To be clear, National Review isn’t necessarily calling for the legalization of drugs. Rather, what they’re talking about is an end to the federal government’s prohibition on drugs produced and sold within a state leaving specific drug policy up to the various states.
And that makes a lot of sense:
A bill introduced by Reps. Barney Frank (D., Mass.) and Ron Paul (R., Texas) would remove the federal roadblock to state marijuana reform, and though the Republican House seems almost certain to reject it, the proposal deserves support from across the political spectrum.
While we would support the total demise of federal marijuana laws, this bill simply constrains the federal government to its proper role. The Constitution allows the federal government to restrict interstate commerce, and the federal laws forbidding the interstate transfer of marijuana would remain in effect. The feds would also still intercept drug shipments from other countries.
What would change is that states — if they so chose — could legalize pot that is grown, sold, and consumed within their own borders. The Supreme Court has said that the federal government may regulate not only interstate commerce, but any activity that has a “substantial effect” on interstate commerce. It has further asserted that pot that is never even sold, but grown for personal consumption and never crosses state lines, can in aggregate have such an effect and therefore may be regulated. But the Court has not said, as House Judiciary Committee chairman Lamar Smith wrongly asserted, that Congress must regulate so comprehensively.
It’s perfectly constitutional for the federal government to regulate what comes across the borders, and interstate commerce, but that doesn’t mean the federal government should. The feds can levy big trade tariffs too motivated by protectionism, but that doesn’t mean its good policy.
Really, the federal government ought to get out of the “war on drugs” business altogether. Let the states decide what drug policies they do and do not want to enforce, but as far as the federal government is concerned 40 years of the “war on drugs” (started during the Nixon administration) haven’t put a dent in the availability or use of drugs. In just about any community in this country, anyone wanting any narcotic from illegally-sold prescription drugs to heroin to meth can probably get it. And not only get it, but get it for cheaper than ever before.
We are losing the “war on drugs” in the same way the alcohol prohibitionists of another age lost the war on alcohol. At a time when our country is going broke, it’s time to wise up on drug policy.
Sadly, I think there’s been far too much empire building among the law enforcement bureaucrats justified by the “war on drugs” to make that a political reality.