ERICKSON: The politics of pot

January 10, 2014 

Perhaps I am more ambivalent than I should be about the legalization of marijuana. I lean toward letting the law remain as it is, but my hostility toward the nanny state pulls me in the direction of individual responsibility and letting the chips fall where they may.

Therein lies my concern, though. Letting the chips fall where they may could lead society to pick up the pieces of shattered lives. Largely, the same class of people now most invested in and vocal about drug legalization in the United States are the same who advocated the loosening of sexual mores during the sexual revolution of the late 1960s and early ’70s. The white, upper income, educated elites had a lot invested in breaking down social mores in their pursuit of unchecked and unbridled hedonism.

On the superficial exterior of shattered souls marching progressively through the sexual revolution, it appears not to have turned out terribly. Now, years after doing drugs in the privacy of their homes, the same class of people want to be as open with it as with their bodies. In the never-ending hedonistic alliance between college stoners and adults who will not grow up, they’ve pooled dad’s trust fund into a political campaign for pot legalization.

They tell us marijuana is not a gateway drug. They compare its prohibition to alcohol prohibition despite serious and significant historic differences. Ultimately, however, they rely on individual responsibility, choice and a war on drugs that has largely failed to do more than overpopulate prisons.

That is where they get many of us. Society has refused to exercise discretion. Instead of turning blind eyes toward transgressions, society has decided every transgression must be either punished or celebrated. Society has lost its moderation. So in a world where the progressive left wants to make pot legal and ban fast food, many of us decide it is better to have it all legal than to have it all banned.

In all of this, though, we ignore a critical point.

The sexual revolution may have not turned out too terrible for those who came from upper-income families of privilege and means. It may not have turned out terribly for those with access to higher education and connections. But the sexual revolution has helped ruin poor and middle class families.

The rise of single households in minority communities, the rise of teen pregnancy, the incentive for young men to go from one conquest to the next and the relaxing of attitudes and societal judgment have degraded the stability of the nuclear family. Combine that with the federal government’s war on poverty and there is decay, collapse, crime and social breakdown in too many poor neighborhoods and a harder path for the poor to climb to the middle class.

Now add the legalization of drugs to the mix. Gone may be the crime and gangs funded on the drug trade. Maybe. That is not a given. But young men and women in loosened social mores now with more readily available drugs might not turn out so well beneath the upper incomes. Upstairs and downstairs in the American manor house may behave largely the same, but the upstairs lords and ladies will have a harder time ignoring the blight their pursuit of hedonism has caused downstairs.

Making it about personal responsibility is all well and good until those of us who were personally responsible must cover the cleanup costs of those who were not. Perhaps we should just wait a few years then re-examine Colorado before rushing on.

Erick Erickson is a Fox News contributor and radio talk show host in Atlanta.

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