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William F. Buckley

“First of all, please don’t confuse my position with that of people who are indifferent to drugs. I’m not indifferent to drugs. I think I’ve been quoted as saying if I could turn a single latch which would make all the drugs disappear from the face of the earth, with the exception of here and there, a vineyard in Bordeaux, I would turn that latch.

Now, you say is it inconsistent for a conservative to take my position. I don’t think it is, because a conservative seeks to be grounded in reality. That which works is quantifiable; that which simply does not work, isn’t. If you were to pass a law requiring people to go to church on Sunday, it wouldn’t work. Under the circumstances, you would eventually simply withdraw such a law. My position on drugs is that our drug laws aren’t working, and that more net damage is being done by their continuation than would be done by withdrawing them from the books. This, as I say, should not be confused as a sanction for drugs. Drugs are a form of escapism, and the damage in taking them is not by any means self-limited. It damages other people also. For that reason, the question is: How do you diminish the net harm done by drugs?[…]

Anybody who becomes an alcoholic, which is probably the primary curse of this country, in my judgment, is morally stigmatized by permitting himself to get into that condition. That is not an argument for prohibition. Adultery is widely practiced. So is fornication. You can simultaneously say it’s morally wrong, but we’re not going to tell the police to open the doors of every motel to find out whether the people inside have marriage licenses.”


William F. Buckley, speaking in an interview on Richard Heffner’s The Open Mind on August 6th, 1996.

More on various vices:

  • Richard Burton discusses how alcohol pushed him to the brink of death
  • Noam Chomsky explains what the lottery can teach us about the drug war
  • Former addict Will Self reflects on the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman

William F Buckley