Drug Legalization: Conservative Colorado Republican Tom Tancredo Joins the Chorus

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #586)
Consequences of Prohibition
Drug War Issues
Politics & Advocacy

Former Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo, a rock-ribbed conservative who made his national name as an opponent of illegal immigration and "open borders," said Wednesday it is time to consider legalizing drugs. The remarks came as he spoke to the Lincoln Club of Colorado in Denver.

[inline:tomtancredo.jpg align=left caption="Tom Tancredo"]Tancredo has a 99% favorable rating from the American Conservative Union and has typically voted in favor of drug war spending, especially as it relates to border security. As a states' rights advocate, however, he has voted in favor of congressional amendments that would have barred the Justice Department from prosecuting medical marijuana patients and providers in states where it is legal.

Tancredo ran unsuccessfully for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008, largely on his anti-illegal immigration platform. Tancredo served four terms in the US House of Representatives before retiring in 2008. He is considering running for statewide elected office in Colorado.

While admitting it may be "political suicide," Tancredo told his GOP audience it is time to consider legalizing drugs. The country has spent billions of dollars arresting, trying, and imprisoning drug users and sellers, with little to show for it, he said.

"I am convinced that what we are doing is not working," he said. "It is now easier for a kid to get drugs at most schools in America than it is booze," he said.

Tancredo also cited the ongoing prohibition-related violence in Mexico, which has claimed nearly 11,000 lives in the past three years. The violence is moving north, he warned.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


Anonymous (not verified)

Hey, How do we contact Mr. Tancredo to let him know we agree with his perspective here on the insanity of the drug war?

I mostly disagree with his politics, but when someone on "the other side" sticks his neck out, let's lend a little support..

Fri, 05/22/2009 - 11:36am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

If you live in California and favor legalizing marijuana, YOU can make it happen. Tell your representatives to support California Assembly Bill 390. It's easy. Visit yes390.org

Fri, 05/22/2009 - 12:43pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

What else could we spend $42 billion each year on? Health insurance for kids? Better paid teachers? It's our choice.
What would you buy if you had an extra $42 billion to spend every year? What might our government buy if it suddenly had that much money dropped onto its lap every year?
For one thing, it might pay for the entire $7 billion annual increase in the State Children's Health Insurance Program that President Bush vetoed because of its cost -- and there'd still be $35 billion left over.
Or perhaps you'd hire 880,000 schoolteachers at the average U.S. teacher salary of $47,602 per year.
Or give every one of our current teachers a 30 percent raise ( at a cost of $15 billion, according to the American Federation of Teachers ) and use what's left to take a $27 billion whack out of the federal deficit.
Or use all $42 billion for a massive tax cut that would put an extra $140 in the pockets of every person in the country -- $560 for a family of four.

The mind reels at the ways such a massive sum of money could be put to use.

Why $42 billion? Because that's what our current marijuana laws cost American taxpayers each year, according to a new study by researcher Jon Gettman, Ph.D. -- $10.7 billion in direct law enforcement costs, and $31.1 billion in lost tax revenues. And that may be an underestimate, at least on the law enforcement side, since Gettman made his calculations before the FBI released its latest arrest statistics in late September. The new FBI stats show an all-time record 829,627 marijuana arrests in 2006, 43,000 more than in 2005.
That's like arresting every man, woman and child in the state of North Dakota plus every man, woman, and child in Des Moines, Iowa on marijuana charges ... every year. Arrests for marijuana possession -- not sales or trafficking, just possession -- totaled 738,916. By comparison, there were 611,523 arrests last year for all violent crimes combined.
Basing his calculations mainly on U.S. government statistics, Gettman concludes that marijuana in the U.S. is a $113 billion dollar business. That's a huge chunk of economic activity that is unregulated and untaxed because it's almost entirely off the books.
Of course, the cost of our marijuana laws goes far beyond lost tax revenues and money spent on law enforcement. By consigning a very popular product -- one that's been used by about 100 million Americans, according to government surveys -- to the criminal underground, we've effectively cut legitimate businesspeople out of the market and handed a monopoly to criminals and gangs.
Strangely, government officials love to warn us that some unsavory characters profit off of marijuana sales, while ignoring the obvious: Our prohibitionist laws handed them the marijuana business in the first place, effectively giving marijuana dealers a $113 billion free ride.
All this might make some sense if marijuana were so terribly dangerous that it needed to be banned at all costs, but science long ago came to precisely the opposite conclusion. Compared to alcohol, for example, marijuana is astonishingly safe. For one thing, marijuana is much less addictive than alcohol, with just nine percent of users becoming dependent, as opposed to 15 percent for booze. And marijuana is much less toxic. Heavy drinking is well-documented to damage the brain and liver, and to increase the risk of many types of cancer. Marijuana, on the other hand, has never caused a medically documented overdose death, and scientists are still debating whether even heavy marijuana use causes any permanent harm at all. And then there's violence. Again, the scientific findings are overwhelming: Booze incites violence and aggression; marijuana doesn't.

Despite all that, we now arrest one American every 38 seconds on marijuana charges. And we do so at a staggering cost in law enforcement expenses, lost tax revenues, and staggering profits for criminal gangs.

Fri, 05/22/2009 - 2:27pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Well, i guess being half right is a start: "It is now easier for a kid to get drugs at most schools in America than it is booze," he said.

Hello, earth to Tom... 'booze' is a 'drug'... the true 'gateway drug'... and the epitome of all drugs... considering what it's done to this dopey christian nation built upon exceptionism.

Christians that abuse the drug alcohol (3 drinks day or 4 drinks week) are drug addicts... that give potheads a bad name!

Proud Pothead Since 1975!

Fri, 05/22/2009 - 2:53pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

That $42 billion is just what we spend waging war on ourselves. We also spend $130 billion a year on the black market buying something we could grow for free if we were free. Put an extra $130 billion in the pockets of American consumers each year and see how fast the economy rebounds. And when a young spouse goes to jail for a drug crime, his family goes on welfare. Legalize drugs and the price of welfare goes down. And when dad gets out of prison he's marked for life with a criminal record. Stop doing that and people can get better paying jobs and help the rest of us pay taxes. Let our farmers grow hemp and we can create a whole new market with jobs and tax revenues. Everybody gains except the bad guys on both sides of the law who are making money on prohibition now. It's the smartest smart bomb you can imagine. It only hurts the scum who is now benefiting from our nation's drug laws.


Fri, 05/22/2009 - 3:15pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

This guy will get my vote and I am from the other side. I thought the left would realize the problem before the right would. He is so right, we are wasting so much of tax payers money on a lost cause. We can control the flow of drugs so much better if we legalize it. We can still go after the drug dealers that try to still sell drugs. We stopped it the illegal moonshinners in the past after we made alcohol legal. You don't see them any more! He is on the right track. Take the money away from the big time drug dealers and you win the war!!!

Fri, 05/22/2009 - 11:33pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

... start to actually embrace their values. True conservative Republicans, and it sounds like this guy is, ought to all share this frame of mind. Stop wasting all this money on a failed drug "war" and imprisoning marijuana users. Then the governemnt can work toward legalization and taxation in order to keep the national community safer as well as help jump start our depressed economy.

If only Tancredo reaches across the aisle to the new drug czar to start a committee and a dialogue that involves both parties, then we could see some true change in the next four years.

Sun, 05/24/2009 - 8:28am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Where are these guys when they're in a position to do some real good?This guy didn't just have an epiphany,he came to this realisation a while back.Like all the cowards in Washington,he played hardball until it didn't matter any more.Thank him if you like.Just know he's just another opportunist politician who only grows a conscience when it no longer matters to his career.When you risk nothing and watch what you know to be wrong go on and on and cheer it on,you're no f'ing hero.Like Clinton,who said he didn't inhale and then went drug warrior for his whole term.Hypocrites and c owards.

Wed, 05/27/2009 - 11:25pm Permalink
SPC Miller (not verified)

I would just like to commend Congressman Tancredo for the bravery and integrity he demonstrated by making the following statement about national drug policy and the war on drugs:

"While admitting it may be "political suicide," Tancredo told his GOP audience it is time to consider legalizing drugs. The country has spent billions of dollars arresting, trying, and imprisoning drug users and sellers, with little to show for it, he said."

"'I am convinced that what we are doing is not working," he said. "It is now easier for a kid to get drugs at most schools in America than it is booze," he said.'"

I read this quotation on Stopthedrugwar.org and was touched by Congressman Tancredo's bold change in stance on the "war on drugs". It's heartening to think that our representatives are finally understanding that the "war on drugs" is simply a failed set of policies, which are widely perceived as the "war on Americans (and their families) who have used drugs".

As a service member in the US Army, I can assure you that I cannot name a single friend, battle-buddy, or family member who would agree with allowing methamphetamine or heroin dealers to peddle their wares without consequence. That is pure insanity. However, I can also say that the overwhelming majority of people in my life have watched at least one friend or family member be severely adversely affected by current drug policy. Anyone can say "Lock up all of the drug dealers and their customers, and throw away the key!", until it's one of their own loved ones spending years in a cage for their problem.

It's obvious that drug use is a social problem and a health-care issue. Americans do not cage mental health patients or patients with A.I.D.S. We do not label these sick people in such a way as to severely hurt their opportunities for future success. People who take it upon themselves to accumulate wealth by selling drugs or commit violent acts on behalf of drugs... these people ARE criminals, and should be punished and labeled accordingly.

As a nation, we have suffered too much violence and waste at the hands of "the war on drugs" and its proponents. We must end this war, and we must end it now.

SPC Miller

Thu, 05/28/2009 - 4:20am Permalink
SPC Miller (not verified)

I'd just like to say that I do not consider responsible, non-violent recreational drug-users to be mentally ill or socially deficient. My previous post is geared towards those who have legitimate drug problems or addictions.

Thu, 05/28/2009 - 4:24am Permalink

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Source URL: https://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/2009/may/22/drug_legalization_conservative_c