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Pot Matters: The ‘Should You Vote?’ Libertarian Dilemma



Three Senate Candidates Who Could Affect Marijuana Legalization

How are you going to feel the day after the election if you vote for Gary Johnson and the result is that Donald Trump is elected President?

Many of the supporters of Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party Presidential candidate, are young adults who are generally liberal, fans of Bernie Sanders, and prone to vote Democratic … except something about Hillary Clinton bothers them. They don’t like the choice between Trump and Clinton and want to make a statement about their values and about the two-party system. In other words, they think voting for Johnson will enable them to have a clear conscience the day after the election because they didn’t compromise their values.

And they’d be wrong, because it’s the results that matter and the result of that decision would be President Donald Trump.

Trump will be the worst thing that can happen in this election for marijuana reform, criminal justice reform, civil liberties, and economic prosperity in the United States.

Trump has vowed to stop the flow of illegal immigrants into the United States by sealing the southern border with a wall, and bragged that this will also stop the flow of illegal drugs across the border as well. Now, this has been tried before (Operation Intercept is a notable example) and failed. So what do you think he will do next to make good on his promise?

Look at Trump’s rhetoric and stated preferences for restoring law and order to the nation’s cities. Not that our cities are lawless, actually, but that Trump pretends they are to justify his extreme law and order policies. Trump wants to extend New York City’s Stop and Frisk program to other cities, especially Chicago (for a start).

The Stop and Frisk program in New York is one in which police officers stop suspicious people on the street and subject them to a pat-down search, based on the concern that they might be carrying a weapon. The US Court of Appeals has ruled this practice to be unconstitutional, in part because of its disproportionate impact on minorities. While Trump claims this policy has had a successful impact on lowering crime in New York city, the historical trend he refers to started long before Stop and Frisk was implemented, and the after the program was implemented the incidence of crime in New York followed trends prevalent though out the nation.

While Stop and Frisk did not lower crime in New York, it did accomplish something else. It gave New York City one of the highest arrest rates for marijuana possession in the nation. There is a minor technicality about marijuana decriminalization in New York the rest of the country is unaware of. While possession of small amounts of marijuana are indeed decriminalized, this does not apply to marijuana that is used or displayed in public. In other words, marijuana in someone’s pocket is decriminalized but when it is out of their pocket it is still a crime and the individual is subject to arrest.

Thus, when stopped and frisked, individuals are then told to empty their pockets, and when they remove marijuana from their pocket they are arrested for public possession. The arrest is of dubious legality, but that doesn’t get in the way of the individual being taken in the custody.

The Stop and Frisk program is part of a general strategy in which police forces crack down on minor offenses (such as marijuana possession) as part of a show of force, a demonstration of authority, which is supposed to discourage the commission of other crimes. Trump likes it because he likes ideas that sound strong.

While Trump has made some generally benign comments about marijuana legalization and indicated support for medical marijuana laws, this get-tough approach to law enforcement should be an issue of concern for anyone supportive of marijuana’s legalization. Furthermore, as the election grows closer Trump’s rhetoric pushes the idea of respect and deference to law enforcement (which, if you haven’t noticed, tends to be against marijuana’s legalization).

The most likely way for Trump to get elected President is for the millennial generation of young adults to withhold their votes from Hillary Clinton—and right now this is the primary source of support for Libertarian Gary Johnson. Governor Johnson has the best position on marijuana legalization of any candidate running for President. Voting for him, ironically, could bring about the worst outcome for supporters of legalization—a law and order authoritarian in the White House in favor of expanding police powers of search and seizure. (Oh, and by the way, Trump is also likely to appoint the anti-legalization Governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, as Attorney General.)

People should always vote their values. But the issue here is whether the outcome of your vote expresses your values. Voting for Gary Johnson will make it more likely that Donald Trump wins the election. Where’s the value in that for supporters of marijuana’s legalization?

Last week in Pot Matters: The Best Case for Legalization