According to a 2019 Pew Research Center poll, the overall majority of U.S. Republicans support cannabis legalization either for medicinal or recreational use.
In October 2019, Gallup found that most Republicans supported cannabis legalization or, at the very least, decriminalization.
The fact of the matter is that most in the Republican party support cannabis legalization and/or decriminalization. One shouldn’t be shocked at this development. There have been Republicans who were once against cannabis in any form who have now modified their position. There are other Republicans who are now directly profiting off of the cannabis industry.
Is there a conservative case for cannabis support, legalization, and/or decriminalization?
First, we have to define what a conservative is.
Cannabis: A Conservative Case
A short definition of conservative is someone who holds to traditional values that could be linked to an earlier period in the history of a country or culture. Those differences don’t have to adhere to 100% rigid views but the spirit of a past position or societal view from the past or a current stable culture. There is an advocation of smaller government and this could be for a myriad of reasons from conservative to conservative.
Some of the reasoning for the desire of a smaller government could include a desire to lower government overreach, place roadblocks in front of government bureaucrats, pursue judicial justice and strict adherence to the United States constitution.
There is an overlap of conservative values and Libertarian ideals. For these reasons, many Libertarians are confused with conservatives at large. That is a mistake because a conservative could hold ideas about how a country should operate that differs from what the average Libertarian believes.
For example, I Side With is a site that allows common people with certain political ideologies to vote in polls concerning their stances on various issues.
The average conservative is against abortion but the average Libertarian, according to the site’s results with a large sample size of more than 1 million people, is pro-choice. So, while there is some overlap with Libertarian and other ideologies that preach smaller government these are differences that separate the respective camps.
The same site reveals to us another issue that conservatives must tackle to effectively tackle the issue of cannabis in the United States.
That issue is concerning our veterans.
Medical Cannabis for Military Veterans
I Side With allowed veterans to cast their virtual vote on the cannabis issue. The results were conclusive and match the data gathered from other sources.
Overwhelmingly, veterans support the legalization of cannabis for medical and recreational use and would certainly want decriminalization with 80% of veteran respondents going that way.
According to the veteran advocacy group Disabled American Veterans, the Department of Veterans Affairs have scientists who are legally allowed to experiment with the effectiveness of medical cannabis to treat a variety of illnesses and disabilities.
VA scientists are able to conduct research on marijuana benefits and risks, and potential for abuse, under regulatory approval. Any questions related to research can be addressed to VHABLRD-CSRD@va.gov.
H.R. 5520, the VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act of 2018, which DAV supports and has bicameral support in the Senate—would promote scientific and medical research into the safety and efficacy of medicinal cannabis usage for veterans diagnosed with PTSD, TBIs, chronic pain and other illnesses and injuries by clarifying that research into medicinal cannabis is well within the authority of the VA.
Additionally, S. 3409, the Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act would empower VA physicians to issue medical cannabis recommendations in accordance with the laws of states where it’s legal. This legislation would also require VA to conduct studies on “the effects of medical marijuana on veterans in pain” and “the relationship between treatment programs involving medical marijuana that are approved by States, the access of veterans to such programs, and a reduction in opioid abuse among veterans.”
The bottom line is that medical cannabis can and has helped military veterans suffering from conditions such as a traumatic brain injury (TBI) or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)..
So, what’s the problem?
Cannabis is a schedule 1 substance. That is the problem.
Veterans don’t have legal and safe access to a substance that hasn’t caused a single veteran to overdose in a VA clinic. But there are some drugs that some veterans have taken at VA clinics that prompted multi-million dollar lawsuits after the veteran died.
If someone would argue that cannabis is so dangerous yet that person isn’t protesting the use of “legal” drugs that veterans overdose on without the same vigor as with cannabis then what is the basis of the argument?
Once military veterans are mentioned the conservative crowd tends to respond with more favorable views towards the nation’s current and past war-fighters. Yet, if that veteran decides to smoke cannabis then suddenly their valor, honor and service no longer matter and they’re nothing more than a drug user who should be thrown behind bars.
Cognitive dissonance is an equal opportunity mistress.
There are many within the conservative population of the U.S. who can accept drone strikes on foreign targets and a soldier shooting a person. However, when those same service members leave the military and seek some sort of relief from the PTSD that drone strikes and shooting people may have caused then the solution is a bunch of pills. There is no room for debate in many cases.
It’s as if some people actually believe that someone going to war and exposing themselves to levels of danger the average person wouldn’t understand is somehow more of a risk than smoking cannabis.
Perhaps if those same people with the same vitriol directed at a PTSD-ridden military veteran would have shown that same level of resistance to the war campaigns the U.S. has engaged in then that veteran wouldn’t need to smoke cannabis in the first place.
Perhaps fighting for service members to not be sent to a hostile combat zone unless absolutely necessary is a sure-fire way to make sure no veteran would have an excuse to consume cannabis.
We can’t have it both ways. We can’t create a problem, know full and well VA hospitals are racked with problems and trust issues among veterans and then blame the veterans for using other forms of medication for problems that we the citizens could have prevented with our votes and our protests.
It’s a funny thing about how priorities work with some people.
Some appear to be perfectly content with someone launching a missile from a stealth drone and those people will sleep well at night knowing someone got killed that they’ve never met. Alas, those same individuals will raise the gates of Hades if they smell even the slightest hint of cannabis aroma in the air.
Cannabis Research for Military Veterans
The Department of Veterans Affairs is already ahead of the curve with the pursuit to utilize medical cannabis to treat a variety of symptoms and conditions that affect the nation’s veteran population. In February 2019, the VA in San Diego, CA began testing cannabis derivatives for veteran use.
In 2016, Psychology Today published an article detailing why medical cannabis could be beneficial for war veterans in particular.
Here is a quote:
A recent study published in Molecular Psychiatry showed that treatment using particular compounds found in marijuana may benefit those with PTSD, and that “plant-derived cannabinoids [psychoactive chemicals] such as marijuana may possess some benefits in individuals with PTSD by helping relieve haunting nightmares and other symptoms of PTSD.”
Research published on Science Daily also looked at symptom reduction in patients with PTSD. As a result of taking medical marijuana, participants reported a decrease in re-experiencing the trauma, less avoidance of situations that reminded them of the trauma, and a decline in hyper-arousal.
There is also anecdotal evidence. In an interview with the Trauma and Mental Health Report, Dianna Donnelly, a counselor and patient at the Canadian Cannabis Clinics, described her experience:
I am a patient who legally uses cannabis for depression. The cannabis helps mute or lower my negative chatter, which allows for good thoughts and feelings to arise. One Veteran, a friend of mine, who recently started using marijuana instead of prescription medication for PTSD, said that with the cannabis, he can feel his emotions, and experience them properly and safely. Before, he just felt numb.
Medical marijuana is not usually used on its own for the treatment of PTSD. Shelley Franklin, the Veteran Program Coordinator for the Canadian Cannabis Clinics, explained:
Medical cannabis is used in conjunction with other therapies. Peer support groups are a highly supported therapy for patients suffering an Operational Stress Injury [another term for PTSD]. Medical cannabis strains with the right CBD and THC [psychoactive chemicals in cannabis] levels are assisting veterans with chronic physical pain, as well anxiety and insomnia issues. I believe that medical cannabis will continue to work in conjunction with many other therapies.
The findings of these studies and others demonstrate a need for access to medical cannabis for our nation’s veterans.
If the United States can readily allow fentanyl prescriptions to still be filled when there are veterans who have overdosed on fentanyl at VA clinics then medical cannabis should be given a try. If nothing else, medical cannabis at least appears to be a safe and effective alternative for several conditions versus a drug like fentanyl that has claimed many lives.
The bottom line is that the drug war promotes high taxation. Anyone arguing against this has quite a lot of numbers to refute.
In February 2018, Forbes released an article discussing the cost of the drug war. According to the studies revealed in that article, the drug war is costing the American taxpayer a whopping $78.5 billion a year.
To put that into context, the average cost of a mile of highway road construct is $11 per mile in an urban area. We will take that estimate since it’s on the high end. With just a little math we know that we could have built more than 7 thousand miles of roads for our highways if it wasn’t for the drug war.
We aren’t trying to make the argument that there should be absolutely no drug sell enforcement. What we are saying is that the drug war is far too costly, the taxation involved can’t possibly fit any modicum of conservative values of lowering government influence and taxation and it doesn’t fit into the conservative ideal of limited government intervention into the lives of everyday Americans.
In 2010, Fox News reported that in just 40 years the drug war has cost the American taxpayer a whopping $1 trillion dollars.
The Fox News article reveals that the original goals set out for the drug war have not been accomplished. Even now in 2020, those goals haven’t been accomplished. One of the main goals and objectives of the drug war was to reduce drug use. The opioid crisis has demonstrated that this drug war hasn’t yielded an overall reduction in drug use or abuse.
Quote from the article:
Using Freedom of Information Act requests, archival records, federal budgets and dozens of interviews with leaders and analysts, the AP tracked where that money went, and found that the United States repeatedly increased budgets for programs that did little to stop the flow of drugs.
This is a country that is already in massive amounts of debt. Government spending is out of control. Yet, we as a country have allowed our government to wage wars across the pond and wage wars right here in the United States that are not only not winnable but also this drug war is ultimate pointless.
Wasteful Government Anti-Drug Advertising
One of the main reasons for the drug war was former U.S. President Richard Nixon’s view that drugs were a huge concern. President Nixon was especially concerned about drug use with children.
The “Just Say No” campaign wasn’t just a failure. It was a catastrophic failure.
Scientific American discussed the issue of Just Say No and the D.A.R.E. campaign which is another program that was aimed specifically at youth drug use. However, both programs were failures and never worked or accomplished goals that were set forth.
Here is a quote from the Scientific American article:
A few clues to D.A.R.E.’s deficiencies come from psychologist Pim Cuijpers of the Netherlands Institute of Mental Health and Addiction in Utrecht. In a review of 30 studies published in 2002, she attempted to pinpoint the common elements of successful programs. Cuijpers reported that the most effective ones involve substantial amounts of interaction between instructors and students. They teach students the social skills they need to refuse drugs and give them opportunities to practice these skills with other students—for example, by asking students to play roles on both sides of a conversation about drugs, while instructors coach them about what to say and do. In addition, programs that work take into account the importance of behavioral norms: they emphasize to students that substance use is not especially common and thereby attempt to counteract the misconception that abstaining from drugs makes a person an oddball.
In a 2011 review of various substance abuse prevention programs, epidemiologist Melissa Stigler of the University of Texas School of Public Health and her colleagues buttressed these conclusions. They further observed that programs that unfold during many sessions—ideally, over several years—garner especially strong results, probably because they provide students with lessons that are reinforced over time, as children mature and encounter different environments.
The U.S. government didn’t understand the Streisand Effect in children.
Streisand Effect & American Youth
There are some people don’t seem to understand how the Streisand effect works.
By constantly preaching about not doing something the exact opposite intended effect can occur.
For example, if a child has never shown interest in touching a stove and yet a parent constantly mentions not touching that stove when it wasn’t a problem in the first place something interesting can happen. By pointing so much attention to that stove the child could gain interest in that stove when, if that parent had of corrected the child only if the child touched the stove, then that child could have potentially survived childhood without a burn.
Quoted from the Fox News article:
“This nation faces a major crisis in terms of the increasing use of drugs, particularly among our young people,” Nixon said as he signed the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act. The following year, he said: “Public enemy No. 1 in the United States is drug abuse. In order to fight and defeat this enemy, it is necessary to wage a new, all-out offensive.”
His first drug-fighting budget was $100 million. Now it’s $15.1 billion, 31 times Nixon’s amount even when adjusted for inflation.
Instead of U.S. conservatives seeing the issue of constantly demonizing substances like cannabis there is, instead, a desire to outright ban these substances.
That isn’t a healthy or pragmatic view.
The simple fact is that simply telling a kid to not do something hasn’t made kids not do something in all of human history. Ask any parent to a teenager if that teen has ever disobeyed the parent. The answer that those parents would provide the reason why simply demonizing drugs in front of kids versus education is always a bad thing.
Keeping cannabis illegal may actually help children hide their consumption of cannabis.
Think about it.
If people saw a kid smoking a cigarette they’d know that person is probably a kid and what they were smoking is probably a cigarette. People would identify the problem almost immediately. Now, what happens with cannabis? Most of the time, a kid is probably not going to smoke cannabis in public or in a place that the substance could be smelled.
In other words, it makes sense that a kid who smokes cigarettes isn’t exactly as worried about getting caught versus a kid who smokes cannabis. Tobacco isn’t a schedule 1 substance.
An underaged person who smokes cigarettes knows that the worst that would probably happen is probation, community service, parental punishment/involvement, etc. But an underaged person who smokes cannabis would probably hide their actions with a little more thoroughness that the underaged cigarette smoker would.
By making cannabis legal it would become easier to track sales and easier to know if a kid is using cannabis. Ready and available access to cannabis would make an underaged person approach the substance with a false sense of security. Since adults would be using cannabis the kids would do so in a more public space. That gives more of an opportunity to catch underaged persons using a substance that shouldn’t be legal for minors to use.
To put it simply, the argument is that because the environment around the United States is hostile to cannabis use in some areas. As a result of this, there are underaged individuals who have fallen prey to peer pressure and the need to rebel against adults and authority figures.
There is such a thing as demonizing something far too much. If you point at something and yell “witch” then whatever you’re drawing attention to had better turn someone into a frog. If not, that person will become the cool kid, the rebel, and the person who all the adults are calling dangerous.
Young women could fall prey to the demonized person. We know this from the bad boy phenomena. We know that some young women intentionally go for men who are considered to be bad boys.
Why do we suddenly think the same thing wouldn’t apply to underaged girls and cannabis? It’s the same effect as parents telling a love-smitten young lady to not date that dodgy-looking fellow down the block.
We know that young men are drawn to danger. What would horrify the average woman in terms of military service would probably make some young 21-year-old male salivate with anticipation of adventure. The same effect applies if cannabis is demonized as some devil’s lettuce without education on the actual facts about cannabis.
The more aggressive the approach to discourage young men to not consume cannabis there is a chance that cannabis use will increase with young men.
The prohibition of cannabis started in 1937 with the Roosevelt administration. A law called the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 was passed. (Yes, these people actually misspelled marijuana thus demonstrating how educated politicians of the past actually were.) This prohibition should make any conservative and generally skeptical person worry about how this was done. It was essentially a tax stamp that required people to give away vital information and that would cause them to incriminate themselves.
Conservatives should be really concerned if it was Franklin Delano Roosevelt who brought the original drug war to the United States. Roosevelt, while an unquestionably great American, was a Democrat.
Quoted from the White House website:
“Following the example of his fifth cousin, President Theodore Roosevelt, whom he greatly admired, Franklin D. Roosevelt entered public service through politics, but as a Democrat. He won election to the New York Senate in 1910. President Wilson appointed him Assistant Secretary of the Navy, and he was the Democratic nominee for Vice President in 1920.“
In the summer of 1921, when he was 39, disaster hit-he was stricken with poliomyelitis. Demonstrating indomitable courage, he fought to regain the use of his legs, particularly through swimming. At the 1924 Democratic Convention he dramatically appeared on crutches to nominate Alfred E. Smith as “the Happy Warrior.” In 1928 Roosevelt became Governor of New York.
Conservatives must decide if following a Democrat who came from the same era of the Dixiecrats and promoted old-style Democrat principals should have a legacy worthy of being continued in policy to the modern era.
Drug War Origins, Cannabis “Tax”
Many conservatives would say that Democrats always pass their legislation in the form of a tax.
For example, The Affordable Care Act or Obamacare was in part deemed constitutional because the individual mandate was deemed a tax. Social Security withholdings and other such social programs operate just like a tax. These policies were enacted by Democrats and for Democrat purposes.
Much like the social programs of today that are cleverly disguised in legislation as mere taxes, there have been other “taxes” that are costing Americans massive amounts of money.
The drug war is costly but it was originally kicked off and disguised as a tax so as to make it legal. The same argument a conservative could muster against the “tax” labeling of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Roberts for the individual mandate of Obamacare would have to be applied to the same legislation that started the war against cannabis.
A lot of American conservatives would contend that, in order for one to claim the conservative label, there must be some love of the U.S. constitution. If that is the case then one could say that anything that could appear to have been disguised as a tax to pass widespread legislation is something a constitution loving conservative should become suspicious of.
Many organizations who are known pillars of constitutional rights and defending those rights have questioned the constitutionality of the drug war.
If Roosevelt’s “Marihuana Tax” was so necessary then why make it tax? Why not make it legislation so that it doesn’t have to be a tax but the rule of law? Do we need to pass anti-slavery laws in the form of a tax?
Tyrannical efforts have often come in the form of taxation throughout history.
There isn’t a single part of having conservative values that would bar someone from supporting the freedom of another citizen to consume what they want without hurting another person.
The very idea of the United States of America is that while we as Americans can all make different choices we should be free to make those choices without creating a victim.
This is why we allow citizens to own weaponry regardless of how someone may be scared of how black a rifle is or what attachments it may have. We allow free speech without any form of government restricting that speech because if we do not defend hateful speech we cannot defend benevolent speech.
How do we reconcile living in a world where we can reluctantly defend the speech of a Nazi or a Radical Communist, the right to own an AK-47 and the prevent the CIA from spying on you in the bathroom if we then support DEA agents kicking down someone’s door over a cannabis plant?
Freedom is never supposed to be tyranny.