Marijuana

"Grow and Give" Is a Terrible Plan for D.C. Pot Legalization

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pot gift
Kaitlin Skill Level 301

Colorado, Washington, and now Oregon and Alaska are more or less following the model for legalizing and regulating a drug that was set out after alcohol prohibition ended. The initiative that passed in Washington, D.C., yesterday is a little different.

Over at Slate, Mark Kleiman notes that the law, as written, suggests something like a "grow and give" system, in which residents are permitted to cultivate, consume, and gift the drug, but the current ban on money changing hands between growers and consumers remains in place. The Daily Beast chimes in in favor as well, decrying the "green rush" that has occurred in other states and noting that "as we've seen with the alcohol industry, the private profit-driven market of a drug can be dangerous."

(The D.C. City Council is already working on a more conventional system, which would permit the licensing of growers and distributors, but the future is hazy.)

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul's right: Three cheers for the laboratories of democracy and all that. But "grow and give" is not going to work. And it's not going to work for reasons succinctly described right in the middle of that Slate article about how well it's going to work:

It wouldn't generate any tax revenue, or offer consumers the same convenience or product variety as a commercial system, and of course policing the boundary between "giving" and "selling" would be virtually impossible. But it might be a big improvement on the current prohibition. Eliminating organized marketing would likely lead to a much smaller increase—if any—in cannabis abuse than we would expect if we sell pot the way we now sell beer.

That "of course" is a really big deal. Contained in that "of course" is all the violence and seediness of black markets, abuse of search powers by the police, the large scale incarceration of low-level drug offenders, and much, much more. "Grow and give" would be an improvement on total prohibition, but it would also be a step backward, a failure to learn from the lessons of the experiments in Colorado and Washington State.

Kleiman quite reasonably asks: "Are we really satisfied with the results of the current alcohol system?" Reason's answer has long been clear: Nope

But the addiction, safety, and health costs associated with alcohol use aren't caused by the fact that people can legally buy and sell the stuff. Money changing hands for a bottle of clearly labeled, cleanly manufactured gin in a well-lit store with regular hours is by far the most wholesome part of the whole life-cycle of booze. 

By taking the money out of legal weed in D.C., the city will not somehow elevate the exchange of marijuana to a higher, more altruistic plane. Instead, it will force users and providers to continue to operate outside the law and live with dangerous uncertainty about what they're buying, who they're buying it from, and what happens if the deal goes bad.

NEXT: Polls Overestimated Democratic Support

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  1. Eliminating organized marketing would likely lead to a much smaller increase?if any?in cannabis abuse than we would expect if we sell pot the way we now sell beer.

    Yeppers, because as we all know the only reason anybody becomes an alcoholic is all the advertising.

    1. Well look how there’s virtually no alcoholism since they banned liquor commercials.

  2. Here’s the thing about grow and give:

    Its essentially legalization for any small amounts. Possession won’t cut it any more for the cops – they will have to prove you paid, and they can’t do that unless they actually witness money changing hands.

    I seriously doubt they are going to be setting up “hand to hand” sting operations for quarter ounces.

    1. If you have pot and cash on you, it proves you paid for it.

      If you have pot and no cash on you, it proves you paid too much for it.

      1. Yeah, no it doesn’t. It really doesn’t hurt to be slightly optimistic sometimes.

    2. “I seriously doubt they are going to be setting up “hand to hand” sting operations for quarter ounces.”

      I’ll take that bet!

      1. I’d wager they won’t do sting. Just targeted investigations of individuals with a proclivity for spurning authority.

        1. Oh, sure, but they do that anyway.

          Next up:

          Buy a $20 beer, get a free eighth of primo bud!

        2. Like I said, I’ll take that bet. If they will run a year long sting operation over raw milk. I’m pretty sure they’ll do it for the devils weed.

          http://www.washingtontimes.com…../?page=all

  3. The Daily Beast chimes in in favor as well, decrying the “green rush” that has occurred in other states and noting that “as we’ve seen with the alcohol industry, the private profit-driven market of a drug can be dangerous.”

    Because retaining a murderous black market is much preferable to profits being made by KKKorportions!!

  4. Normally I think Valentine’s Day is a big farce. Based on the picture, I’m wondering if I’ve ever celebrated it correctly.

  5. However, we have to remember that the right to grow at home and transfer small amounts is a bulwark against the tyranny of the liquor control boards or whomever eventually ends up officially regulating the market. I’m not wild about the ban on commercial transactions but it puts a lot of marijuana activity, especially home growing outside of the purview of the law enforcement system.

  6. Obviously not ideal. And to any libertarian the objections to the commercial market are just stupid. But I’d take it. It won’t eliminate the black market in weed, but it will give individuals the opportunity not to be involved with it. And it is awesome that it is DC.

  7. The real benefit of this vote is that it will force Congress to take a position on legalization.

    That could get really interesting.

    1. That is easily the most exciting part about this DC thing. We shall see, they have what, 30 days right?

  8. looks like my kinda candy dude.

    http://www.anon-way.tk

    1. No way that’s anonbot, nobody’s image rec is THAT good

  9. With the inevitable success of legalization we’ll see the rest of the drug war come unraveled as well. We may see cocaine and heroin remain politically restricted for the rest of our lives, but we may just see prison sentences for their use and simple possession disappear altogether. What a wonderful world it would be if scores fewer people were having their lives ruined by the state on a daily basis.

  10. Not in agreement with banning commercial anything…but with the commerce comes the regulations which I do disagree with. It is a plant, if I want to grow it and smoke it, or trade it, or sell it, or whatever I want to do with it, ‘Don’t tread on me!’

    The commercial market is there if people want it, but for those of us that don’t…well…

  11. D.C. Buyers club. Who’s in?

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