In recent weeks Senator Rand Paul has emphatically stated his opposition to marijuana legalization, saying he would stop at mere decriminalization because marijuana users "lose IQ points" and lack motivation, and that he doesn't want to encourage people to "run around with no clothes on and smoke pot." Needless to say, this angered me, so I sent his office the following reply:
I am writing to express my concern regarding your opposition to marijuana legalization in recent statements. As an ardent libertarian, I feel the time is right for a libertarian-leaning candidate to take center stage, and I am excited by your rise to national prominence. At the same time, I also understand the need to tone it down on certain issues; there may be implications of libertarian ideology that the public is not yet willing to accept, and I have no problem with you focusing on the more popular components. Nor do I take issue with compromise in situations where your preferred solution is politically unlikely, so long as those compromises represent improvement over the status quo.
There is a difference, however, between selective emphasis, incremental compromise and outright betrayal of your pro-liberty base. Saying you want to keep private marijuana use illegal, not due to political infeasibility but just because you personally don’t like pot, falls under the latter.
Decriminalization is a good first step and an acceptable interim compromise, but ultimately it is not enough. Marijuana is safer than alcohol, healthier than tobacco, and less addictive than caffeine. It affects nobody but the user, which makes using it a personal choice. For an advocate of individual liberty to support anything less than the full and immediate legalization of that choice is hypocritical and immoral. Protecting people from themselves makes you into the same sort of “government bully” your book laments.
Besides, supporting all-out legalization is hardly a liability in the modern electoral climate. Over 50% of Americans supported legalization even before the Colorado and Washington votes; among those under 30, over two-thirds supported it. It may not seem like it when you’re surrounded by Senate busybodies, but socially tolerant, fiscally conservative positions can and will win in the near future. Marijuana legalization is right in line with that. More importantly, it will make us richer, safer, and freer than mere decriminalization ever could.
I'd really, really like to support you moving forward, but I can’t do it in good conscience if you turn your back on my ideals. As heartbroken as I’d be to vote 3rd party again in 2016, you’re not making it easier to justify voting Republican. Just know our support is not a given. I’ll be listening. Please don’t make me take your bumper sticker off my car.