There is no doubt that the War on Drugs has been an incredibly expensive failure, yet neither Democrat nor Republican leaders, from liberal ideologies to freedom loving conservatives, have allowed that obvious fact into their campaign platforms. During the last presidential election, Barack Obama put out a message through his campaign that stated bluntly, “President-elect Obama is not in favor of the legalization of marijuana.” Why not? Massive drug cartels are destabilizing Mexico. Drug trafficking is leading to murders, kidnappings and other heinous crimes across our border. Casual, harmless possessors of marijuana are being thrown in prison, a policy that is destroying urban communities, ruining lives and bankrupting our prison system. Prohibition has clearly done more harm than good, and our nation deserves an explanation on why the federal government can’t trust us with the liberty guaranteed in the Constitution. Drug decriminalization is not only practical, it is wholly consistent with our founding principles of ordered liberty and personal responsibility.

Marijuana is a dangerous drug that responsible individuals should avoid, but the same could be said about alcohol. In fact, hollowing out one’s insides by chugging Drano is dangerous, too. Should we ban cleaning chemicals? Our nation was founded on the principle of ordered liberty, which provides for every citizen to live their life how they please, provided they don’t infringe upon the life, liberty or property of another citizen. The only legitimate role of government, from the legislation of taxes and regulations to the creation of a criminal justice system, is to protect the freedom of individuals. There is simply no rational or constitutional basis for protecting people from their own poor decisions, yet that is the fundamental, inescapable premise behind drug prohibition.

Marijuana decriminalization would likely lead to more widespread use, but is trying to prevent the spread of unmotivated stoners worth the consequences of federal regulations? Since prohibition is never able to completely eliminate drugs, local marijuana growers that could offer a lower price are forced out of the market. The only suppliers that can survive the intense regulations and full military force of the U.S. government are behemoth cartels, and because most of their competitors have been eliminated, the cartels monopolize the market, raise their prices and grow in power. The criminal culture that has sprung out of cartels and illegal trafficking is an artificial creation of government that would never exist in a functioning free market.

Even as our law enforcement overextends itself and our prison system approaches the breaking point, illegal marijuana use among teens remains constant. In 2008, over 40 percent of teens were reported to have used the drug, the same amount of teens as in 1995, over a decade before. The evidence continues to prove that federal statutes cannot stop humans from making bad choices; only personal responsibility and individual values can curb the demand for drugs. Decriminalization of marijuana offers a rare opportunity for both parties to unite in support of individual liberty and accept that the harm done by the War on Drugs is both unnecessary and unacceptable.