Alternatives to Legalization

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There are a at least two reasons why it would be good to legalize marijuana all across the country. The number one reason is that legalization would take away the profit margin that makes the illegal drug trade attractive.  The second is that no law is enforceable if not even a plurality of the population is offended by the behavior a law is designed to prohibit. The cost of efforts at enforcement is enormous and people disobey the law anyway.

Does cannabis have medical uses? Probably it does. That is an additional reason.

What is gained by having a completely ineffective law on the books as it can serve as a social statement for people who want to be seen on the right side of the issue. Laws which serve only as social statements are extremely expensive to maintain just for that one advantage.

All of that being said, that still does not mean that outright sudden legalization is a good idea. Why? It depends upon the terms of the legalization. There are cannabis users who just want it legal right now no matter what the cost. Deferred gratification is a foreign concept that is not even understood by today’s youth and most elders as well. When passing or repealing a law, it is best to ask the question, “and then?” before making the change.

The important question in legalizing marijuana is, what kind of bureaucracy is going to be born and maintained for the next several centuries? Is it legalized so as to serve as a source of tax revenue? Are laws going to be passed so that profits on the industry only go to the top of the food chain? The way legalization is occurring state by state is not a good deal and may end up restricting freedom more than any misguided statutes.

There are approaches other than outright legalization which would prevent the growth of a huge bureaucracy. Texas is not a friendly cannabis state. Suppose people across the state petitioned their city and county governments to pass resolutions directing local law enforcement agencies to prioritize enforcement efforts. Enforcing cannabis laws could be put so low on the list that the law still served as social statement for folks who just want to be seen as opposing usage. But, law enforcement could focus on more serious violations of other laws.

The solution that would serve recreational users the most would be to make possession punishable with a $49.99 fine and still leave cannabis as illegal. Most cannabis charges are added on to other crimes like shoplifting or disturbing the peace. With only a small fine as punishment, the expense of prosecution would be limited and government could still benefit from the revenue generated. It is rare that anyone is charged for possessing marijuana only.

Anytime a law is passed or repealed, it is not done for the benefit of the overall population. Laws are more likely to be passed to create feeding frenzies by those who will benefit by the regulations or the income opportunities created. Governments are interested in sources of tax revenue. The way cannabis is being legalized now a high price to be paid for all products is guaranteed. This is not by accident. Where profit is concerned, all who have political power are accommodated first.  Make regulation stiff enough and new opportunities for organized crime are created.

Government is defined in people’s minds as a benevolent entity working tirelessly to make everyone’s life better. In reality it is a place to go to exploit problems and make profits by getting self serving laws passed.  Any time laws are passed, changed or repealed, there is a change in the bureaucratic structure. Just because people get what they want in the immediate time frame does not guarantee they will be better off over time.

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Of Two Minds Liberty Blitzkrieg Mises Institute Straight Line Logic Paul Craig Roberts

 

 

About Fantasy Free Economics

James Quillian is an independent scholar,free market economist, teacher and originator of the Fantasy Free approach to economics. Contact: news@quillian.net
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Steve Klemmer
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Steve Klemmer

I just found your blog by chance and enjoyed this article. As an initial step in changing marijuana laws how would you feel about allowing people to grow it for their own use? “Does cannabis have medical uses? Probably it does.” From my own personal experience it definitely has medical uses. While undergoing radiation treatment through the stomach area I suffered from nausea to the point that the smell of the corridor in the cancer center made me queasy. The doctor said he could prescribe a drug to reduce the nausea but a side effect was fatigue. Instead I tried… Read more »