Jacob Sullum

Republicans like Smith not only accept the fanciful notion, which is no less absurd for having been endorsed by the Supreme Court, that interstate commerce, which Congress is authorized to regulate, includes marijuana that never crosses state lines, down to a bag of buds in a cancer patient's drawer. They also argue, as Smith does, that "state law conflicts with federal law" if it does not punish everything that Congress decides to treat as a crime.

This insistence that only one policy -- prohibition -- can be allowed with respect to pot and poker is not just unprincipled, but also politically perilous. Polls indicate that most Americans think marijuana and online poker should be legal, and that view is especially common among young voters.

According to a Reason-Rupe public opinion survey conducted in December, 65 percent of Americans think the government should let people play online poker. That includes 70 percent of respondents younger than 45 and 69 percent of respondents younger than 55.

In a Gallup poll last fall, overall support for legalizing marijuana was 58 percent, including 67 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds and 62 percent of 30- to 49-year-olds. A CNN poll conducted in January put overall support for legalization at 55 percent and found a similar breakdown by age: Two-thirds of 18- to 34-year-olds said pot should be legal, and nearly as many 34- to 49-year-olds agreed.

How do Republicans respond to these tolerant majorities? They do not merely express their distaste for pot smoking and online poker playing or argue that both pastimes should be illegal at the state level. They say the two activities should be banned at the national level, even though that position contradicts their professed commitment to federalism.

That is a "conservative reform agenda" of sorts, I suppose. But it is not at all "new," and it aims to reform us rather than the government.

Jacob Sullum

Jacob Sullum is a senior editor at Reason magazine and a contributing columnist on Townhall.com.
TOWNHALL DAILY: Be the first to read Jacob Sullum's column. Sign up today and receive Townhall.com daily lineup delivered each morning to your inbox.
©Creators Syndicate