The New Republic Calls for Marijuana Legalization

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The drug policy scholar Harry Levine has done some digging in The New Republic's new online archive and uncovered evidence that liberals used to get upset about marijuana arrests. For those of us who have become accustomed to a New Republic whose editors are at best indifferent to the injustices perpetrated in the name of a Drug-Free Society, even as annual marijuana arrests have reached record levels, these reminders of a time when they cared about such things are poignant. Below are a few samples, but the articles are worth reading in full.

From an April 1967 article by John Sanford: "The worst thing that can happen to a person who smokes pot is prison, not addiction. The worst thing about marijuana is the laws against it, which should be repealed."

From a May 1967 editorial, headlined "The Indecent Society": "After 30 years of federal antipot legislation, and 10 years after federal penalties were raised to ferocious levels, no one has shown that marijuana is more hazardous than martinis."

From a June 1967 editorial, headlined "Keep Off the Grass?": "The federal Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 and state laws patterned after it should be repealed, pot reclassified as nonnarcotic, penalties for possession and sale imposed by the federal Narcotic Control Act of 1956 removed. That, at least, would be a start."

From a November 1970 article by John Kaplan: "Although the present debate over the safety of marijuana is important, the forest of alleged facts should not obscure the question whether or not it should be legalized….The pertinent question here is whether the harm done by a drug approximates the harm done by laws attempting to suppress it….For those who do not appreciate the harm the marijuana laws are doing, misinformation about the drug's dangers makes the resolution of the social policy issue that much more difficult. Exaggerated warnings, rather than convincing people to lay off, feed a growing cynicism about authoritative statements."

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  1. Ah, the care-free, innocent 70’s, when someone could write:
    “…feed a growing cynicism about authoritative statements.”
    Pretty well fed, I’d say.

  2. Funny how in the 80s and 90s some of the leading proponents were the likes of Bill Buckley, George Schultz, and Gary Johnson.

  3. I think you will find plenty of liberals who find the whole drug war appalling. I do, although I am not yet convinced that a complete legalization of all drugs is the best course of action. But what I think you will find is that liberals have not had any more luck than libertarians in changing that war in a democracy.
    What is the libertarian plan for getting rid of the drug war that takes into a account the fact that we live in a democracy and the actual voting patterns of the electorate?

  4. My mother died of cancer last spring. While she was taking Chemo she could not even try marijuana as a way to increase her appitite or cut her nausia. Yet, doctors had no problem proscribing huge amounts of opiate based pain killers for her. Not that they should not have been able to proscribe the pain killers, but it seems a little insane that a doctor can proscribe what amounts to heroin yet can’t proscribe marijuana. I think the marijuana debate has come down to the fact that sometimes society just can’t admit that it is wrong about something. Forget for a moment about legalizing it and selling it like booze, we can’t even proscribe it for medical pruposes even though some people believe that it does have medical value. Why? I don’t know anyone who would honestly argue that marijuana is as harmful as cocaine or heroin, yet both of those drugs are manufactured and proscribed by doctors. I think its a combination of people whose careers depend on marijuana being illegal and people who just cannot admit that its not worth fighting about anymore and move on. Instead, we continue with the charade of total prohibition.

  5. I think its a combination of people whose careers depend on marijuana being illegal and people who just cannot admit that [they’re wrong]

    That’s exactly what it is.

  6. So pot is OK but the Doritos & Twinkies you eat as a result should be banned or at least very regulated?

  7. John writes:

    So pot is OK but the Doritos & Twinkies you eat as a result should be banned or at least very regulated?

    Yes. And the liberals want to ban Christmas, and make everyone chew cardboard, and watch PBS reruns.

  8. But if they admit they’re wrong about marijuana prohibition it might lead folks to question the wisdom of the war on drugs, or indeed all forms of prohibition.

    And the congregation said, “Amen!

  9. Who here is arguing in favor of government regulation of junk food? Where did THAT come from?

  10. From a person who does not think that drugs should be legalized, I think that the prohibition on marijuana is hurting the the efforts to control other more dangerous drugs by discrediting the entire effort.

  11. John,

    Unfortunately the Bush DEA is going after doctors who prescribe opiate based pain medication as well. Radley Balko has done a lot of writing on the Bush “War on Doctors”.

  12. No, John, I was asking who you were referring to when you made that comment about legalizing pot but regulating Doritos.

  13. Oh look another excellent thread to mention Marc Emery, one of the more effective anti-prohibition warriors. And also to encourage you to help him out

  14. After the not-that-tacit admission by the DEA that Marc Emery’s arrest was politically motivated, I don’t see any way that Canada will extradite him to the US. The resulting row could cause Canada to break off all cooperation with the DEA and move even more in the direction of outright marijuana legalization. What are others’ thoughts about the possible fallout from the Emery arrest?

  15. Would John from California and John C Kluge mind differentiating their screen names?

  16. Makes me think of ol’ Zell Miller and how he ranted that the Democratic Party moved away from his beliefs. Here, in a completely different arena of policy, the Dems seem to have forgotten part of their past.

    Big names in both the major factions are opposed to the War on Some Drugs. Who will have the fortititude to put a radical change in policy before the people and the Congress? It seems like there might be popular support for reform/repeal, but that support is divided between all factions and therefore never becomes part of any single major platform.

  17. To me, it’s no more complicated than modern liberalism embracing the Mommy State in all its forms. Criminalization of drugs is of a piece with “The War on Junk Food” and requiring that kids dress up like hockey players in order to go ride a bicycle.

    Sure, the Me-Generation leftists might have been indignant when *they* were the ones being arrested for pot possession, but they seem to have no problem telling other people how to live their lives, and adopting a “do as I say, not as I did” attitude.

  18. This is a nutshell example of how I found out I was a libertarian and not a liberal that I thought I was in college. I thought liberals cared about freedom. I got this idea from watching what people did during the 50’s & 60’s regarding the issue of desegregation.
    But during the 80’s & 90’s when liberals started engaging in the my-dick-is-bigger-than-your-dick contest with conservatives to see who could be tougher on drugs, I learned that I had made a grevious mistake.
    Today, I understand the juxtiposition between me and conservatives (And I appreciate that “conservatives” is a very broad brush to paint with). With liberals however, I have no clue. I have no idea what they stand for and, I think, neither to they. Oh yeah, they hate George Bush with truculent asperity (yeah, I stole that from George Will), but that’s about all I can figure out.

  19. It wasn’t me, it was someone else who used my name. I have no desire to regulate junk food.

    The DEA and Justice are insane in their crusade against doctors. I defend Bush on a lot of things, but I will not defend him on that one. That said, the DEA and Justice have been out of control for years under administrations of both parties.

  20. Troy–

    These days, at least in America, the terms “liberal” and “conservative” are basically meaningless, or at least have NOTHING in common with what they meant years ago. Conservatives are supposed to favor less intrusive government, as opposed to allowing the government to regulate people’s consensual sex acts. Liberals are supposed to favor personal freedom, not mandatory physical fitness. I could list a thousand more examples for each case, but why bother? As I’ve said before, the only difference between modern Republicans and modern Democrats involves which specific aspects of your life they want to control.

  21. …and requiring that kids dress up like hockey players in order to go ride a bicycle.

    Shit, when I was a kid we didn’t have to “dress up like hockey players” to play fucking hockey.

  22. Jennifer said : “the only difference between modern Republicans and modern Democrats involves which specific aspects of your life they want to control”

    You seem to be forgetting “tax and spend” (D) v “tax and borrow” (R) that’s a significant difference to me.

  23. Jennifer,

    There has always been a never ending supply of puritan dogooders in this country. They come in two varieties, the eat your peas yankee and the fire and brimstone southerner. The Yankees have largely renounced religion and have become the puritan secular left. The fire and brinstone southerners have become the religous right of the Republican Party. I will say this in defense of the southerners. Unless you lived in their part of the country or tried to enforce your view of the world on them, they generally kept to themselves. Granted there were lots of people caught growing up in bible thumping towns in the South, but they could always leave when they grew up. The eat your peas Yankees have always been the more virilent and dangerous lot because they didn’t just stay in the Northeast, they took over nearly all of academia, moved out across the country and used the courts and trial lawyers to control as many lives as possible. Granted both groups are like locusts, but one seems to move around a lot more.

  24. ARGH!!!

    Tax and spend v Borrow and spend — sorry bout that. And I did hit preview too

  25. Tom, you probably meant borrow and spend.

  26. Randy Ayn,
    I’d like to believe you. But there’s a reason the DEA is so brazen, it just doesn’t matter. As the world’s sole superpower, the US does whatever the fuck it wants anywhere it wants. Any government foolish enough to defy the US on anything serious (and there’s nothing we take more serious than the War On Drugs, except terrorism, no wait it’s the WOD after all) will suffer the consequences.

    Then again, shock-and-awe strikes against Ottawa still sounds far fetched. And as I said before Canada isn’t some third world banana republic we can push around, if they care enough they can push back. Thing is, when it comes down to it I don’t think they care enough. And that’s the whole point, isn’t it. Look how far Marc has come in advancing the cause of ‘free the weed’. Left alone, in another ten years he may very well succeed in leading Canada to a legitimate market in marijuana. If that happens, there’s no way US prohibition could survive. So clearly Marc needs to be thrown into a dark hole and never heard from again.

  27. All food is allready regulated by either the USDA or FDA.

  28. Tax and spend v Borrow and spend

    A difference which is not all that significant anyway. Unless you plan on exiting this world within the current presidential term, you’re gonna pay for it all eventually.

  29. John, that is the most succinct analysis I’ve seen. And spot on.

  30. Unless you lived in their part of the country or tried to enforce your view of the world on them, they generally kept to themselves.

    Yet they’ve become *rather* successful at winning national elections…

  31. There were two things the old New Left had in common with liberty (libertarians). One was legalizing drugs and the other was an opposition to the draft.

    But the Left’s opposition to the draft had much more to do with war than with the idea of involuntary servitude. If there had been a draft for the Peace Corps they would have endorsed it and that is further evidenced by the call for mandatory conscripted national service (not just on the left but that is where it’s most popular and where it originated).

    The change of heart about drug legalization just plain came out of growing up, growing old, seeing a few cronies totter off with brain damage, and being endowed with the superior knowledge of what is best for everyone else. See, the drug legalization was never about choice it was about rebellion, being cool, and rubbing the establishment’s collective nose in it. Reefer Madness was a joke and drugs were fun, but once they realized that drug use sometimes had negative consequences, it was an easy slide into the drug war mentality. With kids of their own and their newly discovered wisdom about drug use the boomers simply decided what was best for those coming behind them and jumped on the prohibition bandwagon without a second thought. Again, the key here is that for The New Republic and many of its readers, it was never about choice in the first place.

  32. The right wants to protect us from drug dealers. The left wants to increase union jobs. The middle doesn’t care.

    wiseburn

  33. and make everyone chew cardboard
    Chewing cardboard is bad for your teeth, and is therefore forbidden.

    ChiTom, I actually think you’re on to something with “tax and spend” (D) v “tax and borrow” (R). Just add (and spend) before the (R).

    As for TNR, I don’t get to reading all my current subscriptions, so I’m not adding them, and they require a subscription for everything online as well. Thus I have no idea what their stance is on anything these days — how many people here want TNR enough that they pay for it?

  34. I think NORML/pro marajuana folks should do the same thing NRA/pro gun people do to people who are skeptical of their position. That is, instead of giving them 500 rounds, an Uzi, and letting them shoot the hell out of an old car, give them a quarter bag of funk bud, a plethora of junk food, and a selection of their favorite comedy shows to watch. You’d think that after getting blazed, stuffing your face, and laughing yourself a hernia most average folks would see no harm in recreational use of Pot. That’s just like people who once feared guns generally learn to enjoy and appreciate firearms once they’ve had the chance to “play” with them.

  35. I think NORML/pro marajuana folks should do the same thing NRA/pro gun people do to people who are skeptical of their position. That is, instead of giving them 500 rounds, an Uzi, and letting them shoot the hell out of an old car, give them a quarter bag of funk bud, a plethora of junk food, and a selection of their favorite comedy shows to watch. You’d think that after getting blazed, stuffing your face, and laughing yourself a hernia most average folks would see no harm in recreational use of Pot. That’s just like people who once feared guns generally learn to enjoy and appreciate firearms once they’ve had the chance to “play” with them.

  36. Shit, when I was a kid we didn’t have to “dress up like hockey players” to play fucking hockey.

    LOL, funniest thing I’ve heard in two days.

  37. OK, this is a long post and probably worth skipping. (I skip almost all long posts.) Sorry for the length.

    Anyway, yeah, I remember when things changed, around 1975. Young people began to realize that they really weren’t liberals at all. Being a liberal at that time meant uncritically standing up for the little guy and his causes and getting the government to pay for it. You know, Welfare, Food Stamps, Subsidized Housing, Civil Rights (OK, a noble cause), Native American Land Claims, Boycotting Grapes or was it lettuce. Nope, they weren’t liberal, just compassionate.

    And I saw my friends, one by one, joining the Assembly of God church and becoming suburban child raisers.

    The term ‘Liberal’ really hasn’t changed, at least not to me. I run into them every now and then. They’re usually Black social activists, main causes: urban homesteading and removing the scourge of drugs from their inner city neighborhoods.

    Nope, what changed is their cherished belief system and lifestyle that still really isn’t theirs but that they uncritically accept because…well, I guess it’s different for each person. My point is that my generation is remarkable for its avoidance of individual examination, substitution of followership for reason and general lack of good ol’ pellucidity. (There, I got it in.)

    1970: Liberals have fun; they get laid and get high, or at least attempt to. 1990: Conservatives have money; they own big houses and are secure, or at least that’s what they aspire to.

    My generation: one-time alternative lifestyle seekers now supporters of marijuana prohibition and tough penalties. Believer’s Chapel, SUVs and Rush Limbaugh. Blech!

    But yeah, liberals don’t support legalization. This isn’t the last time I say it: don’t hold your breath, it ain’t gonna be legal in our lifetimes.

  38. As Trey Parker or Matt Stone said once. “I hate conservatives yeah, but I *fucking* hate liberals”.

    Those guys should run as a ticket.

    nmg

  39. why is it that meth is such an evil scourge but 8 year olds are addicted to adderall and many of my friends have gotten a legit prescrip for adderall (which they crush and blow before partying), even though they have no ADD? (Same goes for xanax too) adderrall=legal meth where doctors and pharmas and the gov’t all profit (probably more so than if they legalized and taxed the real things) on misdiagnoses and an extremely rare disorder that has been completely blown out of proportion. that is how the new drug trade works.

  40. The other day I was reading an article on FreeRepublic about a college student killed in a drug raid on his home. Supposedly the perp made a threatening move and the SWAT boys discharged their weapons. Police say a small amount of MJ was found.

    Some of the WOD apologists were saddened that this young man died over a couple of ounces of pot. In their minds, two ounces of pot is not worth dying for.

    But if two ounces of pot is not worth dying for, then it is not worth killing a person for either. IOW, if you don’t want people to die over two ounces of pot, quit supporting the WOD. The authoritarian mind-set of those paraticular posters will not allow them to see the hollowness of their position. They can take their crocodile tears and ……..

  41. The whole thing about “liberals” supporting the WoD reminds me of an issue I’ve run into with some leftists of my acquaintance recently. They seem to define “liberal” as “stuff I like” and “conservative” as “stuff I don’t like”. Therefore, if you point out that widely-regarded-as-liberal politician Mr. X supports something unpleasant like the WoD, censorship of rock lyrics, unlimited eminent domain, etc., they just insist that Mr. X isn’t liberal, he’s “mainstream” or “middle-of-the-road”. I’m glad that for the most part my acquaintances are against the WoD, but the problem with their worldview is that it prevents them from realizing that the problem is not just certain elements within the Democratic party, it is the Democratic party (as well as the Republicans, that is). Then they keep supporting the Ds, as if that will help things, as if once the Ds take over once and for all they’ll purge those nasty “mainstream” elements, when what they’re really doing is preserving the status quo they claim to be fighting.

    BTW, I don’t doubt this happens on the other side of the fence too, but living in blue territory, I don’t meet too many conservatives.

  42. Within the last couple weeks someone made a great comment about the DEA. Something like, “A DEA agent is the modern moral equivelent of a run away slave hunter. While technically enforcing the law, antithetical to the American ideal of liberty. The only good DEA agen is a dead one.” Or something like that. Too lazy to actually look up who said it, but I thought it was pretty right on.

  43. Jacob,

    What do you think of the column by Mary Anastasia O’Grady in the WSJ today?

    The drug war is driving up violence and corruption and putting frail democracies at risk. But by making an otherwise common weed valuable it is also creating perverse incentives for even more people to get into the business.

    The war against supply, with its huge monetary, social and political costs, is nothing more than a jobs program.

  44. From a purely observational standpoint, all this means to me is that all legalization arguments are simply losing the debate. Basically, in the ‘marketplace of ideas’, legalization is getting a smaller, and smaller marketshare.

    Paul

  45. Explain to me again how this is a legitimate marketplace for ideas when we are coercively forced to pay for our children to be coerced to take DARE?

  46. “The change of heart about drug legalization just plain came out of growing up, growing old, seeing a few cronies totter off with brain damage, and being endowed with the superior knowledge of what is best for everyone else.”

    And having kids of their own.

    “the problem is not just certain elements within the Democratic party, it is the Democratic party (as well as the Republicans, that is).”

    The problem is the voters in this case. Except for maybe the pharmaceutical industry there is probably no special interest group that is lobbying against drug legalization (maybe cops – all those drug busts mean confiscating a lot of drug dealer loot). Absent special interests, both parties are catering to the electorate. Which is what they’re supposed to do. Of course, the electorate can also be jackasses (present company excluded). Democracy, even when it works like it’s supposed to, can be screwy.

  47. Captain Awesome:
    Explain to me again how this is a legitimate marketplace for ideas when we are coercively forced to pay for our children to be coerced to take DARE?

    You’re taking a bitter moral stance against a pure observation, and then linking it with an official policy of the State(tm).

    My point, which I think you missed, was that even liberals no longer spill much ink over drug legalizaton- and in many cases rail against it.

    The ‘marketplace of ideas’ in my comment represents the media at large- not the official policies of the Federal Government as it relates to the local school board– that’s a different topic.

    The H&R topic topic post suggested that many many years ago, liberals railed against prohibition- the fact that they don’t now, suggests that the argument is losing ground. My comment was not to be interpreted as an endorsement of prohibition, but a simple observation of the topic’s footing at large.

    Paul

  48. I have an idea that will never fly. Let’s fund the war on drugs with check-off dollars. Then Juanita can have her war, and I can have my peace.

  49. Good points, I tend not to think too clearly on the subject. It tends to get my blood heated. I know you guys don’t dissagree and are just trying to explain the situation. But that still doesn’t mean the situation isn’t a sore spot for me.

  50. This isn’t about marijuana, but it is about drug legalization. I’ve always wondered:

    What if we got a really conservative-looking person to start talking about the problem with the Afghan opium trade and the way that those warlords manipulate it. Talk about the way that we must, at all costs, end the warlords’ grip on the trade and deny them crucial funding. Talk about “indirect and unintended federal subsidies that only make the problem worse.”

    Work the audience up into a froth of outrage at those evil Afghan warlords selling opium!

    Then propose legalization as a necessary step to break their monopoly and flush out the money.

  51. The flaw in this post — The New Republic hasn’t been a “liberal” magazine since circa 1983.

  52. Attention all drug warriors,anti-legalisationists, and people who say “Maybe we could loosen up on pot but the hard drugs must be banished from society” (so mostly just John)

    NOW HEAR THIS (or actually read this)

    I shall make the following proposal to address your objections. Such objections are made on grounds of:

    Fear-of-harm-to-people-other-than-informed-consenting-adults arguements:

    -“children will have easier access”

    -“the cost of a habit to an addict is crippling and people will commit crime to support their habits”

    -“Some people will drive while intoxicated from these substances and they will pose a threat to others”

    -“I think these substances have a mystical power to turn people into mindless violent maniacs like those zombies in Dawn of the Dead who will roam the earth and kill us all. The DEA told me so.”

    – Miscelaneous concerns regaurding informed consent, production hazards, etc.

    Paternalistic arguements:

    -“We should protect people from their own informed decisions to do unhealthy stuff”

    Focusing on the first kind of objection, I propose the followong for “hard drugs”:

    Centers for legal use of hard drugs shall be established. A person who wants to use such drugs recreationally could enter after showing proof that he/she is at least 18. Upon entering the person shall sign a consent form to the effect that he/she shall be restrained from leaving during a time while he/she has a drug-induced increased propensity for violence. The person would also give up his/her car keys before entering and not get them back while he or she is too intoxicated to drive. Also the person would not be allowed to take the drugs out with him/her.

    The person could then go to the vendor selling his or her drug of preference (I imagine them as heroin bars, ecstacy clubs, cocaine cafes, etc). Before entering the vendor, the user would be given detailed information about the drug and its effects and consent to assume the risks involved.

    Private vendors would lease out space in this facility and compete with eachother in the normal way. This competition, and the fact that sellers would not have to incur extra costs avoiding law enforcement, would make the price of drugs low enough so virtually all users could support their habits with non-criminal activity. The rent paid by vendors would pay for security and maintence of the center. Somewhere within this closed off area there would be a medical facillity to handle overdoses.

    Also:
    – No more “drug war exception to the bill of rights”
    – If someone commits a crime and it seems somehow drug-use-related, make that person get help in eliminating or controlling his/her drug use in addition to the normal penalty imposed for that crime.
    – Repeal manditory minimums for drug crimes.
    – Enforce laws against use outside the center (assuming they must still exist) solely or primarily by undercover operations with cops posing as buyers or sellers (though very few would buy illegally under this system anyway). No more Plan-Columbia-type operations.

    I am going to go to sleep now; and when I wake up, if anyone has noticed and commented on this post, I’ll see what people think of the Bruce Compromise system. Sorry for the ridiculously long post.

  53. Basically, in the ‘marketplace of ideas’, legalization is getting a smaller, and smaller marketshare

    It is? It seems like marijuana legalization, as an idea, is more popular today than it has been since at least the 1970s. Look at all the states that have passed medical-marijuana initiatives.

    I’m not sure that those taxpayer-funded DARE ads really have much of an effect. Anyone under the age of 35 basically grew up surrounded by constant anti-drug messages, and drug use seems to be holding pretty steady.

  54. what is the difference between a soft drug and a hard drug?
    are mushrooms soft? is a government regulated center the best place to trip?
    does the government and even society want people to trip and start questioning social constructs?
    what about smoked opium? hard or soft?
    what about DMT? is produced naturally in the body and when u smoke it u are incapaciated for 15 minutes, and then u get returned back to your body and your mind without any major after effects.
    i’d also say that alcohol is a hell of a lot harder of a drug than opium and that DMT poses no threat to society or people. most people would never touch DMT if they knew what it was, except for scientists and the spiritual seekers.
    most psychedelics are far from recreational, with the exception of the relatively new designer drugs, lsd and shrooms.
    hard and soft arent real differentiations.
    we cant draw arbitrary lines between drugs. i say we legalize it all and let people be free to have fun and make mistakes and enjoy both the joys and pains of life.

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