Law Profs (and Volokh Co-Conspirators) for Legalized Pot


I really would love to see the newspaper editorials tut-tutting against the boozehounds who wanted to end this shit

The Yes on Proposition 19 campaign today welcomed a petition by more than 65 law professors–including six who blog at the Volokh Conspiracy, and other notables such as David Friedman, Erwin Chemerinsky, and Nadine Strossen–urging a "wholesale rethinking of marijuana policy in this country," and a yes vote for the popular and much-maligned proposition. Excerpt from the open letter:

For decades, our country has pursued a wasteful and ineffective policy of marijuana prohibition. As with alcohol prohibition, this approach has failed to control marijuana, and left its trade in the hands of an unregulated and increasingly violent black market. At the same time, marijuana prohibition has clogged California's courts alone with tens of thousands of non-violent marijuana offenders each year. Yet marijuana remains as available as ever, with teens reporting that it is easier for them to buy than alcohol across the country.

Proposition 19 would remove criminal penalties for private use and cultivation of small amounts of marijuana by adults and allow California localities to adopt—if they choose—measures to regulate commerce in marijuana. Passage of Proposition 19 would be an important next step toward adopting an approach more grounded in reason, for California and beyond.

Our communities would be better served if the criminal justice resources we currently spend to investigate, arrest, and prosecute people for marijuana offenses each year were redirected toward addressing unsolved violent crimes. In short, the present policy is causing more harm than good, and is eroding respect for the law.

Moreover, we are deeply troubled by the consistent and dramatic reports of disproportionate enforcement of marijuana laws against young people of color. Marijuana laws were forged in racism, and have been demonstrated to be inconsistently and unfairly applied since their inception. These are independent reasons for their repeal.

Especially in the current economic climate, we must evaluate the efficacy of expensive government programs and make responsible decisions about the use of state resources. We find the present policies toward marijuana to be bankrupt, and urge their rethinking.

This country has an example of a path from prohibition. Alcohol is subject to a regulatory framework that is far safer in every respect than the days of Al Capone. Just like the State of New York did when it rolled back Prohibition 10 years before the nation as a whole, California should show leadership and restore respect for the law by enacting the Tax and Control Cannabis 2010 initiative this November.

Amen to that. At the Volokh Conspiracy, signatory Ilya Somin adds this wisdom:

[P]assage of Prop 19 would be a major political setback for drug prohibition. A victorious Prop 19 would likely be imitated in other states with referendum initiative processes. That in turn would put the federal War on Drugs under increasing stress. If several large states withdraw state resources from marijuana enforcement, the feds would either have to massively increase their own enforcement efforts or consider giving up the fight.

Meanwhile, California's second-largest daily, the San Jose Mercury News, has joined the newspaper consensus against, as have the Daily Breeze, the Stockton Record, Santa Maria Times, and Christian Science Monitor. The Economist is in favor, though.

NEXT: Can't You Read the Signs?

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  1. Ending racist spending policies??? GOOOD luck Cali

  2. Well duh…

  3. Come to me, Marijuana… come to me!

    1. If you’re going to continue to schedule it… just make it Schedule IV. The fact that MDMA and Cannabis are Schedule I, while cocaine and heroin are Schedule II may be one of the sillier things about the CSA.

      1. Heroin is actually Sched 1, although morphine — which is identical to heroin once they get to the blood-brain barrier — is obviously scheduled lower.

        But yes, absolutely, drug warriors have a stupid and incredibly misled fetish for psychedelics, which are incredibly safe from cannabis to shrooms to ecstasy to acid.

      2. Heroin is Schedule I


  5. Interesting that a stuffy, British-run econ mag is the only major publication that you’ve listed so far that has come out in favor.

    1. They’ve been in favor of drug legalization for years.

    2. The Economist runs its story on how decriminalization has dropped usage and abuse rates in Portugal/Holland every couple of months. They are huge fans of decriminalization.

  6. It’s really uncanny how, when you actually get to the point of seriously legalizing weed, all the news organizations bail on the idea.

    It’s almost like they’re invested in the status quo. Imagine that.

    1. We are now at 21 of California’s top 25 dailies editorializing on it, with all 21 against. The remaining papers are: San Diego Union-Tribune, Orange County Register, San Francisco Examiner, and Korean Times.

      1. Matt, have you considered calling and asking (or emailing, I guess) why they are against? Their editorials are baloney; you’d need to talk to them for the “real” reason. And I bet they won’t actually be able to rationalize it without having time to prepare an editorial.

        1. Individually, I’d bet a lot of them would support it, but groupthink probably kicks in when they’re talking about what they’ll say publicly.

        2. I think their words speak for themselves, frankly. It’s illegal! There isn’t a one-size-fits-all for every city and county to slavishly follow! It will somehow change the rules for driving while stoned, even though it doesn’t! It will make California a laughingstock! It’s a stalking horse for free heroin!

          1. And Reefer Madness is all true.

          2. I think it would be worthwhile to press them into drafting a Prop 19 that they feel would be a valid way to legalize MJ. Call their bluff.

            They won’t be able to do it. And their answer will be “Well, it’s not our job to draft legislation. We just comment on it.”


            1. Yet these are the same fucktards who bitch about tea partiers not offering solutions.

              I fucking hate the media.

          3. Their words are bullshit, just as you pointed out. Which is why it would be great to get them on the spot and ask them to explain why without a week to prepare idiotic paragraphs beforehand.

            1. Aren’t reporters largely stoners? The j-school kids were when I was in school.

            2. Yeah I know what you mean. I’d be real interested to find out the internal dynamics of these endorsements — I have to think there are some people brought along kicking and screaming. I mean, it’s fuckin Cali, and these are fuckin journalists. Dudes be gettin high.

              And yeah, that implies some sort of “real” reason behind the astonishing consensus beyond collective slavish loyalty to objectively awful reasoning.

          4. I think mainly it’s the desire to appear serious and hence not frivolous, and pot is frivolous, except when used as a drug. They’ll mostly support its continued use as a drug, but not as a recreational (i.e. frivolous) non-drug article.

          5. In some cases, you have liberals like Mark Kleiman who are against basically because he’s against federalism.

      2. What’s the OCR waiting for, all of its readers to mail in their “No” before they endorse it?

    2. What I can’t figure out is why anyone is surprised.

      I mean, I guess being enraged is a reasonable reaction, but surprised?

      Dress up an issue. Let’s say, smoking…tobacco.

      Run up the flagpole the idea that smoking should be banned in public places. Now watch and see how many newspapers salute. Bet you’ll get at least 70% support.

      Try another, transfats, or an ordinance that suggests that all the nutritional info be placed on the menus. Run that idea up the flagpole, wait for the editorials. Again, bet you’d do way better than 50% in support.

      To get the media on board, you can’t just go say *poof* something is legal. Because you’ve removed the most important player from the equation: Government. What’s their role? Why is government being sidelined?

      To legalize marijuana, you have to carve out a role for government. That’s why medicalizing it is soooo much more attractive to media types.

      1. Bingo. No one should be surprised the state’s biggest cheerleader is against a policy initiative that reduces the influence of the state.

        It’s just that simple…

  7. It is really inevitable, when you think about it. Cnnabis has not been this close, I think ever, to being legalized. Most people, when you ask them directly, think the penalties associated with possession and consumption (of small amounts) are ridiculous…..

    1. Thats ‘cannabis’….

  8. Thats ‘cannabis’….

    Cnnabis is the lowest-rated channel in the Egyptian afterlife.

    1. HA-Haaa!!! You are correct, sir! I’m sure they were only trying to drive ratings by airing ‘Bubba Ho-Tep’ every other thursday….

  9. … and cannabis is the lowest-danger drug in the drug warrior’s macho life.. could be that’s why they bust so many for it – the best chance for them to “do something” with little risk of any of them entering their own afterlife.

  10. I’ve been wondering about the reports that all the major news orgs that have commented have come out against. Where’s the OC Register? Certainly they will come out in favor. I hope.

    1. Ouch. A little research on the OC Register’s stance indicates they are setting up to punt on the issue. They have taken a stand on all the other issues, but are reviewing Prop 19 in light of the Governor recently signing law making possession of MJ an infraction. That they hesitate seems to suggest they will follow suit with the other papers.

      The new law does not decriminalize MJ (makes possession of less than an ounce an infraction rather than a misdemeanor). The new law is a band aid. The black market will continue to exist and the negatives associated with criminality will continue unabated.

      Come on OCR you can do it!

      1. but the “consider anew” (IOW reconsider) makes me think they were about to fully endorse 🙂

  11. Here’s an interesting tidbit. I was talking to some old-timers in my town. My Rep. is Frank LoBiondo (NJ-02). His family owns a trucking company, LoBiondo Bros. That is how Frank was able to finance much of his political career. It turns out, the trucking company’s success was a result of…liquor running during Prohibition. So, in many ways, my Congresscritter is the result of Prohibition.

    1. Isn’t that also true of the Kennedy’s?

  12. That is how Frank was able to finance much of his [early] political career.

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