Legalization Is Not An Extreme Position

Andrew Sullivan —  Jan 7 2012 @ 10:32am

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Calling for a "centrist" approach to the Drug War, Kevin Sabet laments in the NYT that "a few tough-on-crime conservatives and die-hard libertarians dominate news coverage and make it appear as if legalizing drugs and 'enforcement only' strategies were the only options, despite the fact that the public supports neither." David Sirota begs to differ:

Mere weeks after Gallup’s new poll showed a majority of Americans support full legalization of marijuana, Sabet insists that it’s a "fact" that the public doesn’t support legalization. And mind you, it’s not just Gallup’s surveys that show public support for legalization — in state-based polls in politically diverse states like Massachusetts and Colorado, it’s essentially the same thing: widespread public support for pot legalization. … [I]n comparison to the mass public, [Sabet is] the fringe extremist.

Although Sabet doesn't specifically mention marijuana in his op-ed and instead lumps together all drugs, his argument is a de facto case against marijuana, since that is the only drug being seriously debated today. Scott Morgan calls into question Sabet's "centrist credentials" by noting he was a speechwriter for several drug czars. Pete Guither makes a more substantive point:

Legalization isn’t an extreme. It is, rather, an entire range of options — essentially all of the options available to society except for the single destructive and failed policy of prohibition (where drug distribution is put in the hands of criminals). Sabet is looking for nuances in the policy of criminal drug distribution, and that’s just absurd. Legalization is where you find the centrists. Take a look at LEAP, for example. Many LEAP members are opposed to drug use and strongly advocate extensive regulation of drugs. That’s certainly not the free-for-all libertarian model that Kevin Sabet seems to imagine to be the entire legalization world.

(Image from a Good infographic)