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Red State
Red State
17 Feb 2024
Manic Contrarian


NextImg:Sorry, Prohibition Doesn't Work

Candace Owens, the young, outspoken conservative influencer, opined of late regarding the issue of Prohibition. Really? The government's prohibition on alcohol in 1919? Even though she enjoys a quarterly glass of wine, apparently she thinks it should be illegal for the rest of us, as she appeared to state on X.

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So, according to Candace, the prohibition on alcohol was actually good; it just gets a bad rap. I couldn’t disagree more strenuously. December 2023 marked the 90th anniversary of the repeal of the 18th Amendment in the United States. That failed policy should have taught us an important lesson about attempting to legislate morality and personal choices. Yet, here we are in 2024, still fighting a futile federal “War on Drugs” at immense cost to taxpayers, society, and personal liberty. 

Conservatives have long championed personal responsibility over government interference. We believe in free will, free enterprise, and free markets. So why do some outspoken conservatives accept this vast overreach into citizens’ private lives? Drug use may be unwise and personally harmful, but so are many behaviors the law does not regulate. Adults should have sovereignty over their own bodies as long as they harm no one else.

 Not only is prohibition an affront to personal freedom, it’s also tremendously expensive.

 Over one trillion taxpayer dollars have been spent fighting the Drug War over the past 40 years. Yet drugs remain cheap and easy to obtain, while violence and addiction rates keep climbing. In what sane world does spending over $50 billion annually on a failed government program make sense?

Drug laws have also led to shocking abuses of government power. Civil asset forfeiture allows our increasingly militarized law enforcement to seize property without ever filing charges. How does this make America different from China or North Korea? In 2014, for the first time ever, the government stole more from citizens through asset forfeiture than burglars!

READ: New Yorker Wins Lawsuit After Police Officers Seized Over $8K Using Civil Asset Forfeiture

Moreover, SWAT teams execute thousands of violent, forced-entry raids annually, often on incorrect addresses or for non-violent offenders. Innocent people are harassed or worse, and pets needlessly die every year due to these Gestapo tactics. Frankly, it makes us hypocrites when criticizing police states abroad.

READ: Ohio SWAT Team Raids Wrong House, Seriously Injures Baby With Flashbang Grenade, Denies Responsibility

The Drug War also disproportionately impacts minorities and the poor, exacerbating inequality and racial tensions. Although it is fair to point out that it isn’t always conservative politicians and prosecutors going after minorities for drug-related offenses.

Though usage rates are similar across races, minorities face much higher arrest and incarceration rates for victimless “crimes,” with nearly 500,000 people behind bars for drugs. Why is it that in a “free country,” America has the world’s largest prison population? Jailing non-violent offenders at incredible taxpayer expense is neither fiscally conservative nor does it promote a free society. And though the number of arrests has fallen, and despite marijuana being legal in several states, as recently as 2020, 317,793 Americans were still arrested for possession of marijuana.

Unlike traditional conservatives, those supporting prohibition arrogantly believe politicians should decide what free citizens can safely consume. They assume most drug users lack personal responsibility and therefore require nannying by a well-armed nanny state. Yet moderate enjoyment of intoxicants has been part of every human culture throughout history. Candace Owens herself admits she consumes 4 drinks a year. And yet she somehow wants this to be illegal?

There will always be a demand for drugs and alcohol, so attempting to legislate it away is as effective as banning alcohol was in 1933. Just as ending the prohibition on alcohol greatly reduced street violence, corruption, and organized crime, legalizing recreational drugs would improve public safety. The $50-plus billion spent annually on drug enforcement could fund treatment programs instead, reducing addiction rates without limiting personal liberties.

The bottom line is conservatives are supposed to stand for individual liberty, personal responsibility, free markets, limited government, and fiscal restraint. Supporting prohibition violates all these principles and belies faith in citizens to manage their own lives. The government has clearly demonstrated over decades and tens of thousands of ruined lives that it cannot effectively regulate what people choose to consume, nor should it.

Indeed, just as our forebears eventually saw the light with the prohibition on alcohol, it is long past time conservatives apply our espoused first principles consistently and help end the failed, second War on Drugs.