Marijuana is a cultural icon in the last 50 years.  When you talk about pot some stereotypes jump into your head.  For most of us, it’s the crowd for Grateful Dead hippies that rock tie-dye shirts and work in places where flip-flops are the norm.  But weed, is so much more than that in this society.  Athletes use it to wind down, sick people use it for certain treatments, and of course most people who do smoke do so for recreational purposes.  Wikipedia cites a reference that estimates 100 million Americans have at least tried weed.

***Before we proceed it should be noted The Weakonomist does not smoke anything because of concern to his health, and while I have no problem with anyone who chooses to do so I am not condoning the practice of any illegal activities.***

Now, before I can explain why pot should be legalized, we must jump in a time machine to learn why it was made illegal in the first place.  There is no shortage of websites out there devoted to the history of marijuana legislation.  Salon.com has one of the best though, and it includes a short YouTube video highlighting the 10 most common reasons for why marijuana is illegal and why it was made illegal.  The short version of this is the following:

Well-funded industries that competed with hemp (like cotton and rope) lobbied against hemp farming.  Mexican and African-Americans smoked weed and some white people back in the day didn’t like those people.  Claims from they would get your children to smoke it to it makes you a murdering lunatic if you smoke it were unsubstantiated by evidence, but embraced by the culture.

Basically, marijuana was made illegal because of the results of a well-run disinformation campaign.


Now I don’t need to explain to you that marijuana is not addictive, a “gateway drug”, or any more harmful in moderation than alcohol.  I don’t need to explain this because as a well-informed citizen you already knew this.  Right?

So my fundamental argument for the legalization of marijuana based simply on the fact that alcohol and tobacco are legal.  Tobacco is addictive and very harmful to you.  Alcohol does have a risk of dependency and if consumed in any amount above “moderate” harmful to your body and those around you.  Pot is no more dangerous or harmless than alcohol or tobacco.  We seem to get by just fine with those legalized.

There are some considerable advantages to legalizing marijuana.  The an important advantage is the immediate drop in crime that would occur.  Drug dealers would be out of business, and the smuggling organizations would have to stick with coke, X, and people for their profits.

Legalizing weed will also allow the FDA to regulate the drug.  They could determine a safe amount of intake that is OK for driving (and that might be 0 which is fine), they could also study the plant more closely and perhaps make it even safer.  There’s tons of science in tobacco so I’m just sayin…

The most important advantage of legalizing pot is the tax revenue.  You can’t stop the business so you might as well get a cut.  Governments, local and national, bring in billions every year from the taxes on cigarettes and tobacco.  Most smokers of weed would gladly pay a 10% tax if it meant they could legally smoke it; the price would probably still be cheaper than it is now in a formal, legal market.  I’d just be giddy if we legalized pot and used all tax proceeds to pay down national debt, but I’ll keep dreaming.

Yes there will be still be a black market, but right now that’s the only market.  Legalized pot will have black markets similar to alcohol or tobacco, which are very small.  They are small because of a flock to quality and convenience in the regulated alcohol and tobacco markets.  It’s much easier to go down to the store and pick of a six-pack and a hard-pack than it is to make your own beer or grow your own tobacco.  Most people will just buy it off the shelves.

I could list plenty of more advantages but I’ll let Balanced Politics do it instead and also quell some myths.

The big question now is “will it happen?” It’s not happening soon, but it’s happening.  Alcohol was decriminalized because they tried to yank it out of our hands after we were already used to it.  So we went elsewhere to get it.  Pot didn’t have that advantage because most people back then didn’t even know what it was.  But regardless, pot is now very much a commodity that is as easy to obtain as extra-strength Tylenol.  The government would do themselves a favor to just stop fighting it because you can’t stop it.  They’ve been trying for two generations and its use has done nothing but increase.  I would guess we still have another generation to go before we see it legalized, if nothing else to clean out all the old farts in Congress that were around for the disinformation.  But I am sure that I will see it legalized, one state at a time, during my lifetime.

extreme perhaps, but funny

categories: economics, government