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Opening Arguments

Drug warriors

War on drugs, the conservative view:

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A sweeping plan to overhaul Indiana's criminal sentencing laws will go before a legislative committee after Republican Gov. Mike Pence said last week he worried the proposal wasn't tough enough on low-level drug offenders.

[. . .]

Pence told reporters last week that he believed the bill should send a message that the state is tough on drug dealers.

The war on drugs, a libertarian perspective -- Rand Paul: Why ruin a young nonviolent drug offender's life by sending him to jail?

Via Gateway Pundit, here’s the buzziest bit from yesterday’s “Fox News Sunday” appearance. More than his civil-liberties advocacy, more than his pitch to get the government out of marriage, this call to lighten up on nonviolent drug users is, I think, the surest way to win a fresh look for the GOP from young voters and minorities in 2016. He also stands more of a chance of selling it to conservatives than he does with his marriage position, if only because he can talk up the savings inherent in fewer prosecutions and incarcerations and frame it as a budget issue. He’ll have some trouble with older voters, but even older Americans might prove a bit more understanding than they used to be. There’s also reason to believe that, if anyone can move the GOP base on this, Paul’s the guy . . .

There is a Republican tug-of-war now between conservatives and libertarians (well, there always is; it's just more intense now) so it will be interesting to see how debate on this issue shakes out. But it's an important one to have, not only for the sake of having a rational criminal justice system but for economic reasons as well. To address the concerns of people like Pence who worry about"sending the wrong message," it's important to make clear that we'll continue to treat dealers more harshly than users. It would also be helpful to peel off marijuana and talk about that one separately and first. The country's mood on that is changing about as rapidly as its opinion of gay marriage is.