Marijuana and the LPME

Over 60% of American citizens now favor legalization and that number grows with every poll. Twenty-nine states have now legalized medical marijuana, eight have legalized recreational use. 

Maine is still in flux. The citizens say yes and made their voices heard through last year’s referendum, but so far the Governor and the legislature say no. 

And as of last week, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has rolled back the hands-off policy regarding federal prosecutions in states that have legalized pot. 

Colorado Senator Cory Gardner, who represents the state with the most entrenched marijuana infrastructure to date, has openly declared war on Sessions. He has already stated that he will oppose any Department of Justice nominations until Sessions changes his policy. While it is aggravating to see the DOJ renew its attack on private citizens, Sessions is in actuality just doing his job. It isn’t the role of the AG to decide which laws to enforce, but rather to enforce the laws that are currently on the books. 

Congress holds the responsibility for creating or reforming federal law. It’s time for Congress to do its job and implement the will of the people they represent. It’s time to legalize. 

Right now, Governor LePage, the Maine legislature and the U.S. Congress all stand in direct opposition to the individual freedom and liberty American and Maine citizens are trying to reclaim by eradicating this ban on what is essentially a private activity. 

The Libertarian Party of Maine’s stand on legalization is absolutely clear. The LPME echoes and supports the national Libertarian platform:

“The prescribed role of government is to protect the rights of every individual including the right to life, liberty and property. Criminal laws should be limited in their application to violations of the rights of others through force or fraud, or to deliberate actions that place others involuntarily at significant risk of harm. 

“Therefore, we favor the repeal of all laws creating ‘crimes’ without victims, such as the use of drugs for medicinal or recreational purposes.”

Critics of the LP position usually rely on the utterly false narrative that Libertarians endorse rampant drug use and are more than willing to expose children to the dangers of drug abuse. 

Others say that we are either ignorant or we’re turning a blind eye to what they describe as an inevitable increase in crime and violence that would result from legalization. 

Quite the opposite. First and foremost, it is absolutely our position that drug use is a matter of individual liberty and none of the government’s business––period. You are free to do whatever you wish with your body, even destroy it. 

At the same time, that freedom carries an enormous responsibility. You are free to do what you wish––provided your choices do not infringe on the rights of others or do them harm. This is a clear and uncompromisable line. 

This means that no, you are not free to sell or distribute drugs to children. Just as it’s a crime to provide alcohol or tobacco to minors, we support a prohibition on providing potentially harmful substances to young people who cannot weigh the risks themselves. 

The argument that legalization will increase crime is ludicrous. Today nearly half the people behind bars in the United States are incarcerated on drug charges––nearly half of those marijuana related––and despite some reports to the contrary, nearly 90% of those are possession only charges. 

Legalizing marijuana alone would eliminate at least 25% of all incarcerations in America. The most tangible benefit would be a savings of billions of dollars a year in enforcement, prison and court costs alone. You must also factor in the additional costs of providing public assistance to millions who once released, cannot find work with a record. 

To put it bluntly, there are now millions of Americans in jail for doing something no more or less harmful than drinking at the local bar. Most of them are highly likely to end up on welfare or turn to actual crime because they can’t find a job. 

The War on Drugs has been an expensive effort––and it’s failed miserably.

But what about the likelihood that legalization will make the problem even worse? That more people, especially children, might end up abusing drugs?

We don’t have to speculate. We already have viable models that show that this is simply not the case. The most remarkable example is that of Portugal.

Since decriminalizing most drug offenses and redirecting resources to intervention, education and treatment, legalization in Portugal has been an amazing success. 

  • Dramatic reduction in overall drug use
  • Immediate decrease in drug related fatalities
  • Decrease in HIV infections
  • Decrease in street prices for illegal drugs––which has decimated the illegal market

Most remarkably, after an expected initial rise immediately after legalization, there has been a significant and continual decrease in first time use across the entire spectrum of available drugs and across all age groups. Rather than more kids turning to drugs, more of them are choosing not to get started in the first place. 

All at a significant savings to their national budget. It is far less expensive to treat addicts than to prosecute users. 

Of course the logical question is, will it work here? 

We should at least be free to choose. 

Despite best intentions, the War on Drugs has been a disaster. By all accounts, crime, use and abuse have continually escalated since drug use was criminalized. We have made criminals out of countless desperate and often disenfranchised citizens. We have created the environment that enables a violent criminal industry that not only destroys lives and communities here, but gave rise to the cartels that destabilize governments and murder and plunder people in South America and elsewhere. 

Legalization is not just a viable option, it is the only solution that can address the drug problem effectively on every level while also saving taxpayers billions of dollars a year. 

And of course, restoring individual freedom and liberty on a significant level. 

Right now the question is not if it should be done. Recent polls clearly indicate that well over 60% of Americans now favor legalization and this number is growing. 

Our government was not constituted to impose the will of a ruling class, even an elected ruling class. It was created to implement the will of The People. 

This is an opportunity for both our state and federal officials to restore some semblance of representative government. 

The Libertarian Party of Maine will continue our efforts to hold them to their duty. 

 

Jim Bouchard

Communications Director, LPME


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