When I ended the last column mentioning illegal drug use as topic for another column, I hadn't thought of this being one issue where liberals and conservatives would be of the same opinion.
You expect to find liberals who are for legalization, but prominent conservatives?
Two come immediately to mind: newspaper columnist and Fox News TV commentator John Stossel, and Nobel Prize winner and grandmaster of conservative economic theory Milton Friedman, who died in 2006 at age 94.
Stossel and Friedman's comments weren't quite of the "Whoa, just legalize it, man" variety.
Nevertheless, they pointed out the flawed economics of the current situation. Because of its illegal status, marijuana is the top cash crop in America. We also buy considerable banned substances from foreign drug lords and enemy terrorists.
So for economic, political and patriotic reasons, the legalization position makes sense. Part of the economics includes all the non-violent people imprisoned on drug charges. States are going broke, in large part due to these costs.
Politically, there is hypocrisy, with persons in each major party using illegal substances and, in effect, supporting not only drug lords but also our terrorist enemies, which is clearly unpatriotic or traitorous.
No matter how persuasive the argument for legalization, however, it isn't going to happen any time soon.
A beginning step might be using the power of the media and advertising to make it abundantly clear how our illegal drug use is funding murderous criminals and enemy terrorists.
We are supporting the Taliban that we are fighting. Do we really want to do this?
Users place the blame on our criminalization policy rather than on their own use.
Needed is a realistic focus on their here-and-now use and on working toward some degree of legalization in the future.
The current stand-still is largely due to the strange bedfellows combination of drug producers/dealers and religious fundamentalists. This is like the good old days of counties staying dry because both the Christian temperance league and moonshiners voted to keep them that way.
We can do better. We can, as mentioned above, use our hip, savvy advertising media to remind people what drug use means, whom it supports, whom it harms or kills (like our troops).
This can be done in a non-preachy, non-heavy-handed manner, offering treatment not imprisonment for non-violent users, especially for those who are addicted or dependent.
We need to admit that our current policy is as pointless as the old temperance-moonshine coalition, as well as being unpatriotic.
Our illegal drug use has gotten so routine and casual that deliveries are made to bankers on Wall Street.
In fact, one of the top CEOs of a collapsed firm used pot on the job. No wonder he (and others) were caught off guard by the economic downturn. "Whoa, what's happening here? Who saw this coming?"
One former Wall Street cocaine user and adviser to President Reagan is Lawrence Kudlow, now hosting a business TV show and presumably no longer using.
The Taliban must be having a good laugh over the current situation. We buy drugs from them, and this supports them in fighting our troops over there.
All of which makes it easier for them to see us as drug-using infidels with inadequate concern for our fellow Americans in arms.
We need to defuse this perfect storm of a problem. Persons on the political right and left agree on this.
Another group that might very appropriately step into the breach is veterans. Now speaking out about our dependency on foreign oil, they could as well speak out about our dependency on foreign drugs.
But we need more than one old vet doing so in a column. We need those who are younger and more energetic (and with organizing and leadership skills) speaking out as a group.
(James Lein is one of four community columnists for The Minot Daily News)