Why Legal Weed Is Not So Easy

When most people think about libertarians, the thing that comes to mind is their obsession with legalizing drugs. Since the 80’s, every conversation with a libertarian always turns into a debate about legalizing drugs. The right-libertarians are less berserk about it, but there are far fewer of them than the left-libertarians. The former are more like traditional conservatives, while the latter are just low-tax liberals. Drug normalization used to be a standard item on the Progressive agenda until the 1990’s.

While libertarians are right about many of the consequences of the drug war, they are unrealistic about the consequences of legalization. The easiest way to see this is to think about a mother driving down the road with her pre-teen kids. On the radio is a splashy ad about the weed sale at WalMart. In a society that has banned cigarette ads, it seems unlikely that we would tolerate the open sale of drugs, even mild ones like weed. In other words, libertarianism sounds great in the lab, but it would never hold up in the wild.

Even if you can work out a convenient lie like “medical marijuana” so you can have legal weed that exists on the fringe of society, there are other problems. This is a good example. If these two coaches were at a bar getting hammered, they would maybe face some sort of reprimand or a trip to a phony counselor. That’s never going to happen with smoking weed, like these idiots were apparently doing. The public may be willing to legalize weed to a limited extent, they will never embrace it like beer.

Punishing employees for doing that which is perfectly legal will also be problematic. The public, faced with a choice between banning weed or allowing their kid’s teachers to do bong hits in the teacher’s lounge will prefer prohibition. When you get to things like drug testing air traffic controllers, heavy equipment operators and law enforcement people, even legalizing weed creates all sorts of new problems. Again, people can tolerate a pilot who likes a beer after his shift. They won’t tolerate a pilot doing bong hits.

Whenever this is pointed out, libertarians always come back with “Well, what’s the difference between drinking beer and smoking weed.” It’s a form of tactical ignorance, whereby they demand you prove something that is obvious. A person can have a beer and beer completely functional. Most beer drinkers don’t get hammered. The whole point of smoking weed is to get wasted. The same is true of most street drugs. The proper use must lead to a mental state that makes the user incapable of rational behavior.

Anyway, it is the central problem with libertarianism and liberalism. Both make assumptions about humans that are not based in reality. Humans are not moist robots. We have prejudices and preferences that are not always rational from a distance. More important, American is a multi-ethnic and multi-racial society. Blacks have different social behavior than whites. What would work fine for middle-class whites living in the suburbs, is never going to work for blacks anywhere. This is a fundamental reality of life.

Even if the biodiversity scares you, consider the cultural things. People in New England are obviously different in their attitudes and behavior from people in Appalachia. Travel around this country and note how many different tribes of whites. The Founders got this, which is why the designed a federations. America is a land of nations. Universalist secular religions like libertarianism and Progressivism start by pretending these differences are superficial and meaningless, despite all the evidence to the contrary.

The point is, even under ideal conditions, like a white middle-class suburb, libertarianism is a non-starter, because people are not rational. They have tastes and preferences that are not rational. They don’t want weed being sold in the open. They don’t want cigarettes sold to kids or porn on daytime television. More important, they expect their government to make sure these things don’t happen. Therefore, legalizing drugs will almost certainly result in all sorts of new laws to make sure weed remains a marginalized item.

That said, it’s never been clear that libertarians are serious about any of their arguments, so this could just be a pose. After all, libertarians don’t seem to care about the war on smoking. Banning them from advertising seems like a serious breech of free speech rights, yet libertarians can’t be bothered to address it. The reason is that would get them in trouble with the Left. A big part of libertarianism is avoiding any issue that is important to the Left, unless of course they agree with the Left, then they are enthusiastic.