Posner: Legalize Marijuana

legalize-marijuanaThe case for prohibiting marijuana was never strong. It is a mind-altering drug, but no more so than alcohol, and it is considered less likely to induce violent behavior, and in general to have less destructive effects on the heavy user, the “addict.” There is little evidence that it is a “gateway” drug, in the sense that use of it induces the user to “progress” to more harmful drugs, such as cocaine, methamphetamine, Ecstasy, LSD, heroin, or, for that matter, alcohol; in fact there is evidence that marijuana is largely a substitute for alcohol. While prohibition doubtless deters many young people from using marijuana, it seems unlikely that young people with strong addictive propensities, for whom consumption of an addictive drug might be destructive, are deterred. Legalization would undoubtedly increase the use of marijuana unless very heavy taxes were imposed (which would in turn give rise to a black market, thus largely undoing the effects of legalization), but probably not the number of addicts. Actually, the emergence of a black market would be unlikely unless very heavy taxes were imposed on the sale of marijuana, given the natural consumer preference for a legal, FDA-regulated drug over an illegal one.

Although some 58 percent of Americans believe that recreational use of marijuana should be made legal, law enforcement activity aimed at discouraging marijuana use continues at a high level, with some 750,000 persons being arrested every year on marijuana charges, almost 90 percent for possession rather than for production or distribution. Despite the threat of criminal punishment (though punishment for mere possession, other than possession with intent to distribute, is largely nominal), the American market for marijuana is very large — some $36 billion a year (that’s the conservative estimate: estimates range as high as $113 billion). (More)

Comments (21)

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  1. Trent says:

    “There is little evidence that it is a “gateway” drug, in the sense that use of it induces the user to “progress” to more harmful drugs, such as cocaine, methamphetamine, Ecstasy, LSD, heroin, or, for that matter, alcohol”

    There was a study done where it was found that Hell’s Angels were 104 times more likely to ride a bike when they were younger. Are Bikes introductory mechanisms to gangs?

  2. Andrew says:

    The only reason that it isn’t legalized or decriminalized is based on anti-cannabis propaganda from over 100 years ago.

  3. Lucas says:

    “with some 750,000 persons being arrested every year on marijuana charges, almost 90 percent for possession rather than for production or distribution.”

    Move towards decriminalization, then legalization

    • James says:

      Agreed. With the US changing policy on a sensitive subject as marijuana, baby steps would be the best course of action.

  4. Thomas says:

    “the American market for marijuana is very large—some $36 billion a year (that’s the conservative estimate: estimates range as high as $113 billion)”

    Based on the market solely in Colorado, I would assume the latter is more accurate.

  5. Patrick S says:

    If legalization of marijuana decreases the amount Americans consume other drugs it would be a major win for the war against drugs. According to the article the illegality of the drugs keep people away from them. So providing a legal alternative will decrease consumption of other drugs, which are the ones that yield an income from drug trafficking.

  6. Jeff C says:

    After spending decades and billions of dollars on a failed war on drugs some revenue from them will benefit the American economy. Legalization is the only way to earn some revenues from drugs, so they must approach this route. Legalizing drugs is the answer.

    • Stewart M says:

      But don’t you think it is a matter of pride as well? As you mention, the U.S. has spent a lot in the war on drugs. Don’t you think that legalizing drugs after billions of dollars invested on destroying the market is a sign of defeat?

      • Jeff C says:

        Yes, it is a signal of defeat because they lost. The war on drugs has not yielded the dividends that were expected. Any additional funds towards this lost cause will be throwing money away.

  7. Richard says:

    Well..I have not tried this. I probably can not say “yes” or “no” easily. But it is good to see it flourishes the economy..

  8. Chris says:

    The economic arguments alone are enough.

    Prohibition doesn’t work, it creates a black market, which begets violence and other crimes. The reason marijuana is a “gateway” drug is because you need to buy it from a drug dealer, who might also sell heroin. Remove the criminal drug dealer from the equation, no more exposure to other illegal substances.

    We’re denying US farmers a cash crop to grow, while providing one to violent street gangs, cartels, and terrorist groups. Decriminalization is not enough, the battle won’t be won until we have some farmer planting 50 acres of weed, because at that point only will we have eliminated the artificial scarcities.

    Tax it, modestly, use the tax revenue to fund whatever.

    Yes, the police and corrections officers will piss and moan, let them, they just want all that overtime, and the opportunities to get dressed up like a soldier on holidays other than Halloween to go raid some pot house.

    On the same token, legalize prostitution as well. Prostitution exists everywhere, where it is illegal girls are beaten, killed, exposed to drug addiction, and thoroughly abused. Where it is legal they aren’t. If it is going to happen anyways, what is more important, prosecuting consenting adults who engage in mutually agreed upon behavior, or creating a situation where women can be abused in every sense of the word because their profession denies them access to law enforcement?

    Two parties want to keep marijuana illegal. Cops, and drug dealers. Two parties want to keep prostitution illegal, cops and pimps. All said parties are in it for the money.

  9. Kathleen Goryl says:

    John,

    I read your synopsis of Posner’s position to legalize marijuana. The neurosurgeon who is a frequent Fox News Contributor disagrees with the statement about marijuana not being a gateway drug. This neurosurgeon believes it is a gateway drug.
    What does the medical profession think? Has there been a thorough review of literature on the health risks and side effects? It is my understanding that there are substantial health risks.
    Didn’t the Administrator for the DEA testify against legalizing marijuana?
    I also understand, from news reports, that marijuana is stronger today than in previous years. In addition, I understand that if marijuana is laced with cocaine, one trial can cause a cocaine addiction.
    On what principles are the current public health initiatives based? (Government obligation/role to promote health-enhancing behaviors? to protect citizens from harmful behaviors?)