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The Party of Dope

By Scott Tibbs, September 7, 2010

While I am not a Libertarian, I find there is a lot to like about the Libertarian Party. Most of my votes go to Republican candidates, but I have voted for Libertarian candidates in the past and will probably do so again. The Libertarian Party's consistent advocacy for limited government is laudable.

I agree with the LP's stance that marijuana should be decriminalized, and I am convinced the "War on Drugs" has spiraled out of control. That said, decriminalization is not a political winner, and those who support decriminalization need to be careful that it does not become a defining issue for them. If decriminalization is the defining issue for a candidate, he is marginalized. This applies in spades to political parties.

This is why I think the LP's focus on decriminalizing marijuana is counterproductive. Like I said before, there are a lot of things to like about the Libertarian Party, but spending too much time talking about marijuana makes people think of the LP as "the party of dope." If you were to ask most people to name one thing they know about the Libertarian Party's platform, "they want to legalize marijuana" would probably be the first answer most people give.

In the spring of 2001, Ann Coulter came to speak at Indiana University and she was asked about reports she considered running for Congress. She explained that she had spoken with the Libertarian Party in her state and they insisted that she make decriminalizing marijuana her top issue. She eventually became frustrated with the single issue focus and described the Libertarians as "a bunch of Trekkies living in their parents' basements."

Despite being seen as "the party of dope," Libertarians don't get it. Two weeks ago they sent a press release and an e-mail alert whining because Facebook rejected an ad that touts the LP as "the only political party advocating complete legalization of marijuana." The rejected ad puts an exclamation point on the "party of dope" label by placing the Libertarian Party's logo over a marijuana leaf. Classy.

If the Libertarian party wants to be taken seriously, they need to stop encouraging and emphasizing the "party of dope" label that is marginalizing the party. Obviously, the self-described "party of principle" should not back down from its stand on the issue, but making it a focal point of the party platform does little to make the Libertarians seem like a serious player on the national stage or help Libertarians get elected.