The Federal War On Drugs

By Elisha Dorfsmith

During the recent Republican congressional primary I had the opportunity to question a candidate about his support of the federal war on drugs. I asked him where the Constitution gives the federal government the power to break someone’s door down, terrorize a family, and haul the parents off in handcuffs…just because they are growing a plant. I said shouldn’t it be a state issue or a state and local issue? Why should the federal government have any say?  He got a sheepish grin on his face and said that the commerce clause gives the federal government that power. I could only shake my head in frustration. This candidate claimed to be a Constitutional expert and earlier in the night he had been complaining about the many ways the federal government abuses the commerce clause.

We did find some common ground during our brief conversation.  We both agreed that too many parents have dropped the ball and no longer participate in their kids lives. We agreed that personal responsibility is key and that individuals should be prepared to face the consequences for their bad decisions. We also agreed that there will always be people who make the wrong choices. Unfortunately, we could not agree on the proper role the federal government should (or should not) play.

That irreconcilable divide leads me to one of the biggest issues I have with many who call themselves “conservatives.” In one conversation they will complain about federal overstretch, excessive laws and loss of freedom. In another conversation they will adamantly defend the drug war no matter how hypocritical their arguments may be. They never seem to connect the two.

What makes those on the right who support the drug war any different from those on the left who want to ban cigarettes or salt or junk food? Cigarettes are legal but I don’t smoke because I choose to be responsible and not smoke. I don’t want the government telling me that I can’t smoke. I had a family member who was killed by a drunk driver. Does that give me the right to call for alcohol prohibition and demand that people stop drinking because alcohol causes bad things to happen? I don’t think so.

People can give example after example of the problems that occur when individuals use drugs but that does not give them the Constitutional authority to ban them. I can give many more examples of lives ruined by alcohol abuse (a legal drug). Would our anti drug friends be consistent and suggest that we go back to alcohol prohibition? I highly doubt it. Just about every anti drug conservative I know enjoys the occasional alcoholic beverage.

We can’t say that we support freedom in one breath and then in the next breath say that we want to take away people’s ability to make decisions for their personal lives. We can’t pick and choose which freedoms we want to give people. We certainly should not abuse the commerce clause to justify waging a federal war on drugs.  Republicans and Democrats both need to abandon this idea that big brother needs to take care of us. A free society has no place for government nannies.

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