Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Another spontaneous blog: quick comments on legalization

This essay originates from a comment I posted to a link/status update on Facebook by Wayne Allyn Root. He sent out a link to a slide show titled "Marijuana: by the numbers."

Among the comments preceding mine is one lamenting the notion of accepting decriminalization and likely taxation of marijuana if and when it does finally become legal in the United States. In fact, the CNBC piece mentions that recent estimates suggest marijuana could be a $40 billion-a-year industry based on current usage rates.

The other respondent's argument is of a purist perspective on libertarianism: that we ought not to partner our political and legislative efforts with those whose motivations are to trade one form of governmental control of personal behavior for another. In a sense, moving from prohibition to legalization purely for the sake of generating tax revenue qualifies as such. He is right on that point.

But, to argue the way he did against taking the pragmatic approach toward legalization that currently is underway is going to get little accomplished in the current political atmosphere in America. From here, my elaborated reply follows.

One thing that is going to prevent many Libertarian efforts from ever seeing the light of day is this "all or nothing" attitude on issues such as legalization.

I agree that people ought to be able to enjoy the right to choose whether or not they wish to ingest THC without taxes, a state-issued card (referring to medical marijuana access in some states), or other governmental apparatus attached to it.

However, with all the history of bias fueling a great deal of the resistance to legalization of marijuana, Libertarians are going to need to accept the one-step-at-a-time path: decriminalization; expanded acceptance for medical purposes; heavily regulated and taxed access upon legalization; and eventually taxed and monitored access under the same guidelines as alcohol.

For long-time purists of Libertarian ideology, I understand that these conditions are not acceptable to you. I think it stinks, too.

But, unfortunately, our society is one that will require easing into accepting the end of marijuana prohibition. What we need to do is, whenever this effort takes one step forward in terms of how federal and state laws approach possession and distribution of it, stand firm on the ground that has been gained and identify the next logical goal in terms of either court battles or influencing the next round of legislation aimed at further legalization/decriminalization.

Even Rand Paul managed to get Sean Hannity to see his perspective (to some extent) on the need for ending the war on drugs and dramatically scaling-back its myriad of penalties for simple possession. Now that is major step forward.

1 comment:

  1. Here's an addendum to this blog.

    An interesting discussion is shaping up over at my favorite discussion forum: the Activity Pit ( It is a fan page created for die-hard viewers of Fox News Channel's "Red Eye" that consists of varying degrees of conservatives as well as libertarian-leaning conservatives and outright Libertarians. In essence, it is my intellectual home away from home.

    So, if some of the wording below doesn't make much sense, it is because it was originally authored for a different audience and in response to other replies posted there.


    All in all, folks, the United States has spent over the course of the 40-year War on Drugs approximately $1 trillion "fighting" it.

    I'm going to repeat that (in the event you hadn't caught that news report when it came out) to help it sink in: our federal government has dumped $1 trillion into the War on Drugs.

    And, has drug use in or drug smuggling into the United States been curtailed at all? No. In fact, things are worse in our society than ever before. We have a bloated drug enforcement bureaucracy that is as prone to inefficiency and corruption as any other federal entity being run by Washington.

    As mentioned previously by Kam, we have prisons and jails becoming more and more crowded with people who are serving sentences for nothing more than simple possession. If this last point sounds preposterous to any of you, just bear in mind that sentencing guidelines vary from state to state (meaning your state may not have as stringent policies or laws in effect) as well as the fact you are going to have judges exercise varying degrees of discretion on sentencing depending on who has been elected to sit on the bench of each individual district and circuit court.

    By legalizing marijuana (and I also contend it should include the raw coca leaf, raw poppy, and other naturally occurring plant intoxicants) we also will take a major bite out of the drug cartels that are raking-in tens-of-billions of dollars (if not hundreds of billions) in the narcotics trade every year. And where are they making all that money from? The cash is flowing due to illegal sale of marijuana, cocaine and crack (derived from heavily processing coca leaves), and heroin and other opiates (processed from poppy plants).

    The cold, hard truth of drug use in America is those who insist on getting their hands on them and using them are going to do so, no matter what the state of prohibition or availability may be. By legalizing at least the three naturally occurring plants specified above we can give those individuals access to less dangerous versions of their more heavily processed (and thus more concentrated) counterparts.

    The same was true of alcohol during the Prohibition years under the 18th Amendment. People were frequently poisoned due to ingesting unsafe, poorly made moonshine during this time.

    And getting back to the topic of organized crime, the unparalleled power wielded by modern drug cartels should be of no surprise to anyone due to the fact that same scenario played itself out here in America during the approximately 20 years alcohol was illegal. Organized criminal operations flourished in that historically short period of time and grew at such a pace that almost a century later many of them still pose an enormous law enforcement and public safety problem within our country.

    Yet, we still insist on repeating the same mistakes today that negatively altered much of our society in the early years of the 20th century.