The Conservative Schism on Legalizing Pot: New at Reason

In Virginia, it's law and order conservatives versus small government conseratives when it comes to pot.

A. Barton Hinkle writes:

Virginia has grown less ideologically conservative in recent years, if election results are anything to go by. But it still exhibits the temperamental conservatism summarized by the traditionalist's credo: When it is not necessary to change, it is necessary not to change. That might partly account for the state's hidebound policies on pot.

More residents these days think the state's approach to marijuana needs changing, however. Eighty percent of Virginians in a recent survey favor civil fines rather than criminal conviction for minor possession offenses, and more than three out of five Virginians support the legalization of marijuana for recreational use.

More ideological conservatives are modulating their views on pot as well. The commonwealth's crime commission will study decriminalization of pot this year, thanks to a proposal by Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment, a Republican who recently provoked liberal wrath with his proposal on felon voting rights, which progressives viewed as a step backward. Such a Nixon-goes-to-China move might have provided the catalyst without which Virginia would have remained stuck in Prohibition mode for the foreseeable future.

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