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Jewish World Review
March 12, 2013 / 1 Nissan, 5773
Will the right come around on pot?
A. Barton Hinkle
Advocates of treating marijuana more like alcohol gained another
ally recently: the United Nations.
The U.N. would claim otherwise. In fact, the U.N.'s
International Narcotics Control Board would hotly deny it. The
agency's latest report laments the legalization of pot in Colorado
and Washington, declaring the approval of recreational marijuana
use "in contravention to" the 1961 U.N. Convention on
Raymond Yans, the head of the INCB, has gone further -- arguing
that ballot measures legalizing recreational, and even medical,
marijuana "undermine the humanitarian aims of the drug control
system and are a threat to public health and well-being." Echoing
America's domestic drug warriors, Yans called medical marijuana "a
back door to legalization for recreational use."
Here in the U.S., United Nations disapproval can only help the
cause of legalization where it needs help the most: on the right.
According to a December poll by Gallup, Democrats favor
legalization 61-38. Independents are about evenly split. But
Republicans favor continued prohibition, by a 2-1 margin.
They might favor it less if they knew the U.N. were, implicitly,
telling states what to do. Just look at the conservative reaction
to Agenda 21 -- a voluntary U.N. program that encourages bike paths
and urban planning. Conservatives see it as nothing less than the
first step on the road to serfdom.
Take Scott Lingamfelter, who is running for the GOP nomination
for lieutenant governor in Virginia. This year he sponsored a
resolution denouncing Agenda 21 as a "radical" plan for "social
engineering" that was being "covertly introduced" across the
nation. In a January memo to constituents, he wrote that Agenda 21
is a conspiracy to "consolidate liberal power over the rest of us"
and then "tear down private property ownership, single-family
homes, and other basic tenets of American life."
The national GOP shares such sentiments. Its 2012 platform
declared, "We strongly reject Agenda 21 as erosive of American
sovereignty." It also devoted an entire segment to federalism.
Republicans do not like ostensibly higher authorities mucking about
in local matters, and that includes federal authorities. So it may
be worth notice that the Gallup poll also showed a lopsided
majority of Americans -- 64 percent -- think Washington should not
step in to enforce federal marijuana laws in states where pot has
That may be one reason the Obama administration continues to hem
and haw about its plans for Colorado and Washington. During a
Senate appearance last week, Attorney General Eric Holder said --
again -- the administration was "still considering" its options.
This hasn't pleased the nation's drug-war hawks, who want the Obama
administration to file suit, pronto, to pre-empt the legalization
Federal law trumps state law, and federal law defines marijuana
as a Schedule I controlled substance -- in the same category as
heroin. This probably seems jarring to the 42 percent of Americans
who have used marijuana at least once. Marijuana is not good for
you, but it is not on the same plane as smack.
The consequences of marijuana prohibition, however, have grown
high indeed. Marijuana accounts for nearly half of all drug
prosecutions. Even if you assume half of those cases are
plea-bargained down from trafficking, the country is still spending
tremendous resources to punish people for having an occasional
If Holder does move against Colorado and Washington, it will be
interesting to see the response from another attorney general --
Virginia's Ken Cuccinelli. On Thursday the Tea Party hero and
champion of states' rights will give the opening speech at the
annual Conservative Political Action Conference. This year CPAC
organizers shut out Republican governors Bob McDonnell and Chris
Christie, who evidently committed the sin of ideological
deviationism. But the organizers apparently did not mind Cuccinelli
telling a class at the University of Virginia he has no objection
to state-level experiments with legalization -- or that his own
views on the issue are evolving.
In his new book The Last Line of Defense, Cuccinelli
contends the states provide protection from federal tyranny. This
is an argument many conservatives find as appealing as they find
the U.N. objectionable. And if they extend that line of thinking
just a bit, they may come around on pot.
The syllogism is easy enough to follow: The U.N. should not tell
Washington what it can do, and Washington should not tell the
states what they can do -- so why then should the states tell
individuals what they can smoke? What sovereignty is more important
than the individual kind?
With liberals such as New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg dictating
how much soda you can buy, Tea Party enthusiasts already are primed
to declare not just "Don't tread on me" but also, "Keep your laws
off my body." After all, as Lingamfelter put it in his January memo
about Agenda 21: The great threat from the U.N. is that it wants to
"tak[e] away individual freedoms from people like you and me." And
that would be, pardon the term, a real drag.
Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.
A. Barton Hinkle is Deputy Editor of the Editorial Pages at Richmond Times-Dispatch
Comment by clicking here.
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© 2011, A. Barton Hinkle