Prohibitionist?

Those who identify as a Conservative often cite the same few common tenants: they value Constitutional rights, advocate for limited government, and are for lower taxes. To support our current drug prohibition however, is to support the opposite of those tenants.

Prohibition has disastrous consequences for our Constitutional rights. Drug users are not always easy to identify, those who use and sell drugs look like exactly like those who don’t. Law enforcement never knows who to trust, so they learn to never trust anyone. This leads to many unnecessary interactions between citizens and law enforcement, and as we have seen recently, the consequences can be deadly.

The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution provides, “[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures”. For law enforcement this poses a problem. How can they eradicate something without unrestricted access to search for it? The argument, “if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear,” is often invoked. This is the governmental equivalent of childish reverse psychology. An attempt to trick us into proving why we need our rights, not simply respecting them, as is their job.

The most troubling thing I have witnessed about our current drug prohibition, is the government’s use of the 9/11 tragedy to double-down on the failing drug war.

In the wake of the tragedy Congress passed the US PATRIOT Act, which expanded the powers of US intelligence agencies to collect information and compel US companies to assist them. The intended use of these new powers was to discover and thwart terror plots, but instead over 75% of the arrests made with special intelligence, have been prohibition violators, not terrorists.

Not only does prohibition require us to sacrifice our Constitutionally guaranteed freedoms, but it takes a ton of our money too.

Since 1971, over $1 trillion has been spent on hunting down illicit substances at home and abroad. There is also the unseen social cost of incarcerating all the prohibition violators.

If we take into account only non-violent prohibition violators, there are over 1 million currently in American prisons and jails at a cost of over $30 billion per year. These are 1 million citizens removed from the labor pool, at a cost to the American economy of an estimated $50 billion in taxable labor.

The total cost of enforcing our prohibition today is over $100 billion annually and drugs are easier to get than ever. Our government is not even able to keep them out of prisons. What exactly have they accomplished?

Another cost is all the money that ends up funneled into the coffers of criminal enterprise south of border. Instead of funding businesses here, our exported dollars sponsor corruption and murder in Mexico and beyond.

If we were to simply end the prohibition on cannabis, as other states have done, North Carolina would not only spend less, but bring in more.

In 2015, the four states that have legalized cannabis recreationally brought in over $5.4 billion dollars. Colorado made so much in taxes, their legislature decided to give some back.

North Carolina has a larger economy than any state that has ended cannabis prohibition so far. If we implemented a similar program to Colorado’s, we could easily bring in over $3 billion in the first full year of legalization. That is money that would have otherwise funded organized crime. The income would likely explode even higher thereafter, given hemp could now be grown freely, supplementing our dwindling tobacco industry.

The most telling information is when you look at the lobbyists opposed to ending cannabis prohibition. The five spending the most are: private prison corporations, police unions, corrections officer unions, pharmaceutical conglomerates, and Anheuser Busch. It’s quite clear job security and corporate profits are the main goal, not public health. One does not have to be a libertarian to realize prohibition is about politics, not people.

Above all, the Lord put cannabis on this Earth for a reason.

There are currently dozens of ailments safely treated by consuming it, everything from Epilepsy to Cancer. Cannabis derived medications also cost pennies on the dollar compared to deadlier and more expensive synthetic drugs like Oxycotin and Codeine.

I for one believe the Lord’s reasons for giving us this gift are valid and we should embrace it.

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