Last month Pat Robertson, televangelist and long-time icon of the religious right, announced that it's time to legalize marijuana. The firestorm of shock and indignation from all sides ... never materialized. Not a whimper.
Who still supports our prohibition strategy in the War on Drugs?
You won't find a single major political figure willing to discuss a serious, well-considered plan to advance beyond absolute federal prohibition. At the same time, you have to look long and hard to find anyone who genuinely thinks prohibition is a good idea.
In the absence of a real plan to evaluate the public is left in the lurch. Prohibition is feeding monsters. Our insatiable appetite for illegal drugs is funneling billions of dollars into the hands of extremely dangerous people all over the world.
Though prohibition is increasingly unpopular, the public feels that we have a tiger by the tail. We've come to accept that marijuana is probably not as dangerous as we once worried, but we don't know what the cultural and public health impact of liberalization would be. That uncertainty makes politicians and the public very nervous.
Could it be that politicians are missing the opportunity of a lifetime? The public is itching for someone to champion a sensible proposal that would take us past blind prohibition. A solid plan could earn support nearly everywhere on the political spectrum.
If someone could devise a scheme that imposed regulations on marijuana similar to what we impose on alcohol or tobacco, the narco-gangs would see billions of dollars of revenues disappear almost overnight. Such a plan could be a template for new regulations for more dangerous drugs.
The cost of our inertia is growing. Our fears of broader marijuana use under looser regulation should be tempered by the escalating damage from our current policy. It's time to find a sensible alternative to prohibition.