On Jan. 4, 160,000 signatures were submitted to the Colorado Secretary of State that will allow Coloradans to vote on whether we want to regulate marijuana in essentially the same way that we regulate alcohol.
Coloradans will have an opportunity to show America how to introduce sanity into our drug policies.
Conventional wisdom has it that conservatives will oppose legalization, but I think that’s dead wrong. Real Republicans will, without a doubt, support legalization.
And, lest you think this simply the fantasy of a libertarian-leaning Boulder Republican, let me point out that Republicans have already shown Coloradans what they think.
First, at the 2010 Boulder County Republican Caucuses, a resolution entitled “Legalization of Marijuana” was voted on by 73 precincts, of which 56 voted for legalization and 17 against — over 76 percent in favor of legalization.
Second, the guy who received the most Republican votes for Colorado Governor in 2010, Tom Tancredo, clearly stated his support for legalizing marijuana.
Third, the Republican Presidential candidate Ron Paul is a vocal advocate for legalization.
While some may find this inconsistent with the party’s image, if you consider legalization in the context of core Republican values, it makes complete sense. Here’s why.
First, Colorado Republicans cherish the right of individuals to make their own decisions with a minimum of government intervention.
The past few decades of research on the health effects of marijuana demonstrate overwhelmingly that marijuana is as safe or safer than alcohol and tobacco.
So, laws that allow alcohol and tobacco use but prohibit marijuana use have no real basis in protecting public health or safety.
Limiting government intrusion into our personal lives and overturning laws where the government makes choices for us is a Republican priority across the board. Legalizing marijuana is exactly that.
Second, Republicans were never prohibitionists and do not believe that law and order should be maintained by imprisoning individuals for making personal choices.
According to FBI statistics, in 2009, there were about 758,000 arrests for marijuana possession.
Not only are the costs of arresting and locking people up for marijuana use enormous, the toll on the lives of these individuals is staggering.
This is not justice in any way that a real Republican would recognize.
Third, Republicans appreciate the merits of a strong and democratic Mexico, and we see that Mexico is coming dangerously close to failing for only one reason — the drug cartels.
Mexican drug cartels are responsible for over 40,000 murders of Mexican citizens in just the past five years and The Economist magazine estimates that 40-60 percent of the Mexican drug cartels’ revenue comes from marijuana sales to the United States.
Think of it — legalization of marijuana would deprive the Mexican drug cartels of half of their income.
Take away half of any organization’s income, and their business model is forced to change dramatically.
The “War on drugs” has made the Mexican drug cartels rich and powerful, just like alcohol prohibition made the Mafia a force in America for decades.
Make marijuana available from regulated American producers and the drug cartels lose big while the Mexican government and people win.
Fourth, Republicans read opinion polls, and they speak clearly. For example, an Economist poll of Americans from February 2011 found that every age group in America supports legalization, taxation, and regulation of marijuana.
The over-65 year-old group supports it by a 43 percent-39 percent plurality and the levels of support for legalizing marijuana increase with each new generation of voters — 30-64 year-old voters support legalization by 59 percent-23 percent and 18-29 year-olds support legalization by 66 percent-22 percent.
The only message we send to younger voters through marijuana prohibition is that our government is willing to ignore the science of marijuana safety, lock up our citizens, and fight a disastrous “war on drugs,” all to maintain a status quo built on the wisdom of “Reefer Madness.”
Real Republicans will recognize that changes in American marijuana laws are both overdue and inevitable.
In sum, real Republicans believe that individuals have a right to exercise our free will, especially when we have decades of experience showing us how costly and fruitless these unjust marijuana laws have been — not just to our own citizens but to our neighbors as well.
Real Republicans will stand behind the changes that are needed to bring marijuana into the sphere of legal and regulated drugs and, we will do this for no other reason than it’s consistent with our core beliefs and philosophies of governance.