A Philosopher's Blog

Why Republicans Should Support Legalizing Marijuana

Posted in Ethics, Law, Philosophy, Politics by Michael LaBossiere on January 28, 2015
English: NORML members protest in Lafayette Pa...

English: NORML members protest in Lafayette Park during the annual July 4th “Smoke-In.” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While I believe that people should not use marijuana, I believe that the sale and consumption of the drug should be legal. Given the espoused principles of the Republicans, they should agree with me. To make the case for this, I will consider some of the core espoused principles of the Republicans.

First, Republicans employ the usual rhetoric of freedom (in early 2015 they had a Freedom Summit in Iowa) and allowing people the freedom to grow, sell and use marijuana would be consistent with the notion of freedom. But, of course, the vague rhetoric of freedom is just that—vague rhetoric. So I will turn to more specific principles.

Second, there is the standard Republican claim that they prefer to have matters handled locally rather than by the power of the federal government. Some states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana at the local level. To be consistent, the Republicans should accept the local decisions and allow the citizens to exercise the freedom they voted for. To impose on the local governments and the citizens would be contrary to this espoused principle.

Third, Republicans often speak of “getting government off our back” and in favor of small government. The laws regarding marijuana and their enforcement certainly put the government on the back of citizens. As the Republicans like to say, why should the state be telling people what they can and cannot do? These laws have also led to an increase in the size of government, which is contrary to the small government ideal.

Fourth, Republicans are typically eager to oppose regulations and want to set the market free. Legalizing marijuana by removing the existing laws would reduce regulations, thus being in accord with this ideological point. The free market has clearly spoken in regards to marijuana: people want to buy and sell it. To impose harsh laws and regulations on these transactions is to impede the free market and to have the government pick winners and losers. The Republicans should be in favor of this freeing of the market from burdensome regulation.

Fifth, Republicans speak lovingly of job creators and job creation. The marijuana industry is run by job creators who create many jobs in growing and distributing the crops. They also create jobs in the snack and fast food industries as well as in the paraphernalia business. Legalizing marijuana would help grow the economy and create jobs, so the Republicans should support this.

Finally, the Republicans express a devotion to lowering government spending. Enforcing the marijuana laws is rather costly and legalizing marijuana would help reduced government spending. This would allow more tax cuts. Given these key Republican principles, they should eagerly embrace the legalization of marijuana.

It might be noted that Republicans, despite these espoused principles, should be opposed to legalizing marijuana. One reason that has been stated is that marijuana is harmful, and specifically harmful for the children.

I, of course, agree that marijuana is harmful and certainly agree that children should not use it. However, there is the matter of consistency. Obviously enough, harmful things such as alcohol, automobiles, tobacco, junk food and guns are legal in the United States and Republicans are staunch supporters of these things—despite the harm they do. As such, Republican support of marijuana would be consistent with their support of such things as guns, fossil fuels and tobacco. As far as the matter of children, marijuana can be handled in the same way as cars, guns, tobacco and alcohol. That is, marijuana can be illegal for children.

There is also the fact that while marijuana is harmful, it does not seem to be significantly more harmful than tobacco and alcohol. Its use also kills far fewer people than do cars and guns. Naturally, I do agree that it should be illegal to drive, etc. while high—just as it is illegal to drive when drunk. As such, the harmful nature of marijuana

It might be objected that marijuana is simply immoral and thus must be kept illegal. The obvious challenge is showing why it is simply immoral and then showing why immoral things should be made illegal. This can be done—but the adoption of the principle that the immoral must be illegal would probably not appeal to Republicans if it were consistently applied.

 

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  1. ajmacdonaldjr said, on January 28, 2015 at 4:52 pm

    FBI – Marijuana: “Mexico is the number one foreign supplier of marijuana abused in the United States. In fact, according to a 2008 inter-agency report, marijuana is the top revenue generator for Mexican DTOs—a cash crop that finances corruption and the carnage of violence year after year. The profits derived from marijuana trafficking—an industry with minimal overhead costs, controlled entirely by the traffickers—are used not only to finance other drug enterprises by Mexico’s poly-drug cartels, but also to pay recurring “business” expenses, purchase weapons, and bribe corrupt officials. Though the GOM has a robust eradication program, many of the military personnel traditionally assigned to eradicate marijuana and opium poppy have recently been diverted to the offensive against the cartels.” Read more: Kevin L. Perkins and Anthony P. Placido Assistant Director, Criminal Investigative Division and Assistant Administrator for Intelligence Drug Enforcement Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control Washington, D.C.: http://www.fbi.gov/news/testimony/drug-trafficking-violence-in-mexico-implications-for-the-united-states

  2. T. J. Babson said, on January 28, 2015 at 7:35 pm

    Although there is a libertarian streak in the Republican party, and some R’s do support legalization of marijuana, there is still quite a bit of resistance to this idea among the voters.

    Mike, can you comment on Jerry Brown’s reasoning:

    California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) said Sunday that he is not convinced legalizing marijuana is a good idea because the population needs to “stay alert.”

    “The problem with anything, a certain amount is okay,” Brown said on NBC’s Meet the Press. “But there is a tendency to go to extremes. And all of a sudden, if there’s advertising and legitimacy, how many people can get stoned and still have a great state or a great nation? The world’s pretty dangerous, very competitive. I think we need to stay alert, if not 24 hours a day, more than some of the potheads might be able to put together.”

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/02/jerry-brown-marijuana_n_4885455.html

  3. tom hewitt said, on January 29, 2015 at 7:41 am

    The Republicans are just other characters in the kabuki performance that is US government. They need to show some differences from the Democrats or they’ll just be Democrats but they can’t be very much different. Their supposed opposition to big government is a fraud meant to mollify the uninformed. They’ve never managed to shrink the influence of government. The Dept. of Agriculture still exists, the Selective Service Administration still exists even though no one has been drafted in decades http://nailheadtom.blogspot.com/2014/01/you-must-register.html, the Dept. of Education has its own enforcement branch. Politicians are statists by definition.

    • TJB said, on January 29, 2015 at 8:34 am

      Unfortunately, Tom is right. R’s have never had the cojones to actually shrink government. All we can hope for is slower growth.


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