Wednesday, March 20, 2013

GOP should become party of cannabis

The late Gatewood Galbraith’s ardent advocacy of marijuana and hemp was easy to lampoon, but the endurance of his message can revolutionize American politics for those who now embrace it. In short, the Republican party should seek to become the party of cannabis. 

Most opinions about repairing the Republican Party now focus on tweaking messaging or more aggressively courting various demographic groups. This approach reflects the current disconnect between much of the political class and the people.

The GOP can box out Democrats for temporary marginal gains with rhetorical tricks or outreach efforts, but a more fundamental shift is in order to really benefit the party and the country.

Republicans should focus more broadly on working to restore individual liberties to all people. In fact, they should visibly and repeatedly challenge Democrats to see which party can out-liberty the other and then run hard to win that race.

Government assaults on individual rights are often successful because most people haven’t learned to respond viscerally to attacks against the rights of others that don’t directly and immediately impact them. German holocaust survivor Martin Niemoller famously remarked in the 1950’s how apathy caused most people like him to ignore Nazi attacks on various groups of people, leaving no one to speak up when they came knocking on his door.

We are making that same mistake in this country presently and it shouldn‘t cause anyone a moment‘s comfort because the jackboots aren‘t coming for our neighbors just now. The destruction of liberty in America will have to be a more subtle effort than any before in history because we are an extraordinarily peculiar people. But the idea that “it can’t happen here” should have gone out the window with such liberty-destroying laws as the Patriot Act or NDAA. Such innocence dies slowly every time an innocent citizen is groped by a federal employee before boarding an airplane. Because of the increasingly brazen abuses against liberty in America, I suggest a specific mindset shift for our new age to pull us together despite our differences, elevating the individual over the bureaucracy and protecting the rights of the few from the appetites of the many.

Let us say, before it grows too late, that in 2013 we decided to end the massively wasteful and counterproductive “war on drugs” even though most of us are not recreational drug users. Let’s stop the colossally stupid prosecution and intensely counterproductive incentives of prohibition, lessons most learned nearly a century ago with regard to alcohol but haven’t managed to extend to our treatment of cannabis.

A tragically ironic joke among recreational pot users is that government expresses concern about marijuana ruining lives but devotes tremendous resources to beating weed to the punch by ruining young lives first with jail sentences and enforcement efforts leading to far worse crimes. Republicans stand to gain by first drawing down the exorbitant cost of the “war on drugs” at least as it applies to cannabis, for fiscal reasons. Next, they should move quickly toward protecting liberty in all its aspects and defining their positions in terms of how they help that effort.  

We should dare Democrats to match our efforts in defense of liberty and meet voters where they live by giving them confidence our candidates consider leaving them alone to be our highest priority.

Politicians repeatedly like to declare big government dead, until their rhetoric puts them in charge of it. No one expects the Republican party to grasp the power of a shift toward competing for greater personal freedom, but that is exactly why it can work. Please spread the word.