As Drug Policies Change, Is There A Conservative Dilemma?
December 17, 2012 by Sam Rolley
Governments around the world have slowly been recognizing the folly of using prohibition and war on drugs tactics to quell drug related violence, addiction and terroristic drug cartels.
Leaders in the United Kingdom are calling for a reformative look at British drug policy as, despite evidence to the contrary, Prime Minister David Cameron says he believes that his nation’s version of the American war on drugs is “actually working.”
The U.K. Liberal Democrat Party leader Nick Clegg disagrees, saying in a recent interview with The Sun, “We are losing the war on drugs on an industrial scale. If you were waging any other war where you have 2,000 fatalities a year, your enemies are making billions in profits, constantly throwing new weapons at you and targeting more young people – you’d have to say you are losing and it’s time to do something different.”
A report released last week by the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee suggests that U.K. lawmakers should look to South American countries for pointers on drug reform policy.
For decades Latin American countries have suffered because of the U.S.-created War on Drugs. Decades of bloodshed and billions of dollars spent has led a majority of Latin Americans to an emerging consensus that going along with their northern neighbor’s tough drug policies are only helping to embolden cartel criminals.
More practical solutions to the drug problem are being sought by many governments in the region focusing on legalization and regulation rather than outright prohibition, especially with regard to marijuana. In the small republic of Uruguay, government pushed through legislation that makes the state the sole dispenser of marijuana.
Other Latin American countries are following Uruguay’s lead and also calling for drug legalization. Guatemalan leader Otto Perez Molina did so in the U.N. General Assembly, with the support of regional backers such as the cartel-ravaged nations of Mexico and Colombia.
The United States remains the biggest drug market in the Western hemisphere, despite being the birthplace of the war on drugs philosophy. And the Nation’s Federal lawmakers remain opposed to Latin America-style reforms, despite States like California and Washington easing the crackdown on marijuana.
With growing pressure from Latin American governments and State efforts to curb draconian drug policies, the Federal government will have much to prove about the efficacy of its drug war over the next few years. Meanwhile, President Barack Obama’s remarks last Friday indicating that the Federal government “has bigger fish to fry” than going after marijuana users in Colorado and Washington where the drug is now legal serves as a victory to both States’ rights and personal liberty advocates.
Many conservative Americans would likely disagree that marijuana legalization in a handful of States is really a good thing for their movement. But as the GOP increasingly represents a moral-nanny clone of the Democratic Party, the same conservatives that found ridiculous New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s liberty-assaulting ban on big soft drinks will have to decide if the message really is about getting government out of Americans’ lives. Or does small government only matter when the moral agenda is not in jeopardy?