Thoughts, essays, and writings on Liberty. Written by the heirs of Patrick Henry.

“I would remind you that extremism in defense of liberty is no vice. And let me also remind you that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.”     Barry Goldwater

April 27, 2009

WSJ dares ask the question…

by Jason Pye

Tired of hearing about violence at the Mexico border, the false claims of firearms coming from the United States that fuel the violence and the imprisonment of citizens who are doing nothing other than trying to help patients with medical problems? If so, the Wall Street Journal has a solution to drug war blues:

An administration really open to “change” would consider a long-term solution to the problem — ending the market for illegal drugs by eliminating their illegality. We cannot destroy the appetite for psychotropic drugs. Both animals and humans have an innate desire for the altered consciousness obtainable through drugs. What we can and should do is eliminate the black market for the drugs by regulating and taxing them as we do our two most harmful recreational drugs, tobacco and alcohol.

Marijuana presents the strongest case for this approach. According to some estimates, marijuana comprises about 70% of the illegal product distributed by the Mexican cartels. Marijuana will grow anywhere. If the threat of criminal prosecution and forfeitures did not deter American marijuana farmers, America’s entire supply of that drug would be home-grown. If we taxed the marijuana agribusiness at rates similar to that for tobacco and alcohol, we would raise about $10 billion in taxes per year and would save another $10 billion we now spend on law enforcement and imprisoning marijuana users and distributors.

I’ve never even so much as smoked marijuana, though smelled it frequently during my days playing in bands, legalization (or at least decriminalization) should be on the table. It’s a position that prominent conservatives like William F. Buckley, Jr and George Will have supported.

States faced significant budget shortfalls this year while thousands of non-violent drug offenders sit in prison. If you look at it from an economic issue, legalization or decriminalization would help states significantly.

Social conservatives need to consider this point, legalizing marijuana is more popular than the Republican Party.

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29 Comments

  1. I am getting so tired of libertarians saying, “drugs should be legalized”, and then in the next breath “drugs should then be taxed and regulated”. I for one don’t need any additional taxes OR regulations.

    Comment by Dogboy49 — April 27, 2009 @ 5:45 pm
  2. Ending marijuana prohibition would save the American taxpayer between $10 and $41 billion annually.
    89% of marijuana arrests are for simple possession, not sale or manufacture. Couldn’t our law enforcement resources be put to better use against violent criminals?

    Comment by scott price — April 27, 2009 @ 5:58 pm
  3. I think that drugs should be legalized, but I don’t think that they should be taxed and regulated. Of course, in reality, if our government decided to legalize drugs, it’d probably also decide that another administrative agency was required to manage it. And then now-illegal drugs would be just like legal drugs, taxed, standardized, and regulated. No, thanks. For now, it’d be nice if drugs were just decriminalized; there’s a difference between decriminalization and legalization.

    Comment by Kathryn Rebecca — April 27, 2009 @ 7:54 pm
  4. Free the Weed!

    Comment by todd — April 27, 2009 @ 9:02 pm
  5. lets decriminalize: speeding, building less than required by codes, building with out permits, vehicle registration, all traffic violations that do not involve a victim, gun laws, other weapon laws…..Get my drift? Also I’m not sure if current economic needs are what should dictate law making as suggested in one comment.

    Comment by Steve — April 27, 2009 @ 9:13 pm
  6. Steve,

    I presume the theme of your list is intended to imply some danger in legalizing marijuana. Do you see marijuana as dangerous? If so, how? Would you say marijuana is more dangerous than alcohol or tobacco?

    Comment by Akston — April 27, 2009 @ 9:33 pm
  7. If you live in California and favor legalization of marijuana for adults, YOU can make it happen. Tell your state representatives to support California Assembly Bill 390. It’s easy. Visit yes390.org

    Comment by AB390 — April 27, 2009 @ 9:35 pm
  8. Working in the schools for over 35 years in Arizona, I have observed another cost of the drug war in addition to those of arrest, trial, and imprisonment. That is money provided to the remainder of the family who often are forced onto public assistance to provide for financial support, medical care, and food. When the breadwinner returns home “he” is unable to obtain student aid to pursue college and unemployable due to being considered a convict. As a result, the family often remains on public assistance for a period longer than the imprisonment. Although this does not happen with every drug arrest, it happens frequently enough that I am sure that the cost is substantial in the way our current system works.

    Comment by Dave — April 28, 2009 @ 2:35 am
  9. It is a felony crime to suppress exculpatory evidence, yet in hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of cases every year, American citizens are arrested and sentenced for possession of cannabis on the grounds that it is a Schedule 1 drug, supposedly having no currently accepted medical use. This despite the fact that the federal government holds a patent, number 6630507 titled “Cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants”*. This opens the door to hundreds of thousands, if not millions of lawsuits. Cannabis has proven neuroprotective and anticarcinogenic properties, and restitution is due to all those charged or convicted of “marijuana” crimes. Got liability?

    *see http://digitaljournal.com/article/257008

    and: http://www.patentstorm.us/patents/6630507.html

    Comment by Historicus — April 28, 2009 @ 3:21 am
  10. My point was that society creates laws to protect the general public from likely injury. Example: limiting the speed in residential area…speeding it self does not hurt any one…until you hurt someone. Smoke away….why should I care, but if you cause injury because you want to be high, I think that is much worse than being negligent….but thats just me. If you want to apply this type of philosophy across the board I’m all for it.

    Comment by Steve — April 28, 2009 @ 5:40 am
  11. As far as alcohol and tobacco, i’m not sure how tabacco causes concern for others, does it alter ones capacity to make good decisions?, and I consider alcohol the same as any other drug, in fact I was taught it was a drug. I personally have no use for any of it, never have, and that was my personal choice.

    Comment by Steve — April 28, 2009 @ 6:03 am
  12. Legalize speeding? Puh-lease… Cannabis prohibition is the abomination and its enforcement is the crime. Abduction, extortion and coercion under color of authority.

    Abolish cannabis prohibition.

    Comment by Richard Steeb — April 28, 2009 @ 6:17 am
  13. Steve,

    Would you say an adult drinking alcohol, smoking tobacco, or smoking marijuana on his own or with other consenting adults poses a danger to others (other than himself/themselves)? I’m curious about the specific behavior of consuming those drugs, divorced for the moment from any subsequent behavior (driving a car, using a firearm, etc).

    Comment by Akston — April 28, 2009 @ 7:49 am
  14. This issue (pot) is an issue which personal for me. I’m the Father of a kid who got thrown out of college his freshman year due to being busted for pot during a surprise inspection by the dorm counselor. And then thrown out of the military his first week of boot camp due to failing a drug test (pot again) which apparently detects usage as far back as 4-6 weeks, and is much more sophisticated than the simpler test he took at the recruiting office the day he shipped out to basic, which he passed.

    The dumb and stubborn kid thought if he finally put out the cigarettes and stopped smoking weed, for good – (and that is when he started seriously running and doing push-ups, etc.) one full month before shipping out, he’d be fine – and that was enough lead time.

    And now he is now prohibited from pursuing the only thing he ever had any interest in doing – which is to serve in the military, in ANY branch -due to his “RE-4″ general discharge, which is the kiss of death. Even if he tries again in ten years, from what I’ve been told.

    And is probably screwed out of ever being eligible for any number of government jobs, too. Which is a shame considering how large The Won will be growing it.

    All due to he (and all his friends – all of whom are nice college aged kids and not “thugs,” etc.) immature attraction to and enjoyment of (he never was “addicted” – he just liked it more than beer) recreational use of “weed.”

    So…my own attitude about it has moved more into the realm of “F–k it, just legalize the stupid shit and take away the “taboo.” It won’t help my kid any – to late for him now – but maybe other kids in the future won’t have quite as big a scarlet letter branded on their forehead.

    I have a lot of empathy with parents in my situation whose kid actually has a CRIMINAL record due to pot standing in their way of their future.

    My question – Is it as easily detectable for the police to determine if someone is driving under the influence of pot during a traffic stop as it is to determine booze? In other words, is there something as easy as a breathalizer they can use with pot? That is my ONLY concern with legalizing it – the challenge of dealing with impaired drivers.

    Comment by southernjames — April 28, 2009 @ 8:03 am
  15. I’m sorry to hear about your son, James. I don’t understand why he wasn’t given the more sophisticated test first, to determine eligibility (or at least warned that it might be given, and could detect marijuana use up to six weeks prior).

    I share your concern about actions under the influence. Those are the only “drug crimes” that make sense to me- those committed under the influence of a drug or narcotic, not possession, or distribution (or those silly “possession with intent” charges). The bottom line is that people need to be responsible for their own actions. If a person chooses to drive and smoke, he puts others at risk and needs to accept the consequences for his actions. Smoking, whether for medicinal or for recreational use, should not be a crime.

    Comment by Kathryn Rebecca — April 28, 2009 @ 8:31 am
  16. Re: ” . . . ONLY concern with legalizing it – the challenge of dealing with impaired drivers.”

    In fact, University of Toronto adjunct professor Alison Smiley studied this issue extensively. She drew her results from a “metanalysis” of existing research into the effects of marijuana on driving ability, combined with traffic accident statistics in the United States and Australia, finding that “(w)hile smoking marijuana does impair driving ability, it does not share alcohol’s effect on judgment. Drivers on marijuana remain aware of their impairment, prompting them to slow down and drive more cautiously to compensate . . .”

    from: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1999/03/990325110700.htm

    More on this issue, here, with extensive footnotes:
    http://norml.org/index.cfm?Group_ID=7459

    and see “researchers found that the mellowing effects of cannabis made drivers more cautious and so less likely to drive dangerously.”, here:
    http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v00/n1161/a02.html

    Also “The largest study ever done linking road accidents with drugs and alcohol has found drivers with cannabis in their blood were no more at risk than those who were drug-free.”

    from: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v98/n945/a08.html

    Comment by Historicus — April 28, 2009 @ 8:57 am
  17. Um, got statistics?

    “The largest study ever done linking road accidents with drugs and alcohol has found drivers with cannabis in their blood were no more at risk than those who were drug-free.”

    http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v98/n945/a08.html

    Comment by Historicus — April 28, 2009 @ 9:00 am
  18. Steeb, could you elaborate on “puh-lease” I am only 45 yo and not college educated.

    All I want is consistancy when making laws. As a building contractor I am micro-managed with laws all to serve a higher purpose evidently, to protect workers and consumers both whom are consenting parties to contracts. If your arguments go beyond “pot” i’m open to discussion, but “free the pot” doesn’t cut it for me. The discussion has to be bigger than pot, bigger than drugs.

    Also, when a person knowingly engages in illeagal activity and then is upset about the consequences later…I don’t have a lot of sympathy. I understand the disappointment felt as I was disqualified from military service because of a perforated ear drum. But I thought it was common knowledge that the military does not tolerate drug use…if military service was an ambition why jepordize your opportunities for a short term high? What message do you want to send young people(or any people)…go ahead and do what you want and we’ll get angry at the consequences if you get caught.

    Comment by Steve — April 28, 2009 @ 10:22 am
  19. I’m not saying that smoking pot and driving is more dangerous than drinking and driving (I actually believe the opposite to be true). The point I was trying to make was that I don’t agree with “possession” or “distribution” charges as “drug crimes.” I think the only drug crimes should be crimes that occur while one is under the influence of said drugs.

    Comment by Kathryn Rebecca — April 28, 2009 @ 10:27 am
  20. re: Driving while high

    2 points to ponder:
    1) Cops currently enforce dangerous driving. There’s no scarlet letter on your car that tells them that the driver has been drinking. So really, what changes? Don’t tell me your argument is “well you’ll never catch them because you can tell from their driving if they have been smoking”. Do you realize how your danger/fear argument goes right out the window? Otherwise, your question is really about “how do I add punishments on top of the underlying offense of reckless/dangerous driving?” Which leads to point…

    2) Just like with breathalizers, the existence of something in the law will create a market to make the lives of law enforcement and adjudication easier. Once cannabis is no longer a Schedule I drug, scientists will have the ability to research the substance which will certainly lead to ways to test for proximate use. Problems are the genesis of solutions, people.

    Comment by Capitalism Provides Answers! — April 28, 2009 @ 10:35 am
  21. edit: it was supposed to read “well you’ll never catch them because you can’t* tell from their driving if they have been smoking”

    My typo wasn’t meant to be a poke at the type of people who might use that faulty logic. It was merely a typo. No offense was intended.

    Comment by Capitalism Provides Answers! — April 28, 2009 @ 10:50 am
  22. Also, when a person knowingly engages in illeagal activity and then is upset about the consequences later…I don’t have a lot of sympathy.

    What if that illegal activity is, for example, worshipping at the church of your choice? You don’t have a lot of sympathy because you don’t like pot, not because you revere the state. At least, I hope so.

    As for not making the military, hooray! Your son won’t be the state’s hitman.

    Comment by Joshua Holmes — April 28, 2009 @ 11:18 am
  23. “What message do you want to send young people(or any people)…go ahead and do what you want and we’ll get angry at the consequences if you get caught.”

    Nowhere in my post did I provide one iota of information for you to infer in any way shape or form, that anybody (myself or anyone else) “sent a message” that it was “okay to do what you want,” and then “we’ll get angry at the consequences later.”

    Yes he knew beforehand what the rules were. He stupidly thought he could outsmart the system, as I specifically described. He was a part-time recreational user (against my wishes and NOT with my permission or blessing) and finally gave it up for good – in anticipation of shipping out.

    Kind of the mentality some young men have before their wedding I suppose – a lifestyle of carefree bachelorhood – and then a couple of final last nights out with the boys at the girly bars leading up to the big day…and then its domestication time and no regrets and no looking back. That was, I think, what was going through his head with respect to the weekend “partying,” with his buds, as the date to get shipped out approached.

    But he was dumb, immature, miscalculating, thoughtless, and…didn’t give it up soon enough.

    But nobody was “angry” at the consequences.

    I DO happen to think that a LIFETIME ban from ever re-enlisting — even if he stays clean for ten years, gets a college degree and has all sorts of employer references (which we are now 1.5 years and counting, into achieving) is a bit over the top, in terms of being harsh. Just as I think it is overly harsh for a young person with a criminal conviction on their record – and who “did their time for doing the crime” to be considered unemployable.

    And Joshua, with all due respect, my son (and I) still hold the U.S. military and those who serve in it, in the highest regard. If he could, and if they would let him, he would go back in tomorrow. And I would not consider him to be anybody’s “hit man.”

    Comment by southernjames — April 28, 2009 @ 11:49 am
  24. The brass tacks that both pro and anti people need to bring this down to is this:

    0. Drug use is unprohibitable, Its been tried multiple times and PROVEN a failure. Peole can get high on the oxygen in the air, the adrenaline in their own bodies, or on any multitude of substances that cannot all be contained and controlled. People can also become ADDICTED to almost *ANY* substance or activity. This biggest problem we have in this country is a JUNK FOOD ADDICTION, (BTW i’m fine with obese people’s addiction to food – it soothes the pain the same as alcohol or other drugs to for others.) Also, people use drugs not the other way around, drugs are inanimate objects that rest in the last location they were left, they don’t hold a gun to people’s heads, they don’t MAKE people do bad things, they don’t MAKE pople do ANYTHING. A Person picks them up and uses *them*. The best approach to the issue, therefore is EDUCATION and REGULATED USE.

    1. Drug use of any kind is an adult behavior, minors who NEED certain drugs should do so after prescription of physician and under direct adult supervision. (and you’d have a hard time convincing me a minor NEEDS marijuana, unless they’re very ill i.e. cancer etc.)

    2. Some “Adults” will prove they are also incabable of handling their decisions about their own drug use, and as this presents a small risk to society, a system should be devised to combat it. We are already doing a piss poor job of this, and thus the drug fears that pervade society. Here’s my opinion: I personally know 4 people with MULTIPLE DUIs. These people get their priviledge to DRIVE revoked for a period of time, but never their priviledge to BUY alcohol. The truth is they are totally trustworthy to drive, they aren’t trustworthy to CONSUME ALCOHOL. This presents a better solution. Tighter REGULATIONS, as opposed to tighter PROHIBITIONS. You should be carded for alcohol if you are 70, just to check if you are still allowed the priviledge, if you get a DUI you should get a MINOR’s Driver’s license again, and never be allowed to purchase alcohol (or any other drug) again – period – ever in your life, if you need prescriptions they would be given to you by a RN (Nurse) ONE AT A TIME, at a facility. The other side of the solution that should be run in tandem is drug education. Our current drug education is to actual drug use as Abstinence education is to actual sexual activity. The “just say NO” approach is a good 1st sentence on the 1st day of the class, but should not be the message as a whole, “just say no and here’s why” works better and also you’d have to have a section of “when to say YES” and show the positive effects drugs can have on people’s lives when used intelligently and maturely, i.e. Pharmaceuticals, the end of alcohol prohibition etc. Perhaps if someone who actually ever USED marijuana had taught you about it, you’d understand where all these people who HAVE used it and realized DARE *lied* to them about it are coming from. Our current drug education system is to actual drug use as abstinence education is to actual sexual activity. There’s simply more to know than “just say no” The education should be a consistent: Use the availalbe drugs RESPONSIBLY. You see it already with the alcohol commercials, relax responsibly. You relax with your alcohol, I’ll relax with my THC.

    Comment by x1134x — April 28, 2009 @ 5:58 pm
  25. Please excuse my communication skills. What I had hoped to learn here was…what is the Libertarian litmus test for protecting the general public virsus protecting individual freedom. The topic of the day is not important to me…drugs, but rather how will/should the rationalization you use be applied elsewhere. And how will you sell it to the public if you have any hopes of being a major player in politics. I do not nesseccarily disegree with some of the rationalizations, but 300 million Americans have 300 million passionate special interests they want to rationalize in the same ways, are the all right?

    Comment by Steve — April 29, 2009 @ 12:21 pm
  26. Steve, check these links out:

    http://tinyurl.com/Henningfield-Benowitz
    http://www.google.com/search?&q=tashkin

    There is no rational justification for cannabis prohibition, unlike traffic laws and building codes.

    The law itself is the creator of the victims in the case of cannabis prohibition, and was intended to keep the [n-word]s down. Look it up.

    The prohibition of cannabis is to be repudiated.

    Comment by Richard Steeb — April 29, 2009 @ 9:02 pm
  27. Totally agree with marijuana being decriminalized. Some states have already taken actions to make it harder to get arrested for having marijuana…our prisons are already overcrowded. Legalization is another issue…I agree with some of the arguments on both sides, so I’m not gonna give my 2 cents on that one.

    Comment by Jay — April 30, 2009 @ 3:34 pm
  28. Yo, Jay– Decrim leaves us with the black market, which is the source of the crime and violence. [unless you agree that arresting people over pot IS a violent crime;] Just like the roaring twenties, when alcohol possession was NOT illegal! There is no reason cannabis shouldn’t be a legally available alternative to booze or tobacco right NOW.

    Putting people in cages is evil, don’t you think? And enriching the cartels and prison industry is stupid, eh?

    Comment by Richard Steeb — April 30, 2009 @ 6:10 pm
  29. its not an additional regulation when you free prisoners and non violent drug offenders…yeah dogboy lets fill the jails all the way up and keep them building huh?….

    Comment by don buffalo — May 1, 2009 @ 5:48 am

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