While Points has no official stance on American drug policy, it is a near certainty that the majority of this site’s readers consider America’s longstanding War on Drugs a failure. It’s also likely that many of our readers feel some investment in the ongoing – and escalating – national debates over the medicalization, decriminalization, and legalization of marijuana. The trend toward legalizing marijuana, and the easing of public prosecutions of drug use in general, has gained enormous traction with politicians, journalists, academics, libertarians, big business right-wingers, and big government left-wingers in the last decade, bringing the country to a drug policy crossroads. Americans live at a distinct moment in time when Presidential candidates speak of their resolute opposition to medical marijuana while state governments in California, Washington, Colorado, Hawaii, and elsewhere move resolutely in the opposite direction. To doctors, criminologists, civil libertarians, and drug enthusiasts, the prospect of the Drug War’s demise and the liberalization of marijuana laws are hugely promising indicators. It seems, if nothing else, a move in the direction of common sense, as the idea that occasional recreational or medicinal marijuana use would create some sort of moral crisis in America seems, on its face, preposterous.
The belief that America’s War on Drugs has been a cynical thirty- year boondoggle is by no means, however, a universally-held opinion. It was only last year, according to Gallup, that half of Americans came to support the legalization or medicalization of marijuana. The debate over national drug policy is just now starting in earnest, meaning anti-Drug War advocates are now share a political identity and, in turn, a particular set of responsibilities in furthering their cause. The likely key to winning the national drug debate is capturing America’s political “mushy middle,” the ever-powerful group of “Undecideds” who, aside from deciding every Presidential election, have the political sway to alter drug policy. By their nature, they do not share the view that the American War on Drugs has been a catastrophic failure, though they can be convinced.
If one is to take anything from the last three Presidential elections, it should be that Undecideds are an unaligned group of conventional people who, while not “conservative” in any formal sense, are hesitant to enact sweeping political change, lest it challenge God, Country, or the American Way. Those in favor of liberalizing American drug laws, then, are charged with the task of convincing this disorganized amalgam of voters that new drug policies would not inconvenience the life of the mythical “Average American” in any meaningful way. Advocates of looser drug policies can only promote this message, however, combating the long-propagandized idea that more-liberal attitudes toward drug use would lead to the anarchic, hedonistic, and amoral cultural wasteland. In a rush to appeal to the mushy middle, both legalization advocates and Drug Warriors strive to seem as rational, reasonable, fair-minded, and sober as possible. Neither side would benefit from the electorate viewing the debate as being one between burned-out hippies and joyless moral hysterics.
The fight to win Undecideds has resulted in both sides of the debate increasingly representing themselves through the sort of conventional, wealthy, established politicos like George Soros and Mitt Romney, and respectable professional associations like the California Medical Association and the National Football League, with which Americans seem more comfortable. While celebrities often interject themselves into the debate, the young audiences that Hollywood stars have the most traction with are not really the key to crafting new policy. Rather, celebrities are often counterproductive figures within the drug liberalization movement, engaging in drug-related behaviour that lives down to the worst fears of their political opponents. This is where Rihanna comes in.