A couple of months ago, arguing in favor of marijuana prohibition at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), radio producer Christopher Beach faced a mostly hostile audience. “There used to be a strong conservative coalition opposed to drugs, but it’s dissipated in the face of mounting public support for legalization,” Beach told The Atlantic‘s Molly Ball afterward. “We’re fighting against the tide on this.” According to the headline of an essay by Beach and his boss, former drug czar Bill Bennett, in the May 5 issue of The Weekly Standard, they are also fighting “The Legalization Juggernaut,” which presumably is moving with the tide. Beach and Bennett nevertheless argue that it’s not too late to turn this juggernaut around. Maybe so, but they are going to need a bigger boat, or at least better arguments. Here are a few they should consider retiring:
The great political scientist James Q. Wilson staunchly opposed the legalization of drugs. He explained that “drug use is wrong because it is immoral and it is immoral because it enslaves the mind and destroys the soul.” No society should want unhealthy substances destroying the minds, bodies, character, and potential of its citizens.
As I note in my book Saying Yes, Wilson’s explanation made no distinction between use and abuse, weirdly implying that consumption of psychoactive substances always (or at least usually) “enslaves the mind and destroys the soul,” which was his tendentious description of addiction. Furthermore, Wilson conceded that alcohol poses the same sort of threat, which raises the obvious question of how it can be just to treat suppliers of beer, wine, and liquor as legitimate businessmen while treating suppliers of marijuana, cocaine, and heroin as criminals.