The news: Following the successful passage and ongoing establishment of the world's first legal market for recreational marijuana in Colorado, the campaign to legalize pot elsewhere has picked up what might seem to many to be an unconventional defender: the conservative magazine National Review.
In an op-ed published on Monday, the Review called for the U.S. to get "sensible on weed." It argued that regardless of whether the consumption marijuana should be an individual right, the "consequentialist" argument for legalization has enough weight to recommend reforming pot laws on its own. According to the Review, marijuana prohibition "[makes] a lot of criminals while preventing very little crime, and [does] a great deal of harm in the course of trying to prevent an activity that presents little if any harm in and of itself."
"Compared to binge drinking or alcohol addiction, marijuana use is a minor public-health concern."
"The desire to discourage is all too easily transmuted into the desire to criminalize, just as the desire to encourage metastasizes into the desire to mandate. It is perhaps a little dispiriting that of all the abusive overreaches of government to choose from, it is weed that has the nation’s attention, but it is a victory nonetheless."
With the conservative backlash against Colorado's new laws still ringing, the Review's endorsement may come as a welcome surprise to legalization proponents.
But it's not that stunning. The National Review has long been home to traditional conservative viewpoints in the vein of William F. Buckley, and generally hasn't been friendly to the libertarian viewpoints of some of its friends on the right. But the magazine endorsed marijuana legalization as early as 1996:
"It is our judgment that the war on drugs has failed, that it is diverting intelligent energy away from how to deal with the problem of addiction, that it is wasting our resources, and that it is encouraging civil, judicial, and penal procedures associated with police states ... We all agree on movement toward legalization, even though we may differ on just how far."
But the magazine's stance has less to do with marijuana itself but rather their view of the ideal delegation of power between the states and the federal government. On Jan. 3, National Review Online editor Jonah Goldberg said the government should "let a thousand flowers boom," but said that "Simply because an activity is legal doesn't mean I am barred from judging you negatively for engaging in it."
In 2011, the magazine said the feds should bow out of marijuana policy and said "Returning marijuana policy to the states, however, is a workable idea, and it would mark an excellent first step toward real reform."