Drug War

Pot Prohibitionist Prevarications

Five whoppers told by opponents of California's marijuana legalization initiative


With a month to go before California voters decide whether to legalize marijuana, Proposition 19's opponents have pinned their hopes on desperate arguments that illustrate the intellectual bankruptcy of the prohibitionist position. Unable to offer a persuasive moral justification for continuing to treat marijuana users and suppliers like criminals, the No on 19 crowd has tried to distract voters' attention with several bright red herrings. Here are five of the smelliest:

Prop. 19 won't produce any tax revenue, because everyone will grow his own pot. The initiative would allow adults 21 or older to possess up to an ounce of marijuana and grow it for their own use while authorizing local governments to license and regulate commercial production and distribution. Although "people don't typically grow their own tobacco or distill their own spirits," say six former federal drug czars, marijuana is different because it is "easy and cheap to cultivate." One could also say that beer is "easy and cheap" to make, but most people, including home brewers, still buy it in stores, where the supply is more reliable and varied. Accounting for the time and effort required to brew your own beer, buying it in the store is cheaper too, even though you have to pay taxes on it.

Prop. 19 will make it "perfectly legal to smoke or ingest marijuana immediately prior to driving." So claims Bishop Ron Allen of Sacramento's Greater Solomon Temple Community Church, a leader of the campaign against the initiative. Yet Prop. 19 would do nothing to change California's law against driving under the influence of drugs. That law, which applies to all psychoactive substances other than alcohol, regardless of their legal status, requires evidence of impairment coupled with evidence of drug consumption.

Prop. 19 will give employees "a clear right to smoke on the job." That's according to the Los Angeles Daily News, but not according to the initiative itself, which explicitly preserves the right of employers to set rules concerning drug use that are related to safety or job performance. A ban on getting stoned at work clearly would fall into that category.

Prop. 19's will lead to "a regulatory nightmare." The Sacramento Bee, like several other newspapers, sees the "mishmash of rules" that will result from allowing local governments to regulate marijuana sales as intolerable, declaring, "The laws governing marijuana should be uniform across the state, as they are for alcohol." Except that they're not, as anyone who has tried to buy beer after midnight on the wrong side of La Cienega Boulevard in Los Angeles County could tell you. Other states allow even more variation, letting counties, cities, and parts of cities vote themselves dry.

Prop. 19 is unconstitutional. Nine former heads of the Drug Enforcement Administration claim the initiative conflicts with the federal Controlled Substances Act and therefore violates the Supremacy Clause, which says "this Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof…shall be the supreme law of the land." The Supreme Court has upheld national marijuana prohibition, even as applied to purely intrastate cultivation and possession of the drug, through an absurdly broad reading of the federal government's authority to "regulate commerce…among the several states." But it has never held that the Constitution requires states to impose their own penalties for crimes created by Congress.

Assuming Californians approve Prop. 19, which is ahead by 11 percentage points in the latest poll by the Public Policy Institute of California, the feds will not have the resources to enforce marijuana prohibition throughout the state on their own. That's a good thing, since the freedom to experiment with different policies is one of federalism's main virtues.

If the nightmare scenarios described by Prop. 19's opponents come to pass, the rest of the country will learn from California's example. And if they don't, that also will be instructive, which is why federal drug warriors are so determined to defeat the initiative.

Jacob Sullum is a senior editor at Reason and a nationally syndicated columnist.

© Copyright 2010 by Creators Syndicate Inc.

NEXT: Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

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86 responses to “Pot Prohibitionist Prevarications

  1. ...the feds will not have the resources to enforce marijuana prohibition throughout the state on their own.

    This sounds like a job creating opportunity for the federal government.

    1. AntiGreen Jobs?

  2. Oh sure, I'll just grow my own pot alongside all of the fresh vegetables that I farm in my backyard. And while I'm waiting for it to grow, I'll be inside spinning yarn from the wool that I harvest from the sheep that I keep in the garage.

    1. See, now...this is how I know you're a ludite. Modern rugged individualists keep alpaca in the garage.


  3. Feds to Arizona: Enforcing federal law is unconstitutional!

    Feds to California: Not enforcing federal law is unconstitutional!

    Speaking of Ron Allen, he makes an appearance in this music video:

    Auto-Tune the News

    1. Fatty Bolger|10.6.10 @ 7:23AM|#
      "Feds to Arizona: Enforcing federal law is unconstitutional!"

      It's also OK to look the other way in California when the Nickys of the World? want to work for you, unless the person doing the hiring is a rich white Republican who happens to be running for governor.

      1. It's also OK to look the other way in California when the Nickys of the World? want to work for you, unless the person doing the hiring is a rich white Republican who happens to be running for governor.

        Especially if Nicky uses forged documents, instead of waiting at the parking lot of the Home Depot like honester illegal aliens.

    2. That is exactly correct.

      Just as democracy and the will of the people is sacred - unless the vote goes the wrong way in which case it is the duty of the courts to correct the stupid voters' mistake.

      1. If the vote going the wrong way means that it goes against the constitution, then yes.

        1. It is pretty clear that under further constitutional challenge the ban on marijuana would be restricted to an export from California ban with the Feds restricted to border searches.
          The other states will of course freak as billions of dollars start leaving their states and going to California.

      2. Since we don't live in a democracy, but instead reside in a Republic, the will of the people (the many) is utter bullshit if it infringes on the minorities right to do what they want to themselves and their property.

  4. The alcohol lobby is still as powerful as it was in the late 1930s and still as as anxious to snuff out their competition.

    Prohibition ended in 1933 and they were able to make their competition, MJ, illegal through the government's unlimited power to tax by 1937. They're still using the same playbook.

    How long do you think it'll be before they can get another "Reefer Maddness" on the shelves at the local video store?

    1. They are being very shortsighted...the cotton mouth from MJ promotes beer consumption.

      1. Two great tastes that taste great together.

      2. Beer then grass, you're on your ass. Grass then beer, you're in the clear.

        This is a valuable business opportunity.

        1. Dope then beer, never fear - beer then dope, no hope.

          1. FIRE BAD! BEER GOOD!

          2. Actually, when I smoke first and then drink, it kills the high. If I drink first and then smoke, the smoke takes the edge off of the drunkeness, but I still feel really buzzed. I'm not really a drinker though. Marijuana is just so much more relaxing.

            1. Try this sometime...caffeine and vaporized weed early on a Saturday morning. Now you're up and awake, your brain is buzzing, you feel imaginative, colors, the whole 9 yards. Put some heavy techno music on the headphones and go for a long walk in the city. By mid-afternoon you've been riding in 5th gear for several hours so now you're feeling a little hinky. A couple of quality microbrews and maybe a little food is the perfect thing to take that edge off. Nice comedown and you're feeling relaxed and happy by early evening.

              You can substitute MJ with shrooms or MDMA and it works even better.

          3. First beer (pregame), then more beer (party time), then beer and dope/blow/whatever's free man!, then beer (after party), then weed, then squares, then drunk food. Then smashing.

    2. They're not going to be able to have another reefer madness. Too many people have smoked weed for that kind of shit to fly.

    3. Video stores are going out of business.

    4. Oh please, marijuana is not alcohol's competition - they're not really subtitutes. The effect and use is different. That they may be used in parties is really their only similarity.

  5. Vote HELL Yes for Prop. 19.

  6. the freedom to experiment with different policies is one of federalism's main virtues.

    What a quaint notion.

  7. Wow, it's about time another article on legelizing drugs. I was begging to worry you fucking hippies were falling down on the job. There are so many important issues you could be covering, but NO, you chose a totally useless issue.

    1. Awful lot of butthurt in that comment.

      1. Made all the more special by the complete lack of effort to type two coherent sentences .

        1. You use that same fucking idiot "come back" for every post you don't agree with. You're deep man!

      2. I sorry your ass hurts....maybe if you pull your head out it'll stop!

        1. Should read "I'm".

          1. I prefer to read things the way you write them. At least then I get some entertainment value out of the pablum you dish out.

    2. Yeah, well, that's just, like, your opinion, man.

    3. I was begging to worry you fucking hippies were falling down on the job.

      What is your first language?

      1. I think he speaks "Douche"

        1. I take offense to that!

          1. So you are saying that the rubber chicken I played with as a child, and that hung up on the back of my grandmum's bathroom door, was not a rubber chicken. Now I know where I got my sushi fetish from.

    4. And hear I was begging to worry you typing cud git bet but NO u chose to legelize being stooped.

    5. Yep, liberty is a totally bullshit idea. And apparently, so is correct spelling.

  8. Great job on finding the misspelling...also great handle. Now get back to what is important in life!

    1. Isn't "important" a matter of opinion?

      Who am I to tell you that furiously masturbating to Jersey Shore is unimportant?
      You obviously find that important or you wouldn't have a bottle of baby oil set aside for that purpose.

      1. You're a real stupid fuck! Where did I use the word unimportant???
        Why so defensive??? And why so childish??? And I wasn't talking to you!

        1. There are so many important issues you could be covering, but NO, you chose a totally useless issue.

          "Useless" being in comparison to the "important" issues, therefore synonymous with "unimportant". You didn't use the word "unimportant" though, so you got us there.

          1. Actually dick breath I didn't say any of the things you quoted me as saying.
            But i do agree with you the issue is useless!

            1. If your scroll button doesn't work, most keyboards have a 'Page Up' button..right above the 'Page Down' button.

              The 'issue' represents several key problems many different groups have with regards to government's role in criminalizing non-violent, non-victimizing private behavior; mis-management of law-enforcement priorities, and what constitutional authority the gov't has to 'restrict' such a substance anyways.
              To rip the prohibitionists, marijuana legalization is a 'gateway' issue. Once the federal government's authority is challenged on this front, more people will start challenging the traditional role of government in every other aspect of their lives. I like the sound of that slippery slope.

        2. When you say that other things are important, the implication is that this is unimportant.

          And you call me stupid?

          Here's a clue.

          When you were sitting in the back of the class muttering how the subject you were failing was stupid, it wasn't the subject that was stupid.

          It was you.

          1. Where did I say other things are important???? yes, I call you stupid....real fucking stupid...you can't read!

            1. You said "Now get back to what is important in life!"

              That means that something else is important, and this is not it.

              Your idiocy is impressive.

        3. You're calling someone else childish? I get the impression you are an ugly 14-year-old Japanese boy who sleeps with an anime idol pillow.

          But if it makes you feel any better, I am ashamed to say that I would spend a night with Snooki if I had guarantees it would be a one-time, silent, anonymous, and disease-free experience.

        4. Way to jump off the short bus and then get run over by the clue train. Next stop. To get Wegie his ritalin.

  9. Under this law can the local police still help the feds?

    1. No. State and local law enforcement are, in fact, specifically prohibited by Prop 19 in seizing, attempting to seize, or even threatening to seize marijuana, or cooperating with any federal agency attempting to do so.

    1. Oh, no! Pot growers would buy land? Teh horror!

      They forgot to mention: Cats and dogs, living together, mass hysteria!

    2. Lot of talent to pack that many falsehoods into such an scaremongering package. otoh, I'll go with their admonishment not to buy the lies, and have immediately disregarded their inane drivel.

      What lies? What do I mean that they aren't honestly presenting the God's honest truth?

      By the numbers.

      1. The #1 'addiction' of teens in rehab. Oh, please. This is a self generating critique. Treating teens caught with cannabis as needing 'rehabilitation' for a non-existent 'addiction' is a feature of prohibition and the prohibitionist mindset, not of cannabis, which is not addictive.

      2. Gateway drug to Coke and Meth. Uh, no, not really, although access to other substances is actually encouraged by prohibition, due to the unregulated nature of such an underground economic activity. Following this logic, Flintstones vitamins are also a gateway substance, as they teach kids to ingest something they might not ordinarily eat simply for food value for a promised benefit.

      3. 4 times more mind altering? I guess you could say something like that when comparing beer to Bacardi 151. I guess this is the scare version of comparing 4 hit shit to 1 hit shit. Lot of folks I know prefer the 4 hit shit, because, similar to the folks that pay outrageous prices for god-awful tasting liquids kept in a vat for a third of a century while the look at each other and exclaim how smooth it tastes, some folks actually enjoy the taste, and would like to taste it more than once before they get sleepy. And while it may be 'more potent' than the ditch weed you bought with your lunch money during the Carter Administration, it still takes having a whole 500 lb bail of it fall on your head from about the 5th floor to achieve a fatal doseage.

      4. Smoking cannabis is only one ingestion option, and since it isn't smoked with the same frequency as tobacco, this one is a wash. Have a brownie if it bothers you that much.

      5. Nothing good about legalization? Well, not if you're latched on to the iron rice bowl of prohibitionist law enforcement. Lot fewer family pets being shot by militarized cops breaking down doors because of a typo on the warrant comes to mind right off the bat. So, the 'nothing' claim is yet another lie.

      6. Pot sold in grocery stores? Let's hope so - because if your real concern is 'teh chilrenz'?, you should be comforted by the fact that the average Ralph's cashier is a much more responsible social agent than Benny the dope dealer. To have a working model (cigs/alcohol) staring you in the face while you hop up and down and exclaim the horror is particularly amusing, in a sad sort of way.

      7. Skyrocketing use among teens - pure fearmongering here. The results of legalization in other countries actually shows the opposite, simply because of the loss of 'cool' or 'rebel' factors. But of course, this gets back to the totally AWESOME job complete prohibition has done on this score.

      8. With the current useage percentages, you think this isn't happening now? Keep creeping along on the I-5 in that little fantasy bubble, kids!

      9. Someone else already pointed out that the 'right to get high at work' point is bullshit.

      10. Higher insurance for a non-addictive substance, because addictions will soar? No, more like a bunch of probably SEIU slugs pretending to be 'substance abuse counselors' who only have clients/patients because Johnny got caught with a joint and they said he had to attend 'rehab' for it will lose their jobs. So, actually probably a net savings overall.

      11. There might be some land transactions. Well, better that it's grown in the Central Valley on an actual farm than in a national forest guarded by Mexican Drug Gangs with automatic weapons.

      Then they get to their bottom line(s) - "messed up minds, messed up lives, messed up families, and even worse society" - they make a pretty strong case for the elimination of prohibition, which is the actual cause behind so much more of those ills than cannabis could ever hope to be.

      So, no, prohibition is NOT the kind of culture I want, and I'm not buying the lies being peddled to try and keep the madness going.

      1. From what I hear, if you say you're "addicted" to marijuana the judge will send you to rehab instead of juvie/jail. So it's very popular to be "addicted" to weed (at least when a judge is in front of you).

        1. From what I hear, if you say you're "addicted" to marijuana the judge will send you to rehab instead of juvie/jail. So it's very popular to be "addicted" to weed (at least when a judge is in front of you).

          This doesn't only apply to juveniles, at least it didn't 25 years ago. I was arrested for possession with intent to distribute and pleaded guilty to possession with outpatient "treatment" as part of my probation. Practically the only thing the public defender asked me was "so are you willing to call yourself an addict?"

          My papers got misplaced and I totally skipped out on the treatment part! Looking back, and considering the bitch that I married, I think that I must have used up all of my good luck on that one.

    3. "Apparently you haven't seen http://www.marijuanaharmsfamilies.com/."

      Apparently you never learned about Prohibition. CliffsNotes version: It was monumental failure.

  10. Dontcha just love the smell of rank hypocrisy in the morning. No, not by Jacob, but by the folks who are perfectly content to blatantly lie to their children about a relatively harmless substance, because the gub'mint told them to. Because, well, just because. Heck, they might turn into smelly hippies that don't trust the gub'mint, or something. And we can't have that, now can we? Society might fall over and not be able to get back up!

  11. Threadjack, but looking for readers who want to help out on a NYTimes blog...


    I just posted this response to an Austrian basher...

    \"But we all knew this until the followers of Aynd Rand and some crazy economists of the so-called Austrian School decided to destroy all economic and social institutions.
    Now, they have a television platform -Fox News-, millions and millions of dollars, a political party -the Tea Party- and have been finally able to infiltrate the GOP.\"
    That's a good one!
    The reason the corrupt Democratic/Repuplican establishment has run this country into the ground, is precisely the mix an unelected Federal Reserve with Keynsian based debt bubbles, that are exploited by the well connected on Wall Street/Washington crowd, that is precisely a result of NOT following an Austrian Economic Model that abhores currency manipulation and centralized corruption of the market.
    Its really a very easy situation to understand, if you try.
    Just because Republicans throw around a few Libertarian buzzwords now and then shouldn't fool you into thinking we have had NOTHING like a truly free, uncorrupted economy reflecting unbiased decisions of all the individual citizens.
    Libertarians/Austrians want NO favoring of anyone in the market. Your precious Democrats and Republicans have been building a massive government framework that rigs the system for their special interest string-pullers. That you should now be bamboozled into blaming an economic model (Austrian type) which has never been in plays, just demonstrates that along with Washington, the minds of the populace have been thoroughly corrupted.

  12. awwww, some typos in there "ANYTHING like" not "NOTHING"

  13. I am with Wegie. The only real problem I have with REASON is the fixation with weed and porn. I know they can be fun, but it makes you look silly by constantly fixating on these issues.

    1. Right. Drug prohibition is no big deal. It's not as if the largest state in the country is considering making a major change in this area or anything.

      1. An even deeper concern, as Sullum has pointed out before, is that it's an issue of control of ones own body and the contents of ones own mind. Really it's the basis for property rights and freedom of speech. If you can't retain sovereignty over your own mind and body you can't really have private property or freedom of speech.

      2. What is Alaska changing?

        1. I am going to blame public schools for that one...
          Luckily Alaska doesn't like to enforce its rules against pot. I would prefer to have no laws against it but I can live with laws that everyone ignores.

          1. Yep, but those are the laws that some jackass DA out on a crusade or anyone that wants to see you go down will cite you on. I'd prefer there be no laws on it, at least in my own little fantasy island.

    2. Yeah, fuck weed! I hope the Feds throw everyone in America into jail for at least 2-3 years for even thinking about marijuana. Then throw their kids in prison too cause you know the mother had a joint or something during her pregnancy. After that we should adopt the China model and just execute pot heads and then extract their organs.

      Besides we all know weed makes the negros crazy for white women rape.

      1. Hmmm...could that be why I want to nail Naomi Campbell!

  14. While I personally agree with the initiative and believe that the war on drugs has not done anything to stop drug usage the WSJ today had an interesting op-ed about how proponents claim that the initiative would bring in money. The short of it is that because the CSA still makes it illegal to grow pot homegrowers will not acknowledge growth and thus be subject to taxation because the feds will then know who they are and they will thus be admitting to violating the law. It was interesting and I wonder how it will work, because it is obvious that there is no way the DEA can legitimately replace the state law enforcement apparatus over such a large area. But with the help of the IRS who knows whats possible.

    1. I'd guess most of the taxes anticipated are sales taxes, which don't involve the IRS.

      OTOH there's already a SCOTUS case (Haynes v. US, 1968) where felons can't be prosecuted for failing to register firearms they're prohibited from possessing.

    2. Home-growers are only legally allowed to grow a small amount for personal use. How are taxes involved?

      As for commercial growers, medical marijuana is already thriving and paying taxes, DEA not withstanding.

      And as LarryA pointed out, the big money is expected from the state tax on sales. It is also expected to lower the price of pot even including taxes, thus freeing up more money for the economy, and reduce the costs of law enforcement.

    3. Home growers don't pay taxes. I think they might have to register with the city depending on the local ordinances, but the taxes only apply to commercial transactions.

      I'm not sure about commercial medical transactions though, since nearly every provision of prop 19 specifically exempts freedoms granted under 215.

  15. Good point, John. I have been wondering about this issue as well (self admission by growers that they are growing...). Doesn't this requirement demand "self incrimination", hence isn't such a requirement in violation of the 5th amendment and therefore unenfocable?

  16. First off, i am totally against legalization of weed...Fucking govt been chasing potheads since nixon, taking property, freedom away from us..and NOW, that every city fucked up their budgets, its ok for the govt to get thier cut?....they have no moral right to that profit...belongs to the hippie mafia.........

  17. How about an article on Geert Wilders. But then there is absolutely no reason to call this magazine Reason.

  18. I am for legalization, but hate the "tax the hemp" mentality of the stoneheads. Especially the medical dope. Have you noticed that CVS and RiteAid never tax your prescription drugs?

    I agree with the article's points. However, with legalization, I am fairly certain that there will be an increase in the cases of "driving while high on pot" and "getting loaded on the job".

    1. It makes it Holy.
      Fa la la la la.

  19. Prevarication is as American as apple pie, or marijuana for that matter. Our whole war against marijuana is based on prevarication. How else could we prove marijuana use is immoral?

    Where would the entire Bush administration have been if not for prevarication?

    Vote to support the lies! Vote NO on Prop 19 and help prove that it's OK to tell a few lies so long as it gets the results you want.

  20. For stories on what international Libertarians are doing, page down http://www.Libertarian-International.org

  21. Why not legalize it? Nobody in this state has a job and most people have a big screen so it makes sense. The Greenies will defeat Prop 23 which means that within a year or two individual automobile ownership will become so expensive that most stoners will be riding the bus anyway. Sullum is right, backyard pot is crap compared to the Trainwreck buds you can buy at dispensaries now. If we're going to have an economy like Jamaica's we ought to be able to get wasted like in Jamaica. If those out-of-state killjoys want to bust everybody in Cali who smokes it they'll have to throw a giant net over the whole state.

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