The Case for Legalizing Weed

Adults should have the right to make their own decisions about what to put in their own bodies.


Ten states and Washington, D.C., have now legalized adult use of marijuana.

Supporters of America's long war on drugs said legalization would create disaster. Has it? No.

Colorado and Washington offer the longest points of comparison because weed has been legal in those states now for five years.

More people in Colorado tried marijuana after legalization, but that's not a surprise.

Colorado's crime rate did rise a bit. But many things influence crime rates. Washington state's violent crime rate rose a little but slightly less than the national average.

In California, people I interviewed said legalization made the streets safer. "It's cleaned up the corner," said one woman. Marijuana stores "have a lot of security (and) pay attention to who's on the sidewalk."

Sounds good to me.

But drug warriors are not convinced. Paul Chabot, a former anti-drug policy advisor for Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, tells me that legalization has been a disaster.

"Colorado youth have an 85 percent higher marijuana use rate than the rest of the country," he says in my new video on marijuana legalization.

But he is wrong. Federal and state surveys and The New England Journal of Medicine report that teen marijuana use dropped a little in Colorado. Maybe there's something about legal businesses, with the dreary name "dispensaries," that makes weed less sexy to kids.

But there is bad news: The driving death rate increased in Colorado and Washington after legalization. But the data isn't clear—driving deaths are up even more in some neighboring states like Idaho, where weed is still banned.

Chabot says, "Pot driving fatalities in Colorado are up 151 percent!"

That's true, but that statistic is misleading because traces of marijuana stay in a person's system for a long time. Some of those people may have used marijuana weeks before.

A more stringent measure that may indicate whether someone was actually high at the time of an accident suggests an increase of 84 percent.

That's terrible, but the numbers of accidents are so small—35 in all of Colorado in 2017, up from 19 in 2014—it's hard to draw conclusions. That deserves more study.

If anti-drug warriors like Chabot want to look seriously at the statistics, they should also include the harm done by drug prohibition itself.

It's nearly impossible to overdose on pot. But banning marijuana drives sales into the black market, where criminals do the selling. And criminals are more likely to settle their disagreements with guns.

They don't perform the reliable quality controls that legal drug sellers must do to please their customers.

On the black market, customers take their chances. Then, when things go wrong, anti-drug voices cry out: "See? Drug markets are inherently unsafe!"

Banning drugs doesn't stop teens or adults from using them. Anyone who wants the stuff knows how to get it. One survey found that teens said it's easier to buy weed than alcohol. Alcohol is rarely sold in schools, but banning marijuana creates fat profits that inspire dealers to recruit students to sell to their peers.

Then there are the billions of dollars spent by law enforcement—$900 per second. (That's just the federal cost. Total spending is much higher.) And the million people arrested yearly for drug violations.

I suggest to Chabot that drug prohibition has worked out as badly as alcohol prohibition did nearly 100 years ago.

"Just because something doesn't work doesn't mean that we end it," he replies. "Doesn't mean we quit."

I say failure sometimes does mean you should quit, because you're doing more harm than good.

"No, because then we give up, and that's not American," Chabot says.

Well, today, two-thirds of Americans say marijuana should be legal. One state at a time, with New York and New Jersey about to join the list, Americans are giving up on marijuana prohibition.

Good. Adults should have the right to make their own decisions about what to put in their own bodies.

NEXT: Pelosi and Schumer to Trump: End the Shutdown Now, Argue About Wall Funding Later

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. I essentially started three weeks past and that i makes $385 benefit $135 to $a hundred and fifty consistently simply by working at the internet from domestic. I made ina long term! “a great deal obliged to you for giving American explicit this remarkable opportunity to earn more money from domestic. This in addition coins has adjusted my lifestyles in such quite a few manners by which, supply you!”. go to this website online domestic media tech tab for extra element thank you .

  2. Problem is, weed can be addictive. Addiction is a disease and once triggered can lead to harder drugs like meth and heroin. I’ve seen it happen many times and I lost some friends because of it. Always started with pot, same story. If we can save just one life it’s worth it.

    1. Marijuana is not generally considered physically addicting. Like anything, it canbe what I believe is called ‘habituating’, i.e. it is pleasurable and people with addictive personalities are prone to become phychologically ‘addicted’ to it.

      But people with addictive personalities are likely to latch onto SOMETHING bad for them. And having laws against marijuana doesn’t seem to help much.

      1. It all starts with mother’s breast milk!!!

    2. It never starts with pot you fucking moron whatever you mean by “start”. Your dumb brain wants to make the connection because you’re an idiot who doesn’t understand that using marijuana has as much to do with using heroin as drinking soft drinks has to do with taking jello shots.

    3. ” If we can save just one life it’s worth it.”

      This is a brilliant position for public policy! We can save WAY more than one life. Ban motor vehicles. F**ing deadly things, all of them – dirt bikes, mopeds, 18-wheelers, buses, passenger cars, and so on.

      1. The vast majority of preventable deaths are caused by humans. Ban humans.

    4. Problem is statists like you who hate personal freedoms & choice.

    5. Always started with pot

      You misspelled beer. I don’t know anyone who started with pot and went to cocaine without first starting with alcohol. Let’s make alcohol illegal! /sarc

      1. “Air is a the biggest gateway drug. It always starts with air.”

    6. *can’t tell if joking*

      Per Licit and Illicit Drugs drug policy in ALL instances has more detrimental affects than the drug itself. And that is across all categories. Even heroin use is less damaging than its prohibition. It is the classic case of the treatment being worse than the disease.

      We have over 400,000 in jail for drug possession violations. What about their lives?

    7. Still not a federal problem. Sorry for your losses, but again, still not a federal problem.

    8. You do know you can treat something as a public health problem without treating it like a criminal problem, right?

    9. Well…not really specifically. Everything and anything that you find pleasurable is addictive. There was just a study talking about how addictive cheese is. We need to change the narrative on what addiction is – which is a normal brain behavior. Any minute now there will be (if there’s not already) a study about how addictive music is. There is a difference between this kind of addiction and the physical dependency that is caused by substances like heroin.

    10. I would wager my house that it didn’t start with weed; it started with alcohol.

  3. The argument for legalizing marijuana is so much simpler than a philosophical point about rights; the prohibition against marijuana clearly does not work and damages society at least as much as legal pot seems likely to. Can we do something else, please?

    1. Religion is fucking disease that destroys lives if y’all want to start measuring it up. Just think about. Those religious people give their money and their time over to the opium of religion. They brainwash children. They vomit their insanity all over the world. You get the picture.

      1. Translation: I know much more than nothing about the subject, have never attempted to learn, let alone study it even in meager depth, know absolutely no one who has more than a passing interest in it; and am simply irritated that it’s precepts find me and the way I live my life predictably and amusingly tragic for myself and anyone near me.

        1. And I’m desperate to be considered swove. I may take to endorsing socialism at any moment. Look at me.

          1. I’m not only swove, I am also suave and deboner!!!

            As far as religion goes, I have studied it (or at least the Bible-based flavors of it) at great length, and my conclusions can be found below…

            1. God COMMANDS us to kill EVERYONE!

              Our that them thar VALUES of society outta come from that them thar HOLY BIBLE, and if ya read it right, it actually says that God wants us to KILL EVERYBODY!!! Follow me through now: No one is righteous, NONE (Romans 3:10). Therefore, ALL must have done at least one thing bad, since they’d be righteous, had they never done anything bad. Well, maybe they haven’t actually DONE evil, maybe they THOUGHT something bad (Matt. 5:28, thoughts can be sins). In any case, they must’ve broken SOME commandment, in thinking or acting, or else they’d be righteous. James 2:10 tells us that if we’ve broken ANY commandment, we broke them ALL. Now we can’t weasel out of this by saying that the New Testament has replaced the Old Testament, because Christ said that he’s come to fulfill the old law, not to destroy it (Matt. 5:17). So we MUST conclude that all are guilty of everything. And the Old Testament lists many capital offenses! There’s working on Sunday. There’s also making sacrifices to, or worshipping, the wrong God (Exodus 22:20, Deut. 17:2-5), or even showing contempt for the Lord’s priests or judges (Deut. 17:12). All are guilty of everything, including the capital offenses.

              OK, so now we’re finally there… God’s Word COMMANDS us such that we’ve got to kill EVERYBODY!!!

              1. I’m Lutheran- God commands us to bring a tatter tot hot dish to the potluck to share with everyone.

                1. Tattered Tots aye

              2. And yet the 6th Commandment is – Thou shall not kill.

                1. That’s a mis-translation. It says, “Thou shall not murder”, that is, you shall not kill unrighteously. If in your interpretation of the Bible, YWHV tells you to kill someone, it must be righteous and thus not murder.

  4. Now wait just a minute!!! This “pot” stuff is evil- evil- evil- EVIL, and will one day be the death of us all!!! (If we don’t stop it NOW!) Now hear me out, please, for the sake of us all!

    Because Elon Musk smoked pot on TV, the NASA safety bureaucrats didn’t approve of new space transport for humans. For lack of that new transport, Americans will no longer be able to go to the ISS and maintain it (USA contracts for Russian rocket rides are due to expire soon, and there’s a 3-year lead time on new orders). So in early 2020, the ISS will crash into my house, and kill me, and the gravity-wave transvorbulator that I am secretly working on in my garage in my spare time, will be lost to science. For lack of the the gravity-wave transvorbulator, humans will NOT be able to fend off the near-Earth asteroid that will cream us all in 2032.
    It all started with Elon Musk smoking pot!!!

    The “Reefer madness” movie was correct; pot is the death of us all!!!!

  5. Marijuana is completely different from alcohol such that the two should never be compared, like apples and oranges.

    Marijuana involves psychotic hallucinogens that can be genetically modified and manipulated to have a wide range of effects on people.

    Unlike alcohol which leaves the body in a few hours, the compounds in marijuana stick in the fatty tissues of the brain for months meaning that there is no recovery. Users are never sober again.

    Medical research shows that frequent users of marijuana are 10 times more likely to develop psychosis and mental illness. Marijuana causes mental illness.

    There is no reliable roadside test for marijuana intoxication or the intoxication in combination with alcohol. Police just don’t have the tools.

    Unlike alcohol, a tiny amount causes intoxication. Easily concealed and consumed by children.

    I recognize the prevalence of marijuana in society already, and the tragedy of young lives impacted by criminal records.

    Our youth shouldn’t be encouraged to limit themselves either legally or mentally.

    1. “Our youth shouldn’t be encouraged to limit themselves either legally or mentally.”

      Car and motorbike accidents, airplane accidents, skiing, hang-gliding, diving, hunting, fishing, roller-blading, skate-boarding, hockey, soccer, boxing, football, baseball, basketball, and many-many more activities cause physical (and mental via brain injury) impairments. We shouldn’t be encouraging these things either!

    2. The active ingredient of cannabis is THC. How exactly do you genetically alter that molecule to cause it to have different effects? Please tell me because I’ll get rich. The human brain actually produces it’s own cannabinoids. It’s called the endocannabinoid system. That’s why cannabis controls epilepsy. You’re either hugely ignorant or a huge asshole. Probably both.

    3. None of what you say gives the federal government the authority to outlaw it. See Ariticle One, Section Eight and the Ninth and Tenth Amendments.

  6. One obvious statistic that often gets overlooked in this is that, after legalization, fewer people are senselessly and pointlessly locked in cages and have their future employment opportunities ruined with a criminal record.

    1. And if we could decrease the interactions between people and cops think of all the dogs lives we could save.

      1. That’s crazy talk. We’d have to shoot our dope sniffing dogs! You’re EVIL!

  7. Well, at least now being legal it does cut down on crime related to it, and draconian sentencing hopefully! Also, it helps get rid of the forbidden fruit appeal to it, so people can try it, and hopefully realize it’s no big deal…

    1. Yes, to your point, I understand that youthful “pot” use in the Netherlands (where it has been de facto legal for many decades) has been historically a lot lower than it has been here in the USA.

      1. It’s not as much fun when it’s legal and your parents are doing it.

        1. It being illegal does make it more appealing. Presuasion 101.

  8. Ideally it would be nice as legalization continues the restrictions on the number of plants for personal consumption would be unlimited, in a true legalization scenario there would be no limits on growing & selling.

    1. You can’t legally make or sell alcohol.

      The variation in the strength and risk of marijuana is significantly greater.

      1. Likewise with alcohol, there should not be any restrictions. Government should not be involved period.

      2. Uh you absolutely can make beer and wine at home. No one in human history has ever died of a cannabis overdose. It’s basically impossible.

        1. From a quick search, it appears that distilling liquor violates federal law, but other alcohols are allowed. Maybe that’s what Rob was referring to?

  9. I essentially started three weeks past and that i makes $385 benefit $135 to $a hundred and fifty consistently simply by working at the internet from domestic. I made ina long term! “a great deal obliged to you for giving American explicit this remarkable opportunity to earn more money from domestic. This in addition coins has adjusted my lifestyles in such quite a few manners by which, supply you!”. go to this website online domestic media tech tab for extra element thank you……

  10. “In California, people I interviewed said legalization made the streets safer. “It’s cleaned up the corner,” said one woman. Marijuana stores “have a lot of security (and) pay attention to who’s on the sidewalk.””

    This was dumb.

    That a store requiring security made it’s corner safer does that mean that the street*s* generally were made safer.

    More drunk people? Probably the streets are less safe. More high people? Likely the same. It’s a reasonable prima facie case.

    1. Eh, you’re more likely to get “drunk in public” folks then “high in public” folks.

      Regardless though, the point is that like other businesses that have strong incentives to secure their premises, while they may be scandalous to soccer-moms, such businesses do improve the “safety” of the area they’re in.

      1. But what people are complaining about isn’t the crime in the pot store, it’s the increased crime they expect to happen outside of it because of more high people.

  11. Here’s a case for legalizing weed.
    Treat every American like an adult.
    Oh, wait.
    That goes against the grain of thought from all the progressive nannies out there.
    My bad.

  12. “Just because something doesn’t work doesn’t mean that we end it,” he replies. “Doesn’t mean we quit.”

    I’m gonna hazard that quote is taken out of context as in-context it’s just stupid.

  13. Unfortunately, we have a Society of Children.

  14. I vote it should be just like alcohol. Harsher penalties for “high” crimes and judge ordered rehab for constant offenders JUST like AA. Discouraged but not restricted and CERTAINLY no excuse for stupidity.

  15. I’m not certain I’m in favor of legalization for everyone. I mean, as far as I’m concerned it’s legal for me and I’m used to being hunted by LE, used to being treated like a 2nd class human by America. It tells me who America really is. Legalization means the government will shut out all the freedom enthusiasts who have been risking their necks for 50 years, and handing it to the ass kisser friends of authoritarian government. I have other views on the subject as well, but I am resentful.

  16. “The Case for Legalizing Weed
    Adults should have the right to make their own decisions about what to put in their own bodies.”

    Except when it interferes with the medical mafia’s rent seeking profits.

    Reason used to have Sheldon Wingnut Richman regale us with the wackiest of the wacky.

    Then why is it that Reason can never even consider that the right to make our own decisions about what to put in our own bodies should extend to trying to heal ourselves, instead of just getting stoned?

    Corporate profits?

    “Libertarian Moment”

  17. “No, because then we give up, and that’s not American…”

    And therein lies the major obstacle to freedom and justice: officials possessing stupid pride.

    Even if prohibition does more damage than legalization, we’re not giving up the drug war because then we’d have to admit we failed.

    Even if those people convicted of whatever are innocent, and there’s ample evidence of that, we’re not gonna grant the appeal and release them from prison because then we’d have to admit we were wrong.

    Even if there’s no connection to any crime committed by this red sports car, we’re still not gonna give it back to its owner because then we’d have to admit we messed up… and besides, the police chief needs a new set of wheels.

    If America’s losing its moral fiber, we’re pointing at the wrong culprits if you ask me.

  18. It took an Amendment to outlaw alcohol. Why? Because the Constitution guarantees property rights. The feds can outlaw counterfeit goods, fraudulent goods and pirated goods, but other than that, any property taken must be for public use and the owner must be compensated.

    That should be the end of the story. No other argument need be made.

  19. American was founded on universal equal rights, meaning personal and political rights. It was not founded on a sovereign elite ruling class, the worldwide political paradigm. America was unique in that it was the first to espouse individual sovereignty replace royalty. No mention was made in the writings of the Founding Fathers as to the virtue of all citizens being forced to comply with rulers. The American Revolution was all about self-governance, secession, and an independent populace. Royalists fought against this. They lost. Lincoln tried to bring back the authoritarian central gov by use of violence against state sovereignty. His war didn’t work. The Southern states continued non-violent resistance afterward. That was countered by the public school system which brain-washed the youth to obey all authority, with the federal being the final authority. That sacrificed rights to a sovereign (royal?) authority.

    Since drug use is a right no gov can deny it or legalize it. The exercise of rights is not criminal but criminalizing rights are and the authorities responsible are the criminals.

    Who will protect us from our protectors?

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.