The Stormin' Mormon

  

Sunday, November 28, 2004

War on Drugs

I'm very torn over this issue, on several levels. And the case Raich v. Ashcroft brings all of those conflicts to the fore. On the one hand, my religious beliefs have shapped my view on the power of government generally, overpowering some of my libertarian leanings. That is, I believe government morally can and should regulate and/or ban recreational drugs. Whether "medical" marijuana can be confined to just medical purposes remains to be seen, but it seems to me that general medical acceptance would naturally result in substantial spillover to supply for the high demand recreational use.

But then my view on general governmental practice comes into direct conflict with my ideals of Federalism. That is what this case, which will be argued today by Randy Barnett of Volokh.com, is really about. I heavily lean towards the view that the Constitution does not grant the Federal Government the extensive powers it now exercises in the name of regulating interstate commerce. This applies to a great extent to the Drug War as well. After all, we recognized we needed a Constitutional Amendment to pass Prohibition. It couldn't be done with just a regular old statute. Would I be betraying my religion by supporting an interpretation that would reduce the ability to eliminate recreational drugs?

Historically, the ways those in charge have interpreted Federalism have been detrimental to Mormons. First, in Missouri, the brutal treatment of those at Independance, Far West, Haun's Mill, and Nauvoo was protected under an overexpansive view of State's Rights that allowed the states to treat anyone within their borders with as much malice as they pleased. Joseph Smith's pleas to the Federal Government against prejudicial state militias went unheeded. That shield was eliminated by the Fourteenth Amendment, explicitly granting the Federal Gov't the power to enforce equal protection. However, other principles of Federalism had been undermined over the years, especially through the medium of the Commerce clause, to empower the Federal Government to persecute us again on our way to becoming a state, banning plural marriage nation-wide and forcing our leaders into hiding. Until recently, we had a very mixed history with any Government other than our own, state or federal.

So what to do? I guess I have to come down on the side of getting the Federal Gov't out of the Drug War. It's not in their job description. But let's move against the various state measures to try an limit the spread. I hope this position is not as intellectually dishonest as the New York Times' opinion, which basicaly holds because marijuana is good, the patients should win, but make sure it doesn't affect any other part of the federal nanny state. That's basicaly saying that judges should ignore the Constitution and simply make their decisions based entirely on policy, socialy liberal policy at that.

Posted by Unknown at 10:49 PM :

Comments:
You asked: "Would I be betraying my religion by supporting an interpretation that would reduce the ability to eliminate recreational drugs?"

I would answer, your religion (and mine) prohibits the use of recreational drugs for its members (via the Word of Wisdom), but says nothing about the prevention of others from doing so. I would suspect that as the doctrine suggests for other issues of this type, our focus should be primarily on keeping ourselves out of drug use, secondarily on spreading the gospel so that others will keep themselves out of drug use.

It is a human extrapolation of God's law to create laws to discourage drug use and other wrong behaviors. The problem with extrapolations is that they tend to go in different directions depending on who makes the extrapolation, and no one really knows which one is best. On these, I think, God is pretty much neutral so long as our laws don't abridge people's freedoms too much, and then only God knows how He will judge our intent in making such laws. Therefore when deciding what to do, we should consult the Lord with prayer and fasting, humble ourselves, and do the best we can.
 
I agree with W. Hermit that the doctrines of Mormonism do not require that we prohibit others from using recreational drugs through the use of government force.

On a less philosophical note, I would add that the government's "War on Drugs" has many unfortunate consequences. One of which is that we now live in a very violent society. The following site has an interesting essay on the sources of violence in the drug war (and a couple of very interesting graphs):

http://www.daviddfriedman.com/Academic/drugs_and_violence/Drugs_and_violence.html

It seems a little silly (sad?) to me...all that violence just to make sure your neighbor doesn't use drugs for his own "enjoyment" (i.e. for recreational use).

Anyway, to sum things up...I consider myself a faithful member, and yet I do not support the "War on Drugs" at any level of government (federal or state).
 
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