The panel started off predictably enough, pitting prohibitionist panelist Christopher Beach, an executive producer for drug-czar-turned-talk-radio-host Bill Bennett, against Fox News commenter Mary Katharine Ham. Beach spouted off the familiar arguments: that despite massive costs and overflowing prisons, the war on drugs is actually working, that weed is bad for you, and that legalization could have dire unforeseen consequences for public health and safety.
But then a surprising thing happened: No one bought it. CPAC Republicans, it turns out, really like their weed—or at least like the idea of legalizing it. One by one, the audience members turned against Beach, heckling his talking points and bombarding him with anti-drug war stats. A College Republican in Rand Paul swag demanded that Beach account for DEA surveillance. When Beach suggested that the government is responsible for public safety, the entire audience broke out in loud jeers. Any prohibition Republicans in the room were likely shamed into silence when Howard Wooldridge, an ex-sheriff in a cowboy hat and a homemade “COPS SAY LEGALIZE POT: ASK ME WHY” shirt, started yelling “Nanny State Liberal!” at Beach from the back of the room.
“The war on drugs is the most destructive, dysfunctional, and immoral policy since slavery and Jim Crow,” Howard shouted at Beach. “How do you justify morally the deaths of dozens and dozens of kids every year selling marijuana at your altar of prohibition?”
Hilarious. Let’s all watch the squealing U-turns across the world…