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Federalism's grass widowers

August 2, 2007 |  6:50 pm

If you're wondering how we reached the point where the Los Angeles Times seems more devoted to property rights than the Republican Party, this brilliant piece by Jacob Sullum may clear your head. Sullum gives play by play on how the GOP's frenzy for the war on drugs has pre-empted its commitment to conservative principle — to the point that even the Democrats are now arguably better on federalism than the Republicans:

These partisan tendencies do not mean Democrats have greater respect for the division of powers between the federal government and the states. When it suits them, they're happy to support federal involvement in policy areas the Constitution leaves to the states. It's just that Democrats are, by and large, more comfortable with the therapeutic use of cannabis than Republicans are.

It's hard to find a logical explanation for this split. Republicans, conservatives especially, are traditionally critical of overly cautious regulators who prevent people from using drugs that could relieve their suffering safely and effectively. They have a record of supporting the freedom to use herbal home remedies without unreasonable bureaucratic interference.

The prevailing Republican stance on medical marijuana, which is at odds with what most Americans tell pollsters they think about the issue, can be understood only in light of the connotations that cannabis acquired as a result of its accidental association with the 1960s counterculture. In fighting a symbol of their opponents' principles, conservatives have sacrificed their own.

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