What Pot Legalization Could Teach Obamacare


All politicians, activists, and citizens contemplating transformative reform to the status quo should look for pointers in Colorado's end to pot prohibition. When the worst headline you can find about the end to pot prohibition is that some dispensaries have run out of weed (overstated, but we'll get to that), you know that reformers have pulled off something pretty exceptional.

Lesson number one is to start small. Colorado is not just the first state to allow commercial sales of recreational pot (Washington state will open its own market later this year), it's relatively small and isolated, thus making it a perfect laboratory for this experiment. Other states can watch and learn and figure out the best way to adapt Colorado's (and Washington's) experience to their own situation. As the designers of could tell you, going all-in before various options have been tried and beta-tested is almost always a really bad idea.

That's part of my latest column at's Ideas page. Other lessons include using markets (the freer the better) and decentralizing decisionmaking to the individual level whenever possible. That includes giving individuals the right to opt out of reforms. Had Obamacare not revolved around the individual mandate (and forced Medicaid expansion until the Supreme Court struck that down), it might have done a better job of increasing coverage and keeping costs in check. As it is, some 30 million Americans won't gain coverage under the president's universal coverage reform.

Colorado's pot legalization regime is far from perfect, but it offers up serious lessons that are worth considering.

Read the whole thing here.

NEXT: California Legislators Introduce Bill Banning State Agencies From Working With the NSA

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 or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Jim Geraghty at NRO, who in fairness admits that the harms of the drug war outweigh any benefits of prohibition at least with regards to pot, in his daily email this morning makes what has to be the lamest anti-pot argument I have ever heard. Get this

    So I’ll put it to fans of Colorado’s legalization: What’s the best way to prevent these two problems? The usual small-government approach is to argue that it’s the parent’s responsibility, and it is? except that the influence of marijuana tends to make one perhaps a bit too relaxed to keep careful tabs on one’s marijuana. I’m sure a lot of Colorado parents who smoke weed will handle their supply responsibly and keep it out of the hands of kids. But how many won’t?

    Maybe the downside of criminalization is worse than the downside of legalization. But I worry about those accidental ingestions creeping up, sending kids to the ICU, and more teenagers experimenting with it, impairing their brain development.

    This is all they have left, stoned teenagers and babies accidentally eating pot brownies.

    1. I’m sure a lot of Colorado parents who smoke weed will handle their supply responsibly and keep it out of the hands of kids. But how many won’t?

      I don’t know; maybe as many parents who drink and keep the liquor cabinet locked up. Jeezus on a biscuit, this is where the right embarrasses itself.

      1. Or keeps them from getting into cleaning chemicals or pulling over a pot of boiling water off the stove.

        Yeah, it is embarrassing. Some of them just can’t seem to help themselves.

    2. NR is anti-pot now?! Zombie Buckley preserve us.

    3. ICU for accidental ingestion of pot?

      Jesus christ, whatever the dangers of young people using pot may be, it is much less likely to cause any harm than alcohol or pretty much any legal, over-the-counter drugs.

      It would be alarming if a young child ate a strong pot brownie or something. The kid would be extremely stoned for a long time and would probably barf a bunch and then sleep for a long time. But that’s the worst that can possibly happen, realistically.

    4. Are there really any teenagers out there who would like to smoke pot, but don’t?

      If I were a parent of a teen, I’d much rather he smoke pot than drink a lot.

  2. Incidentally, I would expect crime to rise in the short term after legalization.

    There will be an adjustment period, when the local gangs have less money than they used to but the same…workforce to support, so to speak.

    Gang leaders will be reluctant to have layoffs, but there isn’t going to be as much money to go around, and they’re going to feel compelled to make up for that lost revenue somehow–probably with other crime.

    So, I’d expect crime levels and gang membership to drop substantially over the long haul, but in the short term, we may see a spike in the violent crime rate.

    But a lot of gang “jobs” are going to be lost through attrition. In the short term, we probably will see recruiting drop off right away–not so many of the affiliated moving up to active.

    1. I doubt many street gangs make money selling pot. And even if they do, they can always sell it to teenagers who can’t buy legally.

      1. In LA, I think just about all the pot that isn’t sold by medical marijuana dispensaries is being distributed by the gangs–one way or another. Even the stuff that’s coming from Northern California is being distributed that way.

        The gangs are so big, kids are affiliated for just living in a certain neighborhood. It isn’t about joining anymore, and hasn’t been for a long time.

        They have plenty of that in Denver.…..rado-s-pot

        One of the few reasons to have a gang is to protect territory for drug sales.

    2. What would Stringer do?

  3. “Not as much of a clusterfuck as the Obamacare.”

    There’s a compelling argument.

  4. Maybe the downside of criminalization is worse than the downside of legalization.


    Goatfucking Jesus, these people are morons.

  5. Other states can watch and learn and figure out the best way to adapt Colorado’s (and Washington’s) experience to their own situation.

    Translation: Other states who have legalization forced on them by voters now know what kinds of post facto regulations are inadequate to stop a legal market from being created, and will know that they will need to ramp it up to protect their fundamental mission of Dominate and Control.

    1. It would be like one state deciding to ban alcohol. If the produce is legal just a few hours away and there is no border control, it is effectively legal no matter what the locals say.

      1. “Available”, sure.

        Effectively legal? Not while you can still be arrested and anally raped by LEOs.

        1. It is effectively legal in the sense that your prohibition efforts will go from having little effect on availability to no effect.

          Also, if it is legal in another state, people who are deterred from using will be much less deterred than they were.

          Semantically, yes you are right, it is still illegal. But in practice, it won’t be. I saw this living on a border between one state that had liqueur by the drink and another that did not. Sure it was still ‘illegal’ but that didn’t mean anything except that you drove across town.

  6. Obamacare can learn now? Has this horrible law become self-aware?

    1. I’m not sure it would learn much anyhow… I do believe Obamacare would be riding on the short bus.

  7. Small and isolated? How do people keep showing up here?

    Also —

    Legal in Denver: Marijuana

    Illegal in Denver: Pitbulls

  8. A useful poll would be figuring out the left/right voting split of actual potheads.

  9. Nations are watching this as well as states.
    The drug war has cost billions and destroyed millions of lives.
    There are nations that want solutions.
    Ending the drug war is the only solution but we were not allowed to see what that would look like till now.
    The genie is out of the bottle and it’s not going back in.
    The drug war will be over in most western nations by the end of the decade.

  10. Every policy has it’s disadvantage, I think, that’s why we need to revise it from time to time as time goes

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.