Tom Tancredo Questions the War on Drugs


Former Colorado congressman Tom Tancredo, a conservative Republican who made cracking down on illegal immigration the main theme of his campaign for his party's 2008 presidential nomination, says it's time to think about calling off the war on drugs:

"I am convinced that what we are doing is not working," he said.

Tancredo told [the Lincoln Club of Colorado, a Republican group,]  that the country has spent billions of dollars capturing, prosecuting and jailing drug dealers and users, but has little to show for it.

"It is now easier for a kid to get drugs at most schools in America that it is booze," he said.

He said the violent drug battles in Mexico are moving north.

Last year Tancredo and Ron Paul were the only Republican candidates to receive an A+ grade from Granite Staters for Medical Marijuana. During an August 2007 visit to Londonderry, New Hampshire, Tancredo said the federal government should stop interfering with state policies regarding the medical use of marijuana:

It's not about marijuana, it's about states' rights. The federal government has no right to interfere when a state makes that kind of decision…The federal government should stay the hell out of it.

That much ought to be a perfectly respectable federalist position even among conservatives who support drug prohibition. When the New Hampshire Coalition for Common Sense Marijuana Policy examined the presidential candidates's broader drug policy views, Paul retained his A+, but Tancredo's grade sank to a C. "Although he does not advocate changing drug laws and says he voted against medical marijuana in the Colorado legislature," the group reported, "he insists that the federal government's role in drug enforcement is strictly limited by the Constitution." Taking that idea seriously, of course, would mean rejecting national drug prohibition, for which (unlike alcohol prohibition in 1920) there is no constitutional authority. Maybe that helps explain how Tancredo arrived at his current position, although his comments suggest that his second thoughts about the war on drugs stem mainly from its ineffectiveness and unpleasant side effects.

Addendum: On the same day that Tancredo, a conservative Republican who says he has never used an illegal intoxicant, questioned prohibition, the drug czar appointed by Barack Obama, a liberal Democrat whose autobiography describes his own extensive illegal drug use, declared "legalization isn't in the president's vocabulary."

[Thanks to Ari Armstrong and Tom Angell for the tips.]