In response to Scott
Shore's recent article, "Respect for the Law Going Up in Smoke," at least
one concerned citizen has declared in a public forum (www.cannabisnews.com)
that, "If anything it is dumbed down and warped to the audience," meaning
the readers of Intellectual Conservative. I do not believe the article
has been "dumbed down," but I do find Shore's article to be untruthful
and illogical on several levels.
For example, conservatives have not "always maintained that there is a symbolic
value to the law that, while perhaps unenforceable, still maintains social
standards of preferred conduct." In fact, that statement is quite liberal,
by constitutional standards. It suggests that a ruling elite should be allowed
to make extraconstitutional laws whenever such laws uphold certain standards
held by a religious segment of the nation. Constitutionally, such laws are
strictly verboten, and any true conservative should understand that fact.
Liberals are the ones who so often force their own moral standards on others,
not conservatives. Take a look at the environmental laws for some prime examples.
I would argue that the people who founded this country were constitutionally
conservative (since they wrote the document and signed it into law), and
that some of those people, led by the likes of John Adams, did believe that
a certain group labeled "elite" should be allowed to make the majority of
the decisions But another group of constitutional conservatives, led
by Thomas Jefferson, believed that the rights of the states and the people
should always take precedence over the rights of the union (see the ninth
and tenth amendments to the Constitution for clarification on this matter).
The latter were democratic; the former were essentially monarchists, though
they could not "out" themselves as such because they wanted to gain the trust
of the American people. The efforts of the latter are the reason why we have
a two-house Congress, and the efforts of the former are why we now have a
president who bypasses the Congress whenever he wants to wage war or make
other important decisions about the security of the country. Which group
represents true conservatism? The Jeffersonians do, for it is the Jeffersonians
who want to maintain the values that the country fought for to free itself
from the British "elitist" system. The other group is conservative only in
the sense that it wants to return us to that elitist system. When the author,
Scott Shore, writes "conservatives," he means to say those who wish to return
the country to an elitist system no matter the cost to any and all freedoms
guaranteed in the Constitution. He is referring to conservatives in the Cotton
Mather sense, not in the constitutional sense.
In that context, it becomes easier to understand his viewpoint in this article.
He berates the recent (constitutionally correct) ruling by the Supreme Court--that
what goes on sexually in one's bedroom is none of the government's business--because
the ruling fails to support his "elitist" ideology that proclaims the superiority
of heterosexuals over homosexuals. That is another way of saying that he
supports laws against homosexuality, along with laws against "explicit pornography"
(and, one can assume, prostitution), because such things run counter to his
Judeo-Christian elitist mindset.
In fact, the only reason that he wishes to change the laws about marijuana
is that he finds the current laws "hypocritical" when that substance is compared
with alcohol and tobacco, and we already know that alcohol prohibition was
a dismal failure. He wants to maintain the rest of the war on some drugs
because he believes that cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and other drugs
are more deadly than alcohol, tobacco and cannabis. Never mind that all illegal
drugs combined kill fewer people than either alcohol or tobacco (pick one),
not to mention that they kill far fewer people than do prescription medicines.
So, while he wants to legalize and regulate cannabis because of hypocritical
and practical concerns, hypocrisy and pragmatism are not considered concerns
for the rest of the war on some drugs. Why? Because the war on some drugs
is an elitist operation that allows government to continue to stick its nose
into the homes and lives of its citizens. In short, he doesn't want to throw
the elitist baby out with the bathwater.
Interestingly, Shore wishes to place marijuana regulation squarely in the
hands of companies like Philip Morris. You remember Philip Morris, don't
you? They're the ones who infused their tobacco products with even more carcinogenic
substances in order to make the tobacco more addictive, thus increasing consumption.
What a lovely idea, eh? Let's give cannabis regulation to the one industry that
this country should trust the least (or next to least, right after petroleum,
pharmaceuticals, and the "defense" industry).
Finally, what weakens the "moral fiber" of this country is people like the
author who require government assistance to maintain their religious codes
of ethics. The first amendment to the Constitution makes it very clear that
government will make no law establishing religion or prohibiting the free
exercise thereof. There is a big difference between laws against willful
destruction of a person and/or his or her property, and laws against irreligious
ideas and actions. The former is an acceptable and necessary part of any
civil society; the latter has no place in a country that claims to uphold
the Constitution of the United States.
When you see "moral" in an argument about law, replace the word with "religious"
and see if it fits. In almost every case it does, and it shouldn't. Laws
that attempt to uphold one group's view of "morality" fail to take into consideration
the fact that in order for people to respect the law, the law must first
respect the rights of people. That means everyone, not just those with a
particular religious persuasion.
Daniel Drew Butterworth lives in Georgetown, Texas.