Why Conservatives Should Support Marijuana Legalization: It’s About Family

If Republicans like Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry really cared about families, they would fight marijuana laws.

Why Conservatives Should Support Marijuana Legalization: It's About Family

Republicans are constantly harping on “the family.” Gay marriage hurts families, they say. The recession hurts families. Abortion hurts families. If they want to plead their case, especially to their social conservative base, people like Michele Bachmann, Mitt Romney, Rick Perry and their ilk center their argument on the family. And that’s precisely why they should support marijuana legalization.

Just consider this story from the ‘New York Times:’

The police found about 10 grams of marijuana, or about a third of an ounce, when they searched Penelope Harris’s apartment in the Bronx last year. The amount was below the legal threshold for even a misdemeanor, and prosecutors declined to charge her. But Ms. Harris, a mother whose son and niece were home when she was briefly in custody, could hardly rest easy.

The police had reported her arrest to the state’s child welfare hot line, and city caseworkers quickly arrived and took the children away.

Her son, then 10, spent more than a week in foster care. Her niece, who was 8 and living with her as a foster child, was placed in another home and not returned by the foster care agency for more than a year. Ms. Harris, 31, had to weather a lengthy child neglect inquiry, though she had no criminal record and had never before been investigated by the child welfare authorities, Ms. Harris and her lawyer said.

“I felt like less of a parent, like I had failed my children,” Ms. Harris said. “It tore me up.”

Harris isn’t alone. The ‘Times’ reports that hundreds of parents in the Empire State have been forced to jump through similar hoops due to minor marijuana infractions, even though Administration for Children’s Services spokesman Michael Fagan admits marijuana use and child abuse or neglect are not always linked. Though not all of the parents went to jail, their families were still disrupted.

Marijuana arrests still account for the majority of prison terms in this nation: in fact, in 2009, according to FBI data, marijuana arrests accounted for more about 46% of all drug arrests, and drugs arrests account for a little more than 50% of the prison population.

Though not all of the convicts are parents, I’d venture to guess that many of them are, or could be, especially considering that an estimated 15% people of child-rearing age smoke pot at least once a month, and about 9.5 million parents admit to using marijuana, according to the website Drug War Facts. An additional 3 million are medical marijuana patients.

If advocates of harsher marijuana laws had their way, those people would be in prison, and their children would be left either with one parent or, most likely, sent to foster care.

While there are plenty of reasons to endorse legal marijuana — potentially millions in tax and business revenue among them — the fact that so many parents and children are impacted by outdated, unpopular laws should be compelling enough for GOP and conservative lawmakers and voters to start evolving on the issue.

The American family depends on it.