Let’s Just Criminalize Prohibition

 

imageAs marijuana legalization and decriminalization gains traction nationwide — DC this morning, as well as Alaska, the first red state to decriminalize — I can’t help but feel that it is inevitable that my own home state of New Jersey will follow suit sooner rather than later. Although New Jersey can, at times, feel like living in a liberty hinterland, the state’s blueish nature should, at least theoretically, lead to gains on the civil liberties front. Nonetheless, we still find that our politicians rely upon old saws in constructing their political positions on the intoxicant.

For instance, take the claim that marijuana is a gateway drug that will lead to a general decline of society. Assemblywoman Mary Pat Angelini (R-Monmouth) is putting together an anti-legalization activist group. Its platform will include arguments relating to “health and incarceration statistics about marijuana users, and questions about additional costs that might be incurred as a result of legalization.”

I’m certain the assemblywoman means well, but, frankly, the tide of facts and history moves against her efforts. Without having the benefit of really being able to parse her incipient group’s position, it seems hard to believe that legalized marijuana will do anything but dry up a significant portion of the criminal trafficking in our state and nation. Thus, at the outset, a major social cost related to enforcing prohibition disappears — if not overnight, then very quickly.

No doubt, there would be health care costs borne by society for people who choose to smoke marijuana — but society must already bearing those costs. I am not a user of marijuana, but I am pretty sure someone within my immediate circle is and could get it for me. Prohibition has not done much to dissuade users, it has only provided a steady supply of inmates to prisons. Thus, whatever healthcare costs marijuana imposes are already being imposed, and prohibition has done nothing to stop that.

Further, granting the assemblywoman’s belief that the use of marijuana will be similar to the use of alcohol — and thus may require police to become involved in domestic disputes because combatants are high — the argument is still unpersuasive. Society must surely already be dealing with this problem (if it even exists).

Further, the logical implications on this point are disturbing. The assemblywoman directly draws a parallel to the use of alcohol in citing the undesirability of citizens having legal access to marijuana. The implication lurking behind this — though I am not at all certain it is what the assemblywoman intended — is that prohibition as a general social policy should be more extensive. Maybe it should include alcohol?

In a free society, we need to put up with each other’s vices so long as they do not directly harm or interfere with our lives. I would expect my neighbor not to get high around my kids or blow smoke in my face, just the same way I would expect him not to tie one on and stumble around my yard completely drunk. I would never expect my neighbor to be unable to drink or smoke whatever he wanted on his own property or with his own social circles.

Yes, there are healthcare costs to smoking (anything), just like there are healthcare costs to skydiving, being obese, serving food with peanuts, playing hockey… and so on. Life itself is a risky proposition, and our means of controlling our fear of death and the unknown cannot be to rob it of all flavor. We are surely more mature than that as a people.

 

(edited to add in “decriminalization” as per EJ’s comment below)

There are 32 comments.

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  1. Mike H Coolidge
    Mike H
    @MikeH

    Great post. It’s nice to see people are slowly coming around to getting the state out of other’s buisness as much as possible.

    • #1
  2. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @

    LEAP Law Enforcement Against Prohibition “…protecting you from yourself is a function of family, church, education and the healthcare system…it never should have been intended to be a law enforcement function” LEAP member former police captain Peter Christ

    • #2
  3. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Kristian Stout: As marijuana legalization gains traction nationwide…

    “Legalization” is not gaining traction. Decriminalization is gaining traction.

    Just try selling untaxed marijuana cigarettes in Colorado and see how long you go without running afoul of law enforcement.

    • #3
  4. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    Franco – If “protecting you from yourself is a function of family, church, education and the healthcare system…it never should have been intended to be a law enforcement function…”, does that mean law enforcement should ignore the suicidal?

    The psychotropic element found in marijuana has increased four-fold in the last 30 years. Some of the latest research indicates that the factual tide may not be moving in the direction you assume it is.

    • #4
  5. The King Prawn Inactive
    The King Prawn
    @TheKingPrawn

    The vast majority of marijuana use will be of no concern to society, just like it is with alcohol. It’s that very small percentage of abusers which become the problem. I suppose we’ll soon just have to feel our way through that mess.

    • #5
  6. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @

    EJHill:Franco – If “protecting you from yourself is a function of family, church, education and the healthcare system…it never should have been intended to be a law enforcement function…”, does that mean law enforcement should ignore the suicidal?

    The psychotropic element found in marijuana has increased four-fold in the last 30 years. Some of the latest research indicates that the factual tide may not be moving in the direction you assume it is.

    What direction do you assume that I assume it is going EJ?

    I’m not trying to make the point that weed is harmless, although even at present potencies it is considerably less harmless than alcohol which is legal and causes all manner of problems far eclipsing marijuana. If you watch the interview, or listen to Milton Friedman who is a google search away on you tube, you would understand better where I am coming from. There’s a good interview with Peter Robinson and Gov. Pete Wilson and Milty circa 2000. 15 years later, no progress on the war on drugs has been made.

    • #6
  7. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    Franco – It was the original poster, not you, that made the “tide” remark. Participanting from an iPad is harder than doing it from a PC.

    • #7
  8. Zoon Politikon Inactive
    Zoon Politikon
    @KristianStout

    Misthiocracy:

    Kristian Stout: As marijuana legalization gains traction nationwide…

    “Legalization” is not gaining traction. Decriminalization is gaining traction.

    Just try selling untaxed marijuana cigarettes in Colorado and see how long you go without running afoul of law enforcement.

    Right — thank you for the clarification.  I am getting ahead of myself on the legalization front.

    • #8
  9. Zoon Politikon Inactive
    Zoon Politikon
    @KristianStout

    EJHill:The psychotropic element found in marijuana has increased four-fold in the last 30 years. Some of the latest research indicates that the factual tide may not be moving in the direction you assume it is.

    EJ, I’m not sure i would call anything harmless.  I have a couple of thoughts on this point, though.
    First, although this would not be my own preference, but if it were legal/more legal and regulated, there would be the possibility for creating marijuana with acceptable levels of THC.  Just as I stay away from moonshine that someone would make in their basement, and prefer a nice, well regulated bottle of pure agave Tequila, I think most people, concerned for their safety, would be more than happy to rely on the government-recommended or approved marijuana.

    Second, even without a tightly regulated industry, there would undoubtedly be private actors who would generate popularly available information to help guide consumers to the right, least harmful choices.

    Just because it might be dangerous doesn’t mean it should be banished. It should be treated with respect and intelligence.  Its a cost-benefit calculation that individuals should be able to perform.

    • #9
  10. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    My problem with weed is that detecting a level of intoxication is not as easy as it is with alcohol. Breath tests are less invasive than blood tests. It is easier for a LEO to legally determine who is impaired.

    • #10
  11. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    EJHill:My problem with weed is that detecting a level of intoxication is not as easy as it is with alcohol. Breath tests are less invasive than blood tests. It is easier for a LEO to legally determine who is impaired.

    My problem with it is that it’s stinky.

    • #11
  12. Zoon Politikon Inactive
    Zoon Politikon
    @KristianStout

    EJHill:My problem with weed is that detecting a level of intoxication is not as easy as it is with alcohol. Breath tests are less invasive than blood tests. It is easier for a LEO to legally determine who is impaired.

    EJ, thats a completely fair point.  I want to make sure I’m clear that I don’t think there are no negative affects from marijuana use.

    • #12
  13. Mendel Inactive
    Mendel
    @Mendel

    EJHill:My problem with weed is that detecting a level of intoxication is not as easy as it is with alcohol. Breath tests are less invasive than blood tests. It is easier for a LEO to legally determine who is impaired.

    This is certainly a difficulty, but it’s not unique to marijuana. There’s also no technology which allows police to determine if a driver has been up for 24 hours, or is (legally) taking prescription medications which affect driving, or myriad other hazardous conditions. The best tools police have in those situations are roadside functional tests and gut instinct.

    • #13
  14. Ontheleftcoast Member
    Ontheleftcoast
    @Ontheleftcoast

    EJHill:Franco – It was the original poster, not you, that made the “tide” remark. Participanting from an iPad is harder than doing it from a PC.

    No fooling, though I’ll try to remember your probably inadvertent portmanteau coinage. Participanting! I like it.

    • #14
  15. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Mendel:

    EJHill:My problem with weed is that detecting a level of intoxication is not as easy as it is with alcohol. Breath tests are less invasive than blood tests. It is easier for a LEO to legally determine who is impaired.

    This is certainly a difficulty, but it’s not unique to marijuana. There’s also no technology which allows police to determine if a driver has been up for 24 hours, or is (legally) taking prescription medications which affect driving, or myriad other hazardous conditions. The best tools police have in those situations are roadside functional tests and gut instinct.

    And how come it’s legal for a significant other in the passenger seat to yammer on endlessly about meaningless hipposcat?!

    I find that to be the #1 source of my own driving errors.

    • #15
  16. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    EJHill:Franco – It was the original poster, not you, that made the “tide” remark. Participanting from an iPad is harder than doing it from a PC.

    You think you have experienced pain?

    I scoff at you.

    SCOFF!!!

    Try accessing Ricochet on a Blackberry Q10.

    JUST TRY IT!

    • #16
  17. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @

    There seems to be an assumption made that pot is similar to other substances alcohol especially, and that there is the same kind of impairment on driving. The fact is, weed is very different and, while driving stone cold sober is the safest, marijuana users tend to be more cautious, more concerned for their abilities and not interested in taking risks. This can be seen in the experiment below where they had to get these three subjects up to 15X the legal limit before they could discern real impairment. The subjects were not especially wishing to even get that high as it is not pleasurable especially when a task like driving is required. In short, it’s not the same animal and it should be lumped in with driving drunk. Not to say there should not be laws and limits. I’m not saying that but watch the video.

    • #17
  18. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    Participanting. Either I’m the new Shakespeare or the next Sarah Palin. So much for autocorrect. Calling Dr. Freud… Dr. Freud to the white courtesy phone…

    • #18
  19. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    EJHill:Participanting. Either I’m the new Shakespeare or the next Sarah Palin. So much for autocorrect. Calling Dr. Freud… Dr. Freud to the white courtesy phone…

    < apropos of nothing mode = on >

    When no existing word accurately conveys a desired idea, I think that coining a new word is a superior strategy to altering the meaning of an existing word, and therefore it is unfortunate that the custom seems to be to mock folk who coin new words.

    My favourite example is “misunderestimate”, which I think is an excellent word that conveys a very specific idea that is not conveyed by any other single word.

    < apropos of nothing mode = off >

    • #19
  20. user_1126573 Member
    user_1126573
    @

    The idea that legalizing pot will end illegal trafficking or free up law enforcement from dealing with pot is incredible naive and wrong.

    • #20
  21. Zoon Politikon Inactive
    Zoon Politikon
    @KristianStout

    John Wilson:The idea that legalizing pot will end illegal trafficking or free up law enforcement from dealing with pot is incredible naive and wrong.

    John, I don’t believe I would say that it will end all illegal trafficking, but it surely would have some positive effect on the need for law enforcement? I’m curious to hear more of your position.

    • #21
  22. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Kristian Stout:

    John Wilson:The idea that legalizing pot will end illegal trafficking or free up law enforcement from dealing with pot is incredible naive and wrong.

    John, I don’t believe I would say that it will end all illegal trafficking, but it surely would have some positive effect on the need for law enforcement? I’m curious to hear more of your position.

    Well, I’m not John, but since states that decriminalize are chomping at the bit to tax and regulate marijuana, it means that responsibility for enforcement will shift from police to bureaucrats, much like the enforcement of tobacco regulations.

    Whether that’s a positive, negative, or neutral is in the eye of the beholder.

    I’m guessing that people who make their living in the tobacco industry wouldn’t describe it as a government-free paradise. It certainly isn’t where I live, where the anti-tobacco regulations get downright ridiculous.

    • #22
  23. Zoon Politikon Inactive
    Zoon Politikon
    @KristianStout

    Misthiocracy:

    Kristian Stout:

    John Wilson:The idea that legalizing pot will end illegal trafficking or free up law enforcement from dealing with pot is incredible naive and wrong.

    John, I don’t believe I would say that it will end all illegal trafficking, but it surely would have some positive effect on the need for law enforcement? I’m curious to hear more of your position.

    Well, I’m not John, but since states that decriminalize are chomping at the bit to tax and regulate marijuana, it means that responsibility for enforcement will shift from police to bureaucrats, much like the enforcement of tobacco regulations.

    Whether that’s a positive, negative, or neutral is in the eye of the beholder.

    I’m guessing that people who make their living in the tobacco industry wouldn’t describe it as a government-free paradise. It certainly isn’t where I live, where the anti-tobacco regulations get downright ridiculous.

    Thats a great point.  For example the death of Eric Garner occurred in the context of him selling “illegal cigarettes.”

    • #23
  24. user_1126573 Member
    user_1126573
    @

    Misthiocracy:

    Kristian Stout:

    John Wilson:The idea that legalizing pot will end illegal trafficking or free up law enforcement from dealing with pot is incredible naive and wrong.

    John, I don’t believe I would say that it will end all illegal trafficking, but it surely would have some positive effect on the need for law enforcement? I’m curious to hear more of your position.

    Well, I’m not John, but since states that decriminalize are chomping at the bit to tax and regulate marijuana, it means that responsibility for enforcement will shift from police to bureaucrats, much like the enforcement of tobacco regulations.

    Whether that’s a positive, negative, or neutral is in the eye of the beholder.

    I’m guessing that people who make their living in the tobacco industry wouldn’t describe it as a government-free paradise. It certainly isn’t where I live, where the anti-tobacco regulations get downright ridiculous.

    That’s part of it. The other is that there are a lot of people who make a lot of money dealing pot. They aren’t going to go away and just let the government and the approved distributors eat their lunch. It’s not so simple as saying that pot is now legal so we’re more free and the legal issues go away.

    • #24
  25. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    If you regulate the THC content of weed, guess what? There’s still going to be a market for the black market “good” stuff.

    • #25
  26. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    At the end of the day, I think anybody that argues that decriminalization is a panacea is dishing out a load of hipposcat.

    But then, anybody who argues that any government policy on any topic is a panacea is dishing out a load of hipposcat.

    Simply because a policy isn’t a panacea doesn’t make it a bad idea.

    • #26
  27. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    Mis – At least you’re not a hippo crit.

    • #27
  28. Mike H Coolidge
    Mike H
    @MikeH

    Misthiocracy:

    Well, I’m not John, but since states that decriminalize are chomping at the bit to tax and regulate marijuana.

    This concerns me. I mean, regulated pot is better than illegal pot, but it’s naive to think it’s some tax boondoggle and there’s no price that would push people back into the black market.

    • #28
  29. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    John Wilson:

    That’s part of it. The other is that there are a lot of people who make a lot of money dealing pot. They aren’t going to go away and just let the government and the approved distributors eat their lunch. It’s not so simple as saying that pot is now legal so we’re more free and the legal issues go away.

    Industrially produced marijuana would be hard to beat on price. Like industrially produced tobacco, or industrially produced wheat, rice, apples and beef.

    • #29
  30. user_370242 Inactive
    user_370242
    @Mikescapes

    EJHill is on to something with his comments on the potentcy of pot – not the other, off topic stuff. My best guess is that Milton Friedman never smoked a joint. I doubt that Franco ever crossed paths with something called Sour Diesel, but who knows. Not that I have, but my evil twin, Stoner, tells me it’s todays psychedelic. This is not your uncle’s recreational  grass. They don’t even look like a proper joint. They are “Blunts”; long, fat, V-shaped affairs – according to reports I’ve read.

    To think that driving while high on this chemical is less dangerous than booze is a fairy tale. Even Stoner had to turn to his designated driver to get him safely back to Denver. He’d been drinking. I don’t know how they tweak it, but it’s at least 3 to 4 times stronger than back in the day. You’d have to drink up to 3.8 on the breatholizer to get into the same neighborhood as a couple of hits of off one of these joints, and you’d never make it out form under the bar stool to the car. The cops won’t have much of a problem measuring levels of intoxication from marijuana when you’re wrapped around a telephone pole.

    Pot has been sold illegally forever. Of course the cops would bust sellers w/out a license in CO. Legal pot sold in dope stores is very expensive. Dealers don’t advertise cheaper, blackmarket pot. B/t/w, the salespeople don’t tell you how powerful a brand is. So caveat emptor!

    • #30

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