The 3 Worst Arguments for Legalizing Marijuana

Hey kids, don't make these rookie mistakes!

When Gallup first asked Americans how they felt about marijuana in 1969, only 12 percent of respondents favored the legalization of weed. That number has increased steadily with each passing decade, and in October 2011, Gallup reported that 50 percent of Americans favor the legalization of marijuana, the country’s most popular illicit drug.

The shift in popular opinion reflects not just decades of scientific research showing that marijuana is relatively safer than both alcohol and harder drugs (including many prescription pills), but also the savvy PR efforts of drug reform wonks and activists. When even conservative Christians such as The 700 Club's Pat Robertson are calling for legalizing pot, you know that the war on the War on Drugs is not just winnable, but practically over. 

But that doesn't mean all arguments in favor of legalization are equally good, effective, or factual. Here are the three weakest arguments for legalizing marijuana. As you work to convince the shrinking ranks of drug prohibitionists - we're looking at you, Mr. President! - don't make these rookie mistakes when arguing for changing the legal status of cannabis.

3. Legalizing Marijuana Will End Cartel Violence in Northern Mexico

The election of Mexican President Felipe Calderon in 2006 ushered in a new era of prohibition-fueled drug violence. Six years and 50,000 drug-war deaths later, the argument that repealing marijuana prohibition could stem the violence in Mexico and along the U.S. border is ubiquitous. The claim was a major selling point for Proposition 19 in California, which would have legalized marijuana and subjected its sale to taxation and regulation, and has been made repeatedly by drug reform advocates in the two years since.

“We have created an illegal marketplace with such mind-boggling profits that no enforcement measures will ever overcome the motivation, resources and determination of the cartels,” Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson wrote in a 2011 op-ed for The Washington Times. Legalizing pot, he added, would deny the cartels “their largest profit center and dramatically reduce not only the role of the United States in their business plans, but also the motivation for waging war along our southern border.”

But there are objections to that claim. In October 2010, the RAND Corporation released a study saying that Mexican cartels derived only 16 percent of their revenue from marijuana. (As pointed out by NORML, that number conflicted with the ONDCP's estimate that 61 percent of cartel revenue comes from marijuana.) 

In June 2011, Mexico analyst Sylvia Longmire argued that cartels have diversified to the point that legalizing marijuana might dent their war chests, but it won’t stop them; they’d still make money stealing oil from pipelines, pirating and selling contraband intellectual property, extorting small businesses, bribing politicians, ransoming kidnap victims, manufacturing and moving harder drugs such as cocaine, heroin, and meth, and trafficking undocumented immigrants and sex workers.

In 2011, David Borden, executive director of StoptheDrugWar.org, emailed me with objections to Longmire’s argument: “Some of the other criminal enterprises that cartels are involved in (enterprises they've been able to enter because of having drug cash and organizations built by drug cash) are less straightforwardly tied to demand, such as kidnapping for ransom, but they have their limits—for all we know they are already doing as much of those things as they think could be sustained, and the more profit they continue to make from drugs, the more money they are going to invest in all kinds of enterprises, both illicit and licit.”

“Will the cartels vanish from the face of the earth because of marijuana legalization?" Borden continued. "Probably not. Would even full legalization of all drugs accomplish that? Unclear.”

That lack of clarity is exactly why marijuana reformers should be careful when promising what legalizing pot can and can’t do for Mexico. The war on drugs has weakened the country’s political institutions, corrupted its military and police forces, and devastated its economy. While pot legalization in the U.S. would allow users to divest from the cartels' brutality, pitching marijuana legalization as anything other than a baby step toward peace and stability in Mexico puts drug reformers on tenuous grounds.

NEXT: Marijuana should be taxed and regulated because it is America’s largest cash crop.

2. Marijuana Should Be Taxed and Regulated Because It Is America’s Largest Cash Crop

In 2006, ABC News reported that with “a value of $35.8 billion, marijuana exceeds the combined value of corn ($23.3 billion) and wheat ($7.5 billion).” That number came from a report published by Jon Gettman, director of the Coalition for Rescheduling Cannabis. Gettman arrived at this figure by multiplying the estimated number of metric tons of marijuana cultivated in the U.S. in 2005 (10,000 tons, or 20 million pounds) by a production value of $1,600 per pound.

Drug law reformers claimed Gettman’s report was evidence that eradication and enforcement efforts had failed. In the intervening years, however, the statistic has been used to make the case that taxing and regulating marijuana would solve many of America’s fiscal woes. The former argument is a sound one, the latter is not.

Here’s why: Gettman’s estimate of $1,600 per pound was conservative when compared to law enforcement agencies, which in 2005 cited the street value of marijuana at between $2,000 and $4,000 a pound. Marijuana cultivated in a post-prohibition market, however, would cost a fraction of that.

“To get a sense of the disparity in price between legal and illegal drugs,” Reason's Jacob Sullum wrote in 2007, “compare the production value of marijuana—about $1,600 per pound, by Gettman’s estimate—to the production value of tobacco, a legal psychoactive weed that U.S. farmers sell for less than $2 per pound.”

Let’s go back to 2005, make marijuana legal, and give it an astronomically high production value of $800 per pound, or half of Gettman’s black market estimate: It would have tied with soy beans in 2006 as America’s third largest cash crop, with an average production value of roughly $17 billion. If it had the same production value per pound as tobacco, or $2, its APV in 2005 would have been $44 million; or less than 10 percent of beans, 2005’s 20th most valuable cash crop.

So while pointing to marijuana as America’s largest cash crop is a good indicator of its popularity (and arguably, the safety of its use), it doesn’t follow that taxation and regulation of the drug in a post-prohibition market would be an unlimited boon to government coffers, especially when factoring in the costs of an aggressive regulatory framework.

NEXT: Marijuana should be legal because it’s medicine.

1.) Marijuana Should Be Legal Because It’s Medicine

There’s no question that marijuana eases pain, stimulates the appetite, reduces nausea, and helps with a slew of other physical and psychological ailments. There is some question, however, as to whether promoting it as medicine is the best political strategy for making it fully available as a recreational drug.

Earlier this year, NORML Executive Director Allen St. Pierre wrote a searing critique of the medical marijuana strategy.

“If this were the 1920s, advocacy of today's ‘medical’ cannabis industry would sound like a lawyer back then fronting for the legal sellers of ‘prescription’ alcohol during Prohibition. Prescriptive alcohol was a sham then, and the ‘medical’ cannabis industry (not medical cannabis itself) is largely a sham now.”

“Cannabis consumers," he continued, "who NORML represents, want good, affordable cannabis products without having to go through the insult and expense of ‘qualifying’ as a ‘medical’ patient by paying physicians and/or the state for some kind of get-out-of-jail-free card. How intellectually honest is all of this?”

One response is that successful medical marijuana ballot initiatives protect people who use marijuana for genuine medical reasons from harassment and imprisonment. But the problems with those laws--such as who counts as a caregiver, and the number of prescriptions given to people who are using it recreationally--don’t reflect well on the political acumen of drug law reformers.

Legislators and regulators are wising up and changing tactics. Because most states that currently have medical marijuana laws make the bulk of their sales to people with chronic pain—the only ailment eligible for medical marijuana that doctors can't test for, and thus the ailment most likely to be cited by recreational users looking for safe access—Washington, D.C. decided to omit chronic pain from its list of ailments that qualify for medical marijuana. In the District, only people with cancer or a terminal illness will be able to get medical pot. In Colorado, where legislators claim only 20 percent of marijuana sales are to people with "legitimate" illnesses such as HIV/AIDS, cancer, Crohn's disease, and MS, legislators are looking for ways to limit the number of recommendations doctors can write to the other 80 percent of users. 

In short, while medical marijuana laws initially gave more users safe access, anti-pot legislators now seem to know that the best way to limit marijuana sales is to treat it exactly like advocates claim to want: as medicine subject to a strict and invasive regulatory prescription scheme. 

Mike Riggs is an associate editor at Reason magazine. Follow him on Twitter.

Read Reason's drug policy coverage here.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Carmen Senz||

    If you don't like marijuana, then don't use it.

  • ||

    Ding! Done in one.

  • thirtyandseven||

    If you don't like marijuana, then don't use it.

    NO NO NO this is way too complicated.

  • Cannabis for Autism||

    Didn't a study suggest that those who naturally do not like marijuana are those most likely to benefit from it?

  • Metazoan||

    Isn't it great that legislators and idiotic bureaucrats decide what counts as a "legitimate" disease? It would be bad enough (morally) if a panel of biomedical scientists were deciding, but add insult to injury by having the decisions made by lawyers.

    Frankly, I don't understand why a patient shouldn't be able to administer any compound to himself.

  • ||

    Playing devil's advocate here; because there are compounds that lose effectiveness when over-used for trivia, such as antibiotics. There may well be others. And there are issues with toxicity and intentional poisoning.

  • Internet||

    ** jumping up and down, waving hands **

  • Metazoan||

    Yes, I do agree that there is a place for regulation of anti-pathogenic drugs only because their misuse is shown to harm others. But surely the use of cannabis (or other psychoactive drugs) in the absence of a disease does not in and of itself harm anyone else.

    Isn't intentional poisoning already a crime? And I never suggested it was wise to try random compounds, but if, say, early research shows that compound X is effective against some terminal illness, and the patient wants to try it instead of dying waiting for the bureaucrats at the FDA to fap for 10 years over the issue, I don't see why that shouldn't be permitted.

  • Tim||

    Very true and well said.

  • Concerned Citizen||

    The Ohio Historical Village has the perfect example - an 1840s era pharmacy. In the case, available to everyone, was cocaine, morphine, heroin, and other scary drugs. Back then, citizens were treated as adults. Now we're all wards of the state.

  • MacKlingon||

    Is this why I need a Vets prescription for my dogs ear med's for mites?

  • Nathan||

    For many "compounds" the damage done to the person becomes a cost to the general public.

  • Brandon||

    Citation needed.

  • I'm sorry||

    It kills me that someone named Nathan post this crap. My name is Nathan and he is retarding it for the rest of us. On behalf of all the other Nathan's (Hebrew for 'gift' which this guy isn't) I apologize. We are not really like this.

    For many compounds the damage done will take these people out of the population earlier and thus cost us less for end of life care. Reference smoking tobacco.

  • I'm sorry||

    Also

    No Jew

  • ||

    "becomes a cost to the general public."

    ...AAAAND who do you think's responsible for that, comrade dipshit?

  • Clifford Schaffer||

    In the case of antibiotics, unrestrained use renders them ineffective for everyone. That's one reason.

  • shrike||

    All Power to the Imagination!

  • Suki||

    My favorite dumb one didn't make the list: "It is better for you than tobacco."

    Breathing smoke should not be considered "better" than other things. The best argument for legalization, of course, is that you should be free to ingest what you like.

  • Zeb||

    It is perfectly reasonable to say that inhaling one kind of smoke is better than inhaling another when one of those kinds of smoke is far less likely to kill you.

  • ||

    Perhaps, but to the best of my knowledge the assertion that marijuana smoke is less toxic than tobacco smoke is based on assumptions rather than science. In fact there are a number of toxins in marijuana smoke that are far more concentrated than those in the smoke from cigarette tobacco (pipe and cigar tobacco isn't meant to be inhaled). Of course a person who smokes as many joints in a day as even a fairly moderate tobacco smoker smokes cigarettes is probably reducing his brain to gruel. But the assumption that using fewer doses of higher concentration is less damaging than more moderate doses more often is just that; an assumption.

    Furthermore, since the anti-smokers would be all for banning tobaccos if they thought they could get away with it, the arguments is a tactical mistake.

  • Randy||

    Gruel? Really?

    Kind of an ironic post from you given your posts advising others to exercise caution when discussing MJ issues.

  • ||

    The best of your knowledge is wrong. We've studied marijuana for a little over 40 years, researchers can't agree on more than chronic bronchitis. You need to do some research before you blather like a drug warrior.

  • NYer||

    Nevertheless, he is right that arguing over which is worse could easily lead to the prohibitionists just responding with "fine, lets ban tobacco too!" When faced with double standards and hypocrisy a drug warrior will undoubtedly err on the side of restriction rather than on the side of liberty.

  • Mouth Breather||

    Mike Day, your comments are interesting to me. It seems to be common knowledge that breathing in the products of incomplete combustion are harmful, whether they come from woodsmoke, tobacco smoke, or anything else. I don't know why marijuana would be any different, being a plant product just like tobacco or wood (or paper). Is the low risk of cannabis mostly a result of the low volume of combustion products consumed, or due to some fundamental difference in the plant chemistry that makes marijuana safer?

    Also, later you mention vaporizers - no argument on that point. Same with dissolving THC in fat/oil and cooking into a food product; these seem like good ways to deliver a high without the poisons.

  • Mike Day||

    Cannabinoids are anti-carcinogenic and anti-inflammatory. Dr Donald Tashkin lead the largest study on marijuana and lung cancer, he said it caused pre-cancerous growths but cannabinoids seemed to shrink those afterward.

  • ||

    Recent studies have shown that standing near a wood fire will do far more damage to your lungs than even smoking tobacco, but what cannabis does is encourages the damaged cells to die and be replaced with healthy ones, unlike other forms of smoke where it collects and clogs up the smaller passages in the lungs... This is why you can have a cannabis user win so many gold medals & other awards in the Olympics.

  • ||

    C.S.P. Schofield, start your research here:
    http://healthland.time.com/201.....ng-damage/

  • ||

    But then:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/2419713.stm

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....110741.htm

    This should be #4 on the list: all of you morons proselytizing for pot like it carried vast health benefits.

  • ||

    Google "Storm Crow's List" and lose the egregious ignorance. The Tashkin study disproves your assertions.

  • ||

  • Nathan||

    Or eating it instead of smoking it. You can ingest marijuana and have an effect, but not so much with tobacco without getting a NASTY stomach ache.

  • Father Jack||

    I love my vapouriser. Drink! Feck! Arse! Girls!

  • ||

    The reason most people have to smoke is because they are either unaware of healthy alternatives or they can't afford them. I personally can make anything from cannabis and yet could never afford enough plant material to use healthier methods on a regular basis to deal with a severe neurological disorder I've been dealing with since I was 6yo. That is what happens when you base all your drug laws on recreational use and ignore the medicinal uses. I would be dead if not for this plant.

  • Apatheist ಠ_ರೃ||

    It's dumb because no one cares but it is in fact correct. It's retarded to think that there can't be varying levels of harm, with one being better than another.

  • Nathan||

    or less bad.

  • Toolbag||

    You can always eat it or put it in delicious brownies.

  • ||

    I smoked marijuana regularly for almost 20 years. It played havoc with my throat and chest, but I was so dependent on it that I believed all the hype about it being "good for asthma" and "harmless compared to tobacco" etc. It really isn't. The smoke is chock full of carcinogens, even if you filter it through water. I just got used to hacking and wretching every morning as if it were perfectly normal. Now, 3 years after quitting, I'm able to look back and realize just how badly it was affecting my health.

  • Bart Simpson||

    You had a problem...you overcame it! The feel good story of the day!

  • ||

    You could have vaporized it James.

  • Brandon||

    As someone who smokes a victory joint when I get to the top of a 14er...fuck off, you lying-ass slaver.

  • jasno||

    Ditto. Fuck you James. Try smoking better pot.

  • ||

    best comment ever. made my day.

  • ||

    how much were smoking? an OZ a day?

  • ||

    Cardiovascular exercise really, really helps. It also helps to use quality cannabis without molds in it or other contaminants, such as fungicides and pesticides. One wonders how contamination of cannabis has impacted the science of cannabis's effects.

  • ||

    @James

    or maybe you smoked before bed too many times (key word 'smoked'), which causes gastroesophageal reflux/acid reflux as well as increased mucus production from your sinuses during sleep, which would cause all of your health problems without it having anything to do with cannabis over anything else. Hell the same will happen if you always eat greasy food or take strong meds right before bed.

  • ||

    ...QUITTER.

  • ||

    Smoked Cannabis has controlled my asthma since 1968. It has been a valuable part of my glaucoma treatment since 2001. Filtering it through water is counterproductive. HTH.

  • chris3145||

    your a liar

  • Tim||

    I think it should be legal. As far as smoke I would say it is less bad than tobacco smoke, but no smoke is best. It is not a proper government decision though.

  • ||

    Smoking is not required to gain the benefits of cannabis, whether for medicinal need or just for enjoyment. The potential health hazards of lighting vegetation on fire and purposefully inhaling the gases produced by combustion belong to the act of smoking, not to cannabis.

  • witknee||

    Mexico analyst Sylvia Longmire argued that cartels have diversified

    They now make most of their money selling oral dams to American lobbyists.

  • o3||

    #2 & 3 would've also applied to alcohol re-legalization, following prohibition. dont forget pot was also legal before it was illegal.

  • Ice Nine||

    Legalizing Marijuana Will End Cartel Violence in Northern Mexico

    Sounds like a personal problem to me.

  • witknee||

    This may be the first thing that Riggs has written that is worthy of some level of respect.

  • Randy||

    Snap.

  • kinnath||

    I have told people many times that when marijuana is legalized, the good farmers of Iowa will figure out how to produce so much high quality weed that the price will crash and the feds will have to susidize just like corn, wheat, beans, and tabacco.

  • O3||

    not true when alcohol was re-legalized.

  • Brandon||

    So you've repeated something stupid many times? is that something to be proud of?

  • Ian||

    Ah! one of the worst arguments against legalization. All those crops mentions are huge cash crops so subsidies make up a huge amount of money for a concentrated number of dedicated and wealthy rent seekers. As the article mentioned legal marijuana would represent a small market with limited power and an image problem, in other words not a likely recipient of tax dollars. A related, just as silly argument is that evil tobacco corporations will somehow commodify, corporatize and generally make weed uncool.

  • Ian||

    "all those crops mentions" should read all the crops that you mentioned.

  • sarcasmic||

    I have yet to have a drug warrior respond to the question "Can you give me one argument as to why drugs should be illegal that couldn't be used as an argument to make alcohol illegal?" with anything other than sputtering.

  • Yuno Hoo||

    "Sputtering", of course, meaning "Fuck you, that's why!"

  • sarcasmic||

    Morality. Law and order. Drugs are bad. Shit like that.

  • Mike Day||

    They usually bring up alcohol and tobacco social costs that marijuana wouldn't cause.

  • Robert||

    The most common sophisticated comeback to that is, "I wish we could do it with alcohol too, but it's too late. The popularity of liquor has made it impracticable to prohibit. Other drugs have not yet reached that level of popularity, and by continuing to prohibit them we can keep them from reaching that level, or at least delay it."

  • Rude Rube||

    When I get that sophisticated comeback, I always let 'em have it wuth "Says you!"

  • sarcasmic||

    My wife has an interesting take on it. She says that you can tell when someone is using alcohol because they smell, and there ain't no way to hide it.
    But with other drugs there is no way to immediately tell if someone is intoxicated.

  • ||

    Vodka doesn't make you smell of booze. And it's very easy to mask the smell. Ask any chronic alcoholic who goes to work drunk every day. I can tell when someone is stoned (having been a stoner myself) - their speech, their eyes, their body language.

  • sarcasmic||

    Vodka doesn't make you smell of booze. And it's very easy to mask the smell.

    Then why to breathalyzers work?

  • ||

    breathalyzers work by measuring the content of alcohol in the blood through respiration. Your bac(blood alcohol content) travels through your pulmonary veins to discharge gases through your lungs, it does NOT work by smelling alcohol.

  • Mensan||

    Picking nits:
    ... travels through your pulmonary veins arteries to discharge gases through your lungs ...

  • ||

    Uh. Yeah, yeah it does. Maybe not your breath, but you emit a good bit through your pores even when you aren't sweating.

  • shamalam||

    BS. Vodka contains ethyl alcohol, just like every other form of booze. Ethyl alcohol has a distinctive odor. Let a Vodka drunk come within sniffing distance of me and I can smell it.

  • ||

    Vodka doesn't make you smell of booze
    as a long-time vodka drinker, I can say with the utmost confidence that one can certainly give off a boozy smell by drinking vodka.

  • Brandon||

    If you can't tell they're intoxicated, does it matter if they're intoxicated?

  • ||

    You've obviously never met the Listerine lady. She has minty fresh breath when she's drunk.

    No fooling, google it if you think I'm making that up. My only poetic lisence is that there are 10s of thousands of Listerine ladies, not just one.

  • Clifford Schaffer||

    That never had anything to do with the reasons for the drug laws. Opium smoking was originally outlawed because of the fear that Chinese men were luring white women to have sex in opium dens. Cocaine was outlawed because of the fear that superhuman Negro Cocaine Fiends would go on a violent rampage and rape white women and shoot white men.

    Marijuana was outlawed for two major reasons. The first was because "All Mexicans are crazy and marijuana is what makes them crazy." The second was the fear that heroin addiction would lead to the use of marijuana - exactly the opposite of the modern "gateway" idea.

    You can find a number of good histories at http://druglibrary.org/schaffe.....istory.htm

    Your wife is making a common mistake -- she assumed that the drug laws had some semblance of good sense behind them. They never did.

  • Randy||

    Heard that one many times.

    My counter is to point out the inequity in the law. By allowing one but not the other, the laws are unjust. I ask them why they support unjust laws.

  • Nathan||

    I'd say the popularity of marijuana has made it's illegality impractical.

  • Clifford Schaffer||

    It was outlawed because of racial prejudice and because of fears that heroin addiction would lead to the use of marijuana. The US Official Expert on marijuana testified in court, under oath, that mj will make your fangs grow six inches long and drip with blood. He also said that, when he tried it, it turned him into a bat. See http://druglibrary.org/schaffe.....hiteb1.htm

    When were the marijuana laws ever practical?

  • EMp ||

    MJ should be treated EXACTLY like alcohol, with the current restrictions and taxes levied on it. JMO....

  • ||

    But it's so different from alcohol that that wouldn't make any sense. It's not just for getting fucked up! It's also food and medicine!

  • Clifford Schaffer||

    So explain how applying the current alcohol laws to marijuana use would cause any significant problems for the marijuana users.

  • ||

    One possible difference is that you can consume a certain amount of alcohol without becoming impaired. At any useful therapeutic dose, marijuana cannot be administered without the recipient becoming impaired. The same could be said of "harder" drugs. Agree or disagree, it's an argument.

  • ||

    It depends what you mean by and how you measure impairment. You can consume marijuana (high cbd strains) without becoming impaired at all. And you can't really consume alcohol without becoming impaired. Or if you can it's due to tolerance. With marijuana (higher thc than cbd), you don't develop as much tolerance, but you do develop familiarity which allows you to do certain tasks (that you also have familiarity with while high), as well as if you were sober, especially in lower doses. A glass of wine will relax you impair you a very little bit; so will a little bit of marijuana. They're different drugs so people think of their respective impairing qualities in different ways, but really you can argue that they both impair in low doses and you can equally argue that neither impairs you in low doses. Depends how you define and measure it.

  • Clifford Schaffer||

    The only real way to tell if a veteran pot smoker is stoned on weed is to ask them. That applies even with pretty heavy doses. So the argument doesn't make a lot of sense. And, besides, impairment on anything can be measured with simple motor skills tests.

  • Robert||

    Is it not effective to have chronic pain and mmj activists batting for each other?

  • Robert||

    As long as people are having to fight for narcotics for chronic pain patients, does it help to promote an alternative drug? Or does it actually hurt by deflecting some of the agitation for narcotic analgesics, and make chronic pain look like a less serious or sincere problem?

  • Tim||

    Let them have either or both, anything to relieve their suffering, restricting them is just plain inhumane, and should not be OK in veterinary medicine, let alone human medicine.

  • Lynn Kinsky||

    The "serious" narcotics are very hard to get and leave the doctors open to prescription abuse charges. My doctor offered to prescribe marijuana when my medical need to take coumadin/warfarin interferred with my need for cortisone epidurals prescibed by my surgeon after a lumbar fusion caused severe sciatic pain. Yes, I could try to work the system to get fentanyl patches, if I didn't mind getting addictive. But why do that when my HMO will prescribe marijuana which a clinic will deliver by overnight delivery? I don't use MJ to get high but it does ease pain, which is my goal.

  • ||

    Legalizing marijuana might not end cartel violence in Mexico, due to the cartel's other activities, but it would certainly end (most of) our responsibility for it.

  • shamalam||

    +1.

    The fact is, the WOD created the cartels and being good businessmen they have diversified. Ending the WOD will hurt them, but they will stay in business. None of this removes the guilty blood stains from the drug warriors.

  • Amakudari||

    This.

    Drug warriors aren't (directly) responsible for murder-for-hire or kidnapping or extortion in Mexico. But they're 100% responsible for the drug violence.

    Point #1 is salient, though. I think the idea is that medical marijuana is the least objectionable change to policy, but activists have been fighting for that since the 90s. The goal is recreational pot, not a sham medical services industry. Period.

  • ||

    Nope - we started it, carried it on long enough to let them acquire the capital necessary to fund their start up enterprises. We will NEVER be free from the responsibility for starting the whole mess. Legalizing pot would help, but that's all.

  • Clifford Schaffer||

    That was a straw man argument. The author couldn't even point to an example of anyone actually saying that. He quoted Gary Johnson, but Johnson's statement was a long way from the straw man argument.

  • ||

    We may not like it, but you can't end the Drug War unless you are able to make utilitarian arguments supporting that position. A pure liberty argument will never win the day. If you can't argue a net benefit to society (reduced crime, reduced incarceration costs, increased resources to hard crimes, etc.), then drug reform is doomed.

  • Randy||

    True, utilitarian arguments are still needed. Riggs is merely pointing out a couple of utilitarian points commonly made by reformers that aren't all that sound. All the others still hold though.

  • ||

    Of course, a true utilitarian argument factors in the pleasure of smoking pot as being a benefit to society.

    Good luck with that.

  • doritos||

    what?

  • Sam Grove||

    How about this for drug warriers:
    If mj is legalized, many liberals will forget to vote.

  • ||

    quite a few "liberals" are also drug warriors.

  • ||

    Kind of like how gay rights activists had to prove that not jailing people for gay sex is a net benefit to society?

  • ||

    Yes, I remember those dark days in the 80's when cops were breaking down doors in no-knock raids to roust homosexuals out of their acts of lovemaking and hauling them off to prison.

  • ||

    Yes, I remember those dark days in the 80's when cops were breaking down doors in no-knock raids to roust homosexuals out of their acts of lovemaking and hauling them off to prison.

  • ||

    you know that the war on the War on Drugs is not just winnable, but practically over.

    Don't count your chickens before they're in the pot.

  • ||

    IC what U did there....

  • martin||

    There is one argument to justify the legality of marijuana. It´s my body and I´ll put whatever I want into it.

  • Tim||

    Ja

  • Anomalous||

    It's my body, I'll get high if I want to...

  • Clifford Schaffer||

    "I have a right to get stoned" doesn't convince anyone. They just view it as selfish and childish.

  • Jackalope||

    How about "It's not any of your fucking business"?

  • Clifford Schaffer||

    That phrasing gets better reactions from the right wing. They will point out that there is no right to get stoned in the Constitution. There are enumerated rights to free speech, religion, and firearms, but no right to take drugs.

    Expressing a personal desire to get stoned just strikes many people as selfish and childish. They interpret it as a right to go out of your mind, even if you are a danger to others.

    However, if you express it as the idea that the government has no business interfering in private matters, that is much closer to what conservatives believe on other matters, and much more likely to get agreement.

    But they will still look down on you if you talk about your own use.

  • Royalist||

    Both alcohol and marijuana should be banned in public. Other people don't have to accept increased risk of infringement to their freedoms solely for the increase of yours.

    On that same note, gay sex between 2 men is more conducive to spreading STDs, which is why bisexual men should be fined for increasing social risk to non-gays.

    The war on drugs was always a good thing, it keeps the nigger drug dealers and mexican junkies in jail. On a bad note, it also keeps them out of the neighborhoods in which libertardians live, so this way the poor libertardians have no clue what drug use entails.

  • ||

    So, basically your just a Royal pain in my dick.

  • Nathan||

    These arguments can be used too deny any public or private physical contact between humans in order to prevent the spread of disease. So I'm sure this is snark.

    Because otherwise it's stupidity.

  • ||

    well if your advocating the status quo thats cool with me id rather keep my tax free delivery of the finest cannabis in the world......you see ive never and will never have trouble getting it. its as available as alcohol i can go to a dozen people to buy it good luck with your drug war have fun with that am going to smoke now

  • ||

    So, punctuation insensitivity is a side effect of being a pothead?

  • Nathan||

    +1

  • ||

    does it really fucking matter? fucking punctuation? really? that's the best you got? your a fucking loser

  • ||

    Yes, it matters. You're annoying.

  • ||

    Having a 3 word vocabulary and the grammar skills of a 5 year old don't go a long way toward winning hearts and minds for your cause.

  • Ian||

    Really now, prices under even an over-regulated system of legalization would be at least half as much as they are now. And it's plausible that the retail price of pound could be less than 500. It being tax free isn't saving you any money.

  • ||

    Here, go buy a bottle of scotch for $4000:
    http://www.shoppersvineyard.co.....f0322_2313

  • Harry A. Ness||

    there is a hidden tax under prohibition because your fine cannabis is more expensive and those extra profits go to the black market or cops so you could get cheaper pot so go have fun now and smoke now and think on that are you still reading this oh sorry forgot to use a period to tell you when to stop.

  • ||

    i was being sarcastic wow you fucking people are such tight asses

  • ||

    Welcome to Reason, chris.

  • Joe||

    Can we count any argument this guy makes as #4?

  • Mike||

    I would be surprised if marijuana represented only 16% of "revenue"; "profit" almost certainly, as the margins are smaller when compared to other drugs. That being said, cutting that particular line of business could have a greater impact on the cartels operations than just cash flow. I'd imagine that many business relationships the cartels form are initially built on the marijuana trade, and that marijuana provides a steady, regular cash flow that allows them to plan further into the future. Two incredibly important requirements for any successful organization.
    While I'd agree that legalization wouldn't stop the cartels overnight, I think it's impact would be greater than what the author suggests.

  • ||

    Hafta see the numbers. Margins are increased on cannabis because the Mexicans can grow it instead of buying it from the south.

  • Harry A. Ness||

    Let's not forget that the violence associated with the marijuana trade is not just cartel violence. There is a lot of violence that is not directly related to cartels, but is related to the post import distribution in the US (or the distribution of domestically produced MJ). I am more worried about the gangs in my neighborhood than cartels.

    Also, the accuracy of the Rand study's numbers should be considered. They estimated 200 tons of Mexican MJ imported into CA/year. A few weeks after that report there was a seizure of 105 tons and then another of 30 tons on it's way to CA. Unless the cartels wait till the holidays to do all their importing for the year, the Rand study is hard to believe.

  • k2000k||

    I don't find it hard to believe considering that it is way more profitable for the cartels to move other 'harder' drugs. Ultimately the problem with cartel violence isn't drug prohibition, though it certainly exacerbates it a great deal, it is a goverment so corrupt that the cartels were able to get this powerful.

  • ||

    Don't forget that the enforcement of prohibition is through violence. How many Americans have been killed in drug raids already this year? About 40, isn't it? Then there are many, many smaller violences in the way it's done.

  • ||

    40 vs 40,000. I'm not sure if there's really a moral equivalence.

  • ||

    “Cannabis consumers," he continued, "who NORML represents, want good, affordable cannabis products without having to go through the insult and expense of ‘qualifying’ as a ‘medical’ patient by paying physicians and/or the state for some kind of get-out-of-jail-free card. How intellectually honest is all of this?”

    "Intellectual honesty" doesn't enter into it.

  • ||

    I was under the impression that much of the "kidnap for ransom" business involved other drug dealers; if you undercut the profits from the black market (and at least partially eliminate the garbage bags of cash), you will reduce the incentive to kidnap your competitors.

    I'm certain not all kidnapping is drug related.

  • SK||

    Your counter argument to legalization and taxation is a flawed one.

    The federal tax rate on roll your own tobacco is $24.78 per pound. Using the 22 million pounds from the 2005 example would generate $545,160,000 in taxes. Combine that with a gigantic reduction (or elimination if possible) of the DEA door kicking squad.

    All of that still won't the cure to all of our financial problems, but the monies are a bit more significant than the article would have the reader believe, and definitely plenty of reason to end an ineffective prohibition on it.

  • Bobarian||

    The point of the article was that the revenue estimates being bandied about in respect to legalization are grossly inflated. It won't cure the deficit all by itself.

  • SK||

    And the point of my comment was that the revenue estimates being bandied about with respect to the "grossly inflated" legalization estimates are just as grossly deflated.

    You'll get no argument from me that it won't cure the deficit all by itself, which is why my comment also makes that point.

  • ||

    Besides, tobacco is difficult to grow, and more difficult to process. Marijuana is easy. How does the government tax the plant growing in your garden window?

  • SK||

    Tobacco isn't difficult to grow. And yes, before you ask. I do speak from experience.

    Do you?

  • Clifford Schaffer||

    There is a difference between growing mj and growing good mj. Same with wine and tobacco.

    You have some choices:
    Grow indoors. You will spend a lot of money on lights and electricity, and you will have some stuff in 3 months.
    Grow outdoors. That will be at least 6-8 months, and it only comes once a year, so you have to grow the whole year's supply.
    Go down to Trader Joe's and buy some. Just like wine.

    You can make your own wine and beer, too. Most people don't.

  • Wesley||

    Marijuana might have created the Mexican cartels, but they were no more powerful than some of the West Virginia redneck crime families when that was their primary business. Miami could cripple the Mexican cartels tomorrow if they started ignoring the cocaine import again. For a criminal enterprise, marijuana is really small-time. All the money and power is in coke.

  • Harry A. Ness||

    There was an interesting estimate done by economist Jeffrey Miron about the tax revenues from Marijuana vs. Cocaine for each state:

    "Forget Taxing Marijuana; The Real Money's In Cocaine"

    http://www.npr.org/blogs/money.....he_re.html

    I never got the Cocaine high myself. Pretty boring drug. Got me kinda jittery, like too many coffees. Maybe I just always got weak stuff... or maybe it's because I was expecting it to be more like meth.

  • DEG||

    sarcasmic,

    I have yet to have a drug warrior respond to the question "Can you give me one argument as to why drugs should be illegal that couldn't be used as an argument to make alcohol illegal?" with anything other than sputtering.

    I had one drug warrior tell me in response to a similar question "I think we should bring back alcohol prohibition." Yes, he was serious.

  • ||

    I believe Orson Scott Card once penned an essay advocating a return to Prohibition.

  • ||

    I actually respect people who make that argument for at least being intellectually consistent.

  • Clifford Schaffer||

    Such people aren't aware that alcohol prohibition triggered the biggest teen drinking epidemic the US has ever seen. See http://druglibrary.org/prohibitionresults.htm

  • AlmightyJB||

    How about the argument that our dogs will be safer?

  • anon||

    Dude, we use childrunz for the pot arguments. Try to keep up.

  • ||

    Fuck you. It should bne legal for recreational use.

  • horsewithnonick||

    But really, marijuana should be legal to possess for the simple reason that it is property, and to allow government to decide what property is legal or illegal to own, whether pot, guns, or Chia Barack Obamas, is to effectively nullify property rights themselves.

  • Nathan||

    Nuclear weapons should be legal to possess for the simple reason that they are property.

    And, no, I am not comparing marijuana to nuclear weapons. I am suggesting that "property" is a pretty broad description to use in the way you did.

  • Kevin||

    So, uh...what are the good arguments we should be using. Good article, but it's only half the story.

  • Clifford Schaffer||

    Excellent question, but it would require too much space to completely answer here.

    One great one to start with is the fact that the drug laws were absolute lunacy, passed by lunatics, from the very beginning. For example, the US Official Expert on marijuana testified in court, under oath, that marijuana would turn you into a bat.

    There are lots of funny stories like that in the history and, by the time the audience gets done laughing, any opponent will be left with nothing to say.

    You can read up on the history at http://druglibrary.org/schaffe.....istory.htm

  • Clifford Schaffer||

    Another good argument:

    Over the past 100 years there have been numerous major government commissions around the world that have studied the drug laws. They all agreed that this is the wrong approach.

    You can find the full text of all of them at http://druglibrary.org/schaffer under Major Studies of Drugs and Drug Policy.

    You can ask any prohibitionist a simple question: Can you name any significant study of the drug laws in the last 100 years that agreed with you?

    They can't.

  • anon||

    “Will the cartels vanish from the face of the earth because of marijuana legalization?" Borden continued. "Probably not. Would even full legalization of all drugs accomplish that? Unclear.”

    How about we change the question and see the answer?

    Will the cartels vanish from the face of the earth because of criminalization? Definitely not. Would even full criminalization of all drugs accomplish that? Fuck no.

  • Nathan||

    Re: the taxation issue, I think you are valuing the marijuana crop at harvest, and not at consumption when it would be taxed. After rolling it into cigarettes, marketing the product, managing the retail outlets, negotiating shelf space, shipping, etc. the cost at the counter is much higher.

  • Knarf Black||

    I think the best case for legalization is the fact that these three weakest arguments are all stronger than anything I've ever heard from the prohibitionist side.

  • ||

    Well everything bad related to marijuana would increase. Just like everything bad related to alcohol increased after prohibition. Although, add percentage of welfare spent on pot to that figure. So what's left is whether you think the gain of liberty is better than the respective cost to society. It's a question of values.

  • Randy||

    No, not really. You are ignoring the costs of prohibition. Legalization will dramatically reduce those costs. The gain in liberty from legalization is just part the the equation.

  • Sam Grove||

    Well everything bad related to marijuana would increase. Just like everything bad related to alcohol increased after prohibition.

    This is not the case.
    With the end of prohibition, there was a definite decrease in prohibition era violence over alcohol markets and a definite decrease in poisonings due to indifferent alcohol production (bathtub gin).

  • Clifford Schaffer||

    For alcohol prohibition see http://druglibrary.org/prohibitionresults.htm Among other things, alcohol prohibition triggered a huge homicide epidemic, corrupt cops were being sent to prison literally by the trainload, and gave us the biggest teen drinking epidemic the US has ever seen.

    Read the history of the marijuana laws at http://druglibrary.org/schaffe.....hiteb1.htm and tell us when the laws were based on anything but absolute lunacy.

  • Nathan||

    +1

  • anon||

    “compare the production value of marijuana—about $1,600 per pound, by Gettman’s estimate—to the production value of tobacco, a legal psychoactive weed that U.S. farmers sell for less than $2 per pound.”

    While the premise is generally true, you're forgetting all of the economic activity related to the production, consumption and distribution of Mary Jane, which since we don't know what the demand would be, we cannot possibly calculate.

  • ||

    The article was pretty good, but I didn't see the stupidest argument for legalizing marijuana, probably because it's only implicit. The underlying argument that most pot users have for legalizing it is, "Hey, at least it's not meth or coke" They won't usually admit it, but they think themselves superior to users of uppers.

  • H. Reardon||

    Heavy meth and coke users become strung out assholes. Heavy pot smokers take a nap. Pot smokers are superior to users of uppers.

  • shamalam||

    +1

  • Brandon||

    About 5% of heavy meth and coke users become strung out assholes. The rest go about their business, and you never know that they are heavy meth or coke users unless you hang out with them when they do meth or coke.

  • ||

    Heavy pot users turn into proselytizing morons who think their chosen method of blowing their minds is as healthy as homemade apple pie - which is why otherwise reasonable people don't take legalization arguments seriously.

  • Clifford Schaffer||

    See Law Enforcement Against Prohibition - http://www.leap.cc - former narcotics enforcers who have come to the conclusion that the drug war is the problem.

    Then you can read the history of the laws at http://druglibrary.org/schaffe.....istory.htm - In short, the laws were absolute lunacy, passed by lunatics. If you thought the laws were ever intended to do anything good then you have been badly fooled.

    Then you can read the full text of every major government commission on drugs from around the world over the last 100 years under Major Studies of Drugs and Drug Policy on the same site. Hint -- there is not one that agrees with you.

    And those are some of the reasons that even the major prohibitionist leaders have complained that they have completely lost the debate on the internet.

  • Amakudari||

    I usually hear that argument with a mention of alcohol, about how marijuana isn't addictive and you can't overdose on it. While that's true, I suspect must drug warriors hear only a plea for the return of Prohibition.

  • anon||

    Prescriptive alcohol was a sham then, and the ‘medical’ cannabis industry (not medical cannabis itself) is largely a sham now.”

    Except you neglect to mention that studies currently done on Mary Jane are done illegally right now, because of FDA scheduling of the drug. This discourages and prevents any meaningful studies of Marijuana to be done on a large scale to examine what pharmaceutical benefits it actually has, if any.

  • ||

    Many studies are conducted in countries where it is illegal, and special clearance can be (and has been) granted for legitimate research purposes.

  • ||

    *where it is NOT illegal

  • BillT||

    I always find the convoluted arguments annoying. Legalize weed for the simple reason that government should not be regulating what someone can, or cannot ingest.

    I don't smoke weed, but I don't care if others do. And neither should the government.

    Where are all of the "pro-choice" people on this one? It is, after all, a "government should keep its hands off my body" discussion.

  • ||

    Where are all of the "pro-choice" people on this one? It is, after all, a "government should keep its hands off my body" discussion.

    Well, they seem to be concerned only about a particular organ in women's bodies, really, so it doesn't transfer over to pot.

  • Nathan||

    Ludicrous. It's just not as vital an issue to many people, so while they support decimalization they use their limited time and resources on what they consider a more important issue.

    I mean, is it really so vital that I be able to get stoned, or my daughter be able to decide whether or not to have sex, with whom to have sex, how to protect against pregnancy, and whether to have a medical procedure related to an unwanted pregnancy?

    Obviously reproductive rights are a little more important than legalizing marijuana.

  • anon||

    Ludicrous. It's just not as vital an issue to many people, so while they support decimalization they use their limited time and resources on what they consider a more important issue.

    Giving women free birth control is more important than the right to do what you please with your own body?

    That's a weak argument.

    Obviously reproductive rights are a little more important than legalizing marijuana.

    This isn't about "reproductive" rights you moron, it's about lazy people getting shit that someone else pays for.

  • Brandon||

    Incredibly weak argument. Your daughter doesn't need to have sex any more than I need to get stoned. Is that really what you want as a threshold?

  • shamalam||

    I sure hope your daughter remembers to breath, what with all those other important things to think about. However will she find enough hours in the day to reflect on so many important things?

  • Nathan||

    I think you will find that the majority or people who are pro-choice when it comes to reproduction are likely pro-choice when it comes to marijuana, too.

  • Almanian||

    And of course you're running off to do the research so you can come back here and show us that's the case. Right?

  • ||

    I've noticed a pattern nate; you think a lot of stupid shit.

    Its pretty simple. Weed= good. Abortion= bad.

  • Regan Hines||

    Exactly! It is about government control over what people can do with their own bodies that is the key issue. Check out this article that touches on that. http://conservativesolutions.co/freedom-and-virtue

  • ||

     1)  Whether or not legalization will end cartel violence is immaterial.  Why subsidize cartels and terrorists with ANY money?  

    2) According to Jeffrey Miron, Ph.D., world leading expert on illicit markets and Harvard economics professor, if we regulated cannabis, we'd save $13.7 billion (costs of our drug war), and we'd collect  $6.4 billion in taxes.

    3) Medical cannabis consumers will be persecuted and prosecuted as long as recreational cannabis is illegal.

  • Almanian||

    1) MJ should be legal because FUCK OFF SLAVER
    2) If you've actually smoked pot, you'd have to be a fucking idiot to think it's "good for" your lungs. As a former smoker of (A LOT OF) pot and (EVEN MOOOOORE) cigarettes, main diff was I smoked much less pot than cigs (2-3 packs a day when I quit...COUGH COUGH HAACK). That seemed to me why it irritated my lungs less. But that was me, YMMV.
    3) Did I mention FUCK OFF SLAVER?

    I can't wait till I retire, cause the first thing Ima do is start smoking pot again. Love it!

  • Almanian||

    Also, "cartels, teh children, you're contributing to blah blah blah"....whatever

    I don't care. I don't.

  • ||

    I think it is important to ask prohibitionists how it is okay for our last 3 presidents to allow smokers to be persecuted when they themselves have admitted using?

  • ||

    Great point. Presidents enforcing laws that they themselves routinely break is so unusual, after all. I'm sure that'll swing people around to your position right about the same time they start to give a shit that the entire federal government gets to engage in insider trading with total impunity (for one example).

  • ||

    I'm on the fence here, very close to switching my stance to one of legalization. (I would prefer to have easier access without having to hide out in the basement to consume)

    My husband's opinion is a question of how long the compounds stay in our bodies as opposed to alcohol. He works in healthcare and feels more effective testing needs to be developed. It's easy to see the opportunity pot smoking surgeons (and many other professions) creates for malpractice lawyers. How does the state address an OWI, or any offense by a user? There is no way to tell, based on current testing, how long ago it was used.

    What would your response to his concerns be? I don't have a good one. Also think in terms of talking to a conservative, not a full-fledged Libertarian.

  • ||

    There's a gigantic difference between how long compounds stay in your body and how long they have an affect on your mental state.

  • ||

    Absolutely, but the point is there is no way to scientifically determine when the THC's intoxicating effects end and when it becomes a background chemical in the body.

  • Clifford Schaffer||

    So what? Doctors are not tested for drugs before surgery, anyway. Just like they aren't tested for alcohol. Alcohol leads the field for problems. Mj isn't even a blip on the radar by comparison.

    The doctor is required to show enough responsibility to show up sober -- just like you at your work. If the doctor screws up then he will get sued and his malpractice insurance will go up enough to put him out of business. Besides, there are already program in place to treat doctors with drug problems -- and marijuana is not among the major problems.

    You might be interested to learn that the "father of modern surgery" was a morphine addict during the time that he invented many of the basic techniques of modern surgery. You can read about him in the chapter titled "Some Eminent Narcotics Addicts" in Licit and Illicit Drugs, at http://druglibrary.org/schaffe.....cumenu.htm

  • Harry A. Ness||

    If a surgeon screws up because he is stoned on the job, he deserves to be sued. That shouldn't change, no matter how the law changes.

    If the surgeon thinks he will be sued even with a small amount detected in his system then it's his responsibility not to use the stuff. Why should you, hiding in your basement, be subject to harassment by the police to protect him? Your husband is willing to risk your freedom (and your dog's life) because he feels he is somehow helping surgeons at work?

    Legalization will make it safer for responsible people to consume marijuana. The type of people that will commit crimes on marijuana don't have any respect for the law anyway, so they are already using, and ending prohibition won't really affect them. The law will deal with them the same as it does now.

  • ||

    This smacks of a two class system in which some professionals will effectively be prevented from using. And who determines what these professions are? And will they eventually, through natural market forces, be paid a premium for their abstinence? Is this a legitimate solution? And yes, anyone who screws up and is stoned on the job should be subject to the consequences - the point is, he could make an error three weeks after using and there would be no way to tell when he was using. So for testing purposes, one is either a user or not and that fact has far-reaching and unexplored consequences.

    Believe me, I want it to be legal - but I am not convinced it is realistic at this time.

  • Harry A. Ness||

    These problems that you describe are not necessarily new problems that will arise with legalization. These problems exist now, under prohibition. A surgeon today, under prohibition, in the situation you describe would still need to argue that he wasn't intoxicated. How does prohibition solve that problem? Is it keeping trial lawyers from suing stoner surgeons?

    I am sure the same problem occurs with legal pain medication. Those can be intoxicating and it may be hard to determine when they wear off. What about alcohol? Or just being tired.

    How many civil liberties must be sacrificed, how many gang members must I accept in my neighborhood, and how many Mexicans must die(cartel violence) to protect people from the type of problem you state. Is it really worth it?

  • Clifford Schaffer||

    Read the short history of the mj laws at http://druglibrary.org/schaffe.....hiteb1.htm Tell me when the marijuana laws ever made sense.

    The problem you are worried about never had anything to do with the laws. That excuse for prohibition was made up only after people stopped believing that mj will turn you into a bat.

  • Plastic Fork||

    Anyone else seeing the Google "Answer a question to continue reading this page" junk covering this article?

    The thing literally prevents me from seeing the article until I answer a survey question.

    Bollocks!

  • CE||

    Reason number 115 to dump Google...

  • Regan Hines||

    This article makes very good points. It is critical that those in favor of legalizing marijuana use the best possible arguments and not get bogged down with arguments about whether it can be used medicinally (it obviously can) and by who because this will allow for more regulation which is something most people want to get away from. Check out a more philosophical argument that touches on this issue at http://conservativesolutions.c.....nd-virtue.

  • Clifford Schaffer||

    "More philosophical" arguments are probably wasted. The reason is that a large part of prohibitionist thinking comes from the fear centers of the brain, not the thinking centers. Also, many of these prohibitionists were never the brightest people in the world. As they say, not all conservatives are stupid, but all stupid people are conservative. There is a hard core group of people who really have a hard time with logical thinking, and they are becoming the remaining core of the opposition as the polls change.

    It makes their heads hurt when they try to think. Really.

  • CE||

    Agree that the "medicine" and "tax" reasons are weak. Ending drug cartel violence is a pretty good reason though.

  • Clifford Schaffer||

    The thing he fails to mention about the "tax" idea is that it made worldwide headlines in favor of marijuana legalization and did change a lot of minds. You can quibble about the numbers but the fact is that the argument made a big impact when it was first made -- and continues to make an impact on public opinion.

    One of the problems the author has is that he didn't define what "worst" means. Is it "worst" because it is factually incorrect, or is it "worst" because it doesn't persuade?

    You can play with the numbers all you want but the facts are that:

    1) Legalization would be financially better - it is only the amount that is at issue and;

    2) Whether you judge it factually right or wrong, the argument clearly worked in getting good publicity for the movement and changing minds. It made headlines around the world in August, 2007.

  • Robert Enders||

    So legalizing marijuana would only eliminate 16% of cartel revenue. So it would only save hundreds of lives instead of thousands of lives. Sweeping policy decisions have been made on far less.

  • shamalam||

    How much would pot cost if it were legal? Not counting sin taxes, sur taxes, ma'am taxes, and tax taxes, etc.

    I see no reason whatever that it would cost more than tobacco, maybe $5 per pound?

  • Ian||

    I think growing the good stuff is more labor intensive. The inflation adjusted prices from when it was legal in the early thirties is something like 30 a pound and from the 1920's it's 150. But agriculture has gotten a lot more efficient since then, so who knows? Only one way to find out.

  • Clifford Schaffer||

    It will be like wine. There are three dollar bottles of wine for people who want that stuff. Other people will gladly pay ten times as much, or more, to get their favorite varieties.

    If you observe people buying weed in mmj dispensaries you will see something interesting. They will pay twice as much for a well-formed, good-looking bud than they will for the same exact product in powder form. Take any good bud and crumble it and you have cut its retail value in half. Same exact stuff, but people will pay less. Proof positive that people will continue to pay premium prices for things they want.

  • ||

    WE DO NOT PAY TAXES SO DRUG-ADDLED ANIMALS CAN RUN AROUND OUTSIDE OF JAILS AND MENTAL INSTITUTIONS.

    I THINK YOU'RE MISSING THAT CRUCIAL FUCKING POINT, PAGANS.

  • shamalam||

    Riggs, my compliments on a very good article! I think you are exactly right on all points.

  • Simon||

    One problem with the crop estimate is that presumably if it were legal to produce and sell marijuana in the US, that we would no longer import it from Mexico (indeed, this is the underpinning of point #1). I'd need to see a breakdown between how much pot is domestic vs. imported to know, but any existing estimates of the value of marijuana grown in the US need to be inflated to reflect the fact that prohibition has artificially held this number down.

  • Kevn Flanagan||

    On Revew: You had argued against the comparison of a pound of tobacco which is worth $2 on the market vs. the $1,700 claim from the NORML representative.

    But also consider the steep tax of $1 per pack at the federal level plus between a half to 4 dollars per pack depending on which state is taxing them. If its estimated that a pound of tobacco rolls 2 cartons, or 40 packs of cigarettes then the tax on that pound maybe more in the order of $100 dollars per pound. It's still an order of magnitude away from the 1600:2 comparison, but you'd have to agree that a 1600:100 comparison could be in order.

  • ||

    Three best arguments for legalizing marijuana?
    1. Freedom
    2. Freedom

    And tied for third place?

    4. Freedom and None of your damn business what I put in my body.

  • Clifford Schaffer||

    Depends on what you mean by "best". In terms of persuading people, freedom arguments only work on a comparatively small minority. You will often do well with a Second Amendment crowd with that argument, but even there it has to be carefully phrased.

  • Jackalope||

    When someone doesn't agree with freedom, you club them in the fucking head. How's that for persuasion?

  • Clifford Schaffer||

    If only it were legal. In many cases it would like clubbing a stupid mule. Lots of these prohibitionists aren't terribly bright. They operate from their amygdala, not their cerebral cortex. They really cannot grasp some concepts, just like some people can't understand algebra. You might as well try to teach a mule.

  • ||

    Those drug policy reformers who claim to represent us should read this, as they proclaim to be true what reason (and me) believe to be false. The medical marijuana industry is a sham and guilty of malpractice. Drug policy reform leaders need a truth enema.

  • jake||

    Medical marijuana is not a sham, medical has helped countless people ive met through out life, people who have adverse side effects from painkillers and other drugs that

  • Clifford Schaffer||

    I have heard a lot of people make this "sham" claim. The common denominator among all of them is that they didn't seem to listen closely when Prop. 215 was first passed.

  • Clifford Schaffer||

    Unfortunately, Mike Riggs didn't define the subjective term "worst".

    As an example of an issue here, the prohibitionists have argued for years that marijuana is a gateway drug. It is nonsense, of course, but lots of people believe it. In terms of fact and logic, it is ludicrous. In terms of persuasiveness, people still believe it today.

    It is one of the stupidest arguments ever. However, it is the basis for the modern law. So "worst" sometimes wins better than "best" for the person making the argument.

    So what's the criteria? Is "worst" based on "factual" or is it based on "persuasive?"

    Not that I think we have lost the argument on either basis.

  • ||

    The biggest thing holding back the legalization of marijuana as a recreational drug is the imbecility of the users who take to the streets with their NORML pamphlet bullet points trying to extol the virtues of pot like door to door vacuum cleaner salesmen. Appealing to Americans' tolerance for the thousands of other things they consume daily that are horrendously bad for them by analogy to marijuana is a better strategy than trying to convince them that reefer is the best product since OxyClean.

    Reason is particularly guilty in this regard, since about every article on marijuana policy published here in the last 10 years devolves into a paean to what a magnificent world it would be if everybody gave up their alcohol and french fries and switched to marijuana. Give it up. The people who smoke the shit are already convinced, and you aren't getting much sympathy from the people who don't.

  • Clifford Schaffer||

    You have a vivid imagination. If those people you imagined going to door to door like vacuum cleaner salesmen actually existed then you might have a better argument.

  • ||

    There is NO legitimate argument for the criminalization of Earth's most widely beneficial plant species. Ergo its prohibition is an atrocity in the first place.

  • ||

    I think legalizing marijuana is way more than a baby step in dismantling the cartels. It is a huge part of their drug business (that 16% figure by RAND is probably way too low, even if the 61% by the ONDCP is too high), and their drug business is by far their biggest business.
    And the medical use of marijuana is not the same as the medical use of alcohol was in the 1920s. While alcohol probably does have medical properties (and i'm sure, btw, that many people use it that way), marijuana is by far a more useful and genuinely medically helpful drug.

  • ||

    Heck! There's a Cracked.com columnist can come up with six.

    http://www.cracked.com/blog/5-.....t-helping/

  • ||

    Ooops! I meant five. :(

  • Plato||

    What? Give up all our Sophist arguments? You think the great unwashed will follow this chain of reasoning??

  • Clifford Schaffer||

    Well, about twenty years ago we began a plan to train people how to make the argument, how to back up those arguments, and how to find the people who needed to hear it. There were dedicated training programs and internet resources to support the whole plan.

    As a result, a few years back one of the major prohibitionist leaders openly admitted that they had lost the argument on the internet. You can see the results any time the issue is argued on the internet. It isn't uncommon to see forums where there are 100 well-educated legalizers against one or two mouth-breathing prohibitionists.

  • ||

    Although I agree with Treblebass in saying that the legalization of marijuana would be a great step in the effort to dismantle the drug cartels, I also see that it is difficult for any polititian to take a stance favoring the legalization of marijuana. It doesn´t matter what the health effects of the drug are, taking a stance for the legalization of marijuana would be political suicide. Instead I want to argue against the funding of these cartels. Personally, I could care less what substances you put into your bodys. All I ask is that you are concious of where your drugs are coming from and what they are funding. For all of you smokers out there funding the cartels, I´d like to know how many innocent lives you are willing to sacrifice for your weekend high.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Video Game Nation: How gaming is making America freer – and more fun.
  • Matt Welch: How the left turned against free speech.
  • Nothing Left to Cut? Congress can’t live within their means.
  • And much more.

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement