Monday, October 19, 2009

Will Pot Be Legalized?

The first in a week long series on illegal drugs.

To cope with its financial woes, many in California are now openly discussing the possibility of legalizing marijuana. This May, Republican governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said it was time to debate legalizing and taxing marijuana for medical use. To that end, State assemblyman Tom Ammian has sponsored a bill in the state assembly.

Legalized pot would bring in around $1 billion in tax revenues annually for the state. It should be noted that that would not close the budget shortfall in California, which stood at a whopping $26.3 billion before lawmakers reached a deal. But then legalizing marijuana could also free up money spent on prohibition. This means less money spent on incarcerating pot users, and less police time spent tracking down users.

Still a big deficit would be left. But there are other reasons one might support legalizing pot. Libertarians who have a large commitment to personal freedom often support legalization. We allow people to drink alcohol, eat big Macs, and get abortions, because we think people have rights over their own bodies, even if their behaviors will harm them, libertarians reason.

Indeed, it seems odd that our belief in personal freedom encompasses a woman’s right to terminate a life (depending on your view) through an abortion, but not let her get high afterward. On the other hand, we have plenty of paternalistic laws as well, such as making people wear seat belts, or requiring people to be 21 to drink.

Legalization though raises plenty of questions. Will we require pot-smokers to be at least 21? If so, then we’ll have at least some enforcement costs. Who will sell pot? Would you be able to get it by going to Wal Mart? At what rate would it be taxed? If it’s taxed really highly, a black market could develop to some degree. Since marijuana is the so-called “gateway drug” will increased marijuana use also result in increased crack and heroine use?

What do you think? Should we legalize pot? Sound off in the comments section.


  1. Remember that freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength, and war is peace.
    So when politicians seem to be loosening their grip on your reigns, you really ought to wonder what's coming next.