Why are conservative against legalizing marijuana?

This isn’t a forum for me to simply advocate for the legalization of marijuana, I’m asking a serious question here about the basic philosophy that underpins conservatism.

While I’m not a conservative, my understanding is that they are really rubbed the wrong way by the government dictating the sorts of choices we make regarding our personal lives. Conservatives on the whole oppose the ban of Trans fats both because they believe we should have the freedom to make the choice to consume whatever we want regardless of potential long term health effects and because the ban negatively affects businesses choices in a free market economy. They oppose public smoking bans again because it is a government infringement on the day to day choices that we have the right to make on our own.

Why then do I rarely find a mainstream conservative (republican) who advocates for the legalization of marijuana? What logic separates marijuana from alcohol or tobacco in the conservative mind apart from current status quo?

My question is brought on by a segment I saw on Fox News tonight. The anchor teased the segment with something like " There are different sides on the issue of the legalization of marijuana, might a new study give weight to one side?". After the break they revealed new statistics that long term (they cited 8 years) use of marijuana may be correlated with mental health issues. Now even if we instantly accept this study at face value, I wonder how this could possible be a game changer on the issue of legality.

We’ve known for decades that tobacco has absolutely fatal long term consequences, and alcohol is one of the most notoriously dangerous drug for short term consequences in addition to its well documented destructive addictive properties. Yet both of these drugs (and many others) are widely available for adult consumption with no mainstream conservative uproar.

I know they are many intelligent conservative dopers here, can anyone actually logically defend this seemingly hypocritical position?

It doesn’t really need anything else than that. Although in addition, conservatives tend to oppose all forms of physical pleasure, and most non-physical ones. Sex, drugs, music, kindess; getting pleasure from just about anything besides religion, profit and militaristic patriotism is evil in the typical conservative’s eyes.

Hey, I get to use this Captain Planet image two times in one day! Except this time they’re caricatured conservatives, instead of caricatured capitalists.

Conservatives ARE a caricature of themselves.

As for that cartoon ( which I’ve never watched ), I doubt Captain Planet as a kiddie show would have gone far enough to be accurate. Torture, for example, wouldn’t have been touched. Probably not even actual death.

IIRC there was a recent report showing that many important conservative voices were in favor of legalization, unfortunately it is not a message that has trickled down to the rank and file. Sadly, very few politicians (even Democrats) discuss this in the open.

Even William F. Buckley noticed how stupid the laws are:


I hate to ask this, but do you have a cite that shows that conservatives are against the legalization of MJ? I’d say it depends on the conservative, especially on the TYPE of conservative. I get the impression that people think that conservative thought is some kind of monolithic group think that’s in lockstep (with jackboots…always remember the jackboots). The term ‘conservative’ encompasses a pretty wide range of beliefs, however, many of which are mutually exclusive.

You rarely find mainstream politicians of ANY strip who openly advocate legalization of marijuana. That goes for liberals as well as conservatives and moderates. So, I’d say that would be the place to start…why do politicians in the US avoid this topic and basically want to maintain the status quo wrt legalization?

People are bad at risk assessment, basically. They think they know the risks of things they are familiar with, while the unfamiliar is always more frightening…and also easier to distort. As with nuclear power, the American people have been subjected to decades of propaganda that demonizes MJ, and it will take time and effort to change that perception…and, frankly, no one is really willing to expend the political capital in order to change the status quo wrt MJ. The calculation has probably been that it won’t win anyone any major voting block, and the bottom line is that as long as this remains true no one is going to serious tackle legalization. C’est la vie.

AFAIK, most ‘conservative’ 'dopers aren’t really opposed to legalization, per se, so I doubt you are going to get much of a debate here. Again, it all depends on the type of conservative you are talking about. A religious conservative might have objections based on their perception of their religion wrt the use of drugs for recreation, but there really aren’t many conservatives of that stripe here on the 'dope. Mainly those thought of as ‘conservative’ on this board are really libertarians, or economic conservatives, or moderates who only look like conservatives in comparison with other 'dopers.

The only realistic objection I can see is that changing the status quo would be expensive and would entail a lot of messy changes to our legal system, as well as a host of regulatory changes involving the processing and distribution of MJ, which would be a royal pain in the ass to accomplish. As there doesn’t seem any huge outcry from most Americans (even those who partake) to legalize the stuff it’s probably not a high priority, so it will probably sit on the back burner until and unless that equation changes.


I’ll just say that I found everything in this post to be satisfactory in regards to my question.

Now I just have to wonder what it would take to actually change the law given that no major voting block is on the line here. I guess a hefty chunk of the population will just continue to casually use a relatively harmless drug that the government continues to expend so much effort and money criminalizing. I guess I can kinda see why people are somewhat cynical of government.

I think that perceptions are changing already wrt MJ, it’s effects and dangers. Remember that it wasn’t that long ago we were being bombarded with the whole reefer madness schtick…that kind of thing takes a lot time to work it’s way through public perception. Eventually the laws will be relaxed as perceptions continue to shift, but it will be an incremental thing not a sudden overnight change. JMHO there, but that’s how I see it.

I think the same thing will happen wrt the anti-nuclear movement and the public’s perceptions of nuclear energy as well, but then I’m something of an optimist…


A “big weed” industry never formed in time. So there’s no money angle.

Because hippies were into it, the counter culture, everything Conservatives are against.

Valid point.

I’m a conservative, and although I oppose the legalization of marijuana, I’m not particularly strongly opposed to it; if we did the typical 1="strongly in favor and 10=“strongly opposed,” I suppose I’d be about a six. I suspect that if I immersed myself in learning the science of marijuana’s ill effects in any detail, I’d probably move to a four or five. I’ve had discussions here which have seemed convincing, but then subsequent off-board discussions that were also convincing in the other direction.

Not only that, but you have big money fighting against it. You have alcohol and tobacco who don’t want competitors. You have the agriculture section that doesn’t want hemp introduced to the market. You have various crime agencies that exist because of drugs, etc.

XT pretty much nailed it. Although I’m a moderate and not a conservative (more libertarian I guess), many on this board have called me conservative. As far as I’m concerned, the federal government has no business passing laws against any drugs. I know your OP was about MJ and not coke, heroin, etc, so sorry for the slight 'jack.

Now, if the states want to pass a law against drugs (any drugs, including alcohol, aspirin, hell even caffeine) that’s their business. I figure, if you don’t like that state’s laws, then move. But I’d like to see where in the constitution the feds get their justification to pass schedule 1, schedule 2, etc, outside the ever expanding commerce clause (“Well, someone on drugs would call in sick more, which would hurt productivity, which could reduce one state’s product development efforts which could be an input to a company in another state, and hey we’re allowed to regulate commerce between the states, so…”)

I see the anti-marijuana laws as protecting jobs in law enforcement. Marijuana harms nobody (in contrast to alcohol or tobacco), and even makes the people who use it LESS aggressive.
Also, the government doesn’t like the fact that it is sold untaxed-government makes a ton of money off alcohol and tobacco taxes.
So, you will nver see legalization, unless the governemnt can get its cut.

As others have mentioned, there are some influential conservatives who favor legalization of marijuana on various grounds, including libertarian, medical and practical considerations. William F. Buckley was probably the most prominent.

As far as politicians are concerned, is there a large group of prominent Democrats who are on the record as favoring legalization? It seems to me that this is a bi-partisan losing issue that politicians from both parties would rather not be associated with. There are too many voters in the US who feel that marijuana=DRUGS!!!=BAD.

And ralph124c, if it ever gets legalized, you can rest assured the the government will be getting its cut.

Most conservatives aren’t the dad from Footloose.

There are just too many flavors of conservative. You have:

  1. Conservative = libertarian that more or less says the least government intrustion possible is the best. This conservative type will most likely be in favor of legalization, although I think this is fast becoming the most rare type of (American) conservative.

  2. Conservative = status quo is good, ie, change should be slow until change can be proven of value. This type of conservative is not likely to support legalization since that is a big change from the status quo with many possible unforeseen consequences.

  3. Conservative = (mostly Christian) family values. This type of conservative has been much on the rise and is one of the least likely to support legalization, as they see it as detrimental to society. This is also the type that anyway supports strong liquor laws and other prohibitions on personal liberties in favor of societal stability.

  4. Conservative = private sector over public sector (business is almost always right). In this case, if there is a profit angle, they may favor legalization, but more likely would favor restrictions that protect current business models such as liquor industry.

Note that these may not be mutually exclusive, and of course you can have “liberals” that favor some of the above.

I have nothing to add - I just want to commend you on this outline of different types of conservatives. It’s a good summary.

I agree. “Conservative” most definitely does not = Republican. I always find it especially jarring when folk purporting to favor smaller government and less intrusion into private lives, strongly advocate legislating morality…

But I suppose the same could well be said about liberals and democrats.

I think most politicians of any stripe tend to be “conservative” in terms of not sticking their neck out for anything that will not favor their chances of re-election. Also, crime enforcement and prisons are a HUGE industry helping keep many local economies afloat. Putting huge numbers of our citizens behind bars is one thing the US “service” economy still excels at! :smiley: