Why Conservatives Love the War on Drugs

Thursday, December 9, 2010
By Paul Martin

Why Don’t Conservatives Oppose the War on Drugs?

by Laurence M. Vance

The war on drugs is a failure.

According to the latest National Survey on Drug Use and Health conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: “Drug use in the United States increased in 2009, reversing downward trends since 2002.” There was a spike in the number of Americans admitting to using marijuana, ecstasy, and methamphetamine.

Yet, no matter how much it costs to wage the federal drug war (more than $41 billion according to a just-released Cato Institute study), conservatives generally support it. I know of no prominent conservative who publicly calls for drug legalization. I know of no Republican candidate in the recent election (outside of Ron Paul) who has ever publicly voiced his support for the decriminalization of drug possession. Republicans in Congress – by an overwhelming majority – have even criminalized the purchase of over-the-counter allergy-relief products like Sudafed because they contain pseudoephedrine.

Negative arguments about how the war on drugs ruins lives, erodes civil liberties, and destroys financial privacy are unpersuasive to most conservatives. None of these things matter to the typical conservative because they, like most Americans of any political persuasion, see using drugs for recreational use as immoral.

The hypocrisy of conservatives who support the war on drugs but not the prohibition of alcohol should be readily apparent. But aside from a small minority of conservative religious people that long for the days of Prohibition, conservatives generally don’t support making the drinking of alcohol a crime even though alcohol is a factor in many accidents, crimes, and premature deaths. So why is getting high on drugs treated differently from getting high on alcohol?

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