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Marijuana Prohibition Going Up in Smoke? High Hopes for a Drug War Pea

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Marijuana Prohibition Going Up in Smoke? High Hopes for a Drug War Peace Dividend


11/07/2012 @ 9:59AM |2,904 views


Marijuana Prohibition Going Up in Smoke? High Hopes for a Drug War Peace Dividend



7 comments, 1 called-out



What was the most important outcome of yesterday’s election? Surprisingly, it probably wasn’t Barack Obama’s reelection. The most important things happened in Colorado and Washington. Voters in both states dramatically scaled back marijuana prohibition. While they did not embrace wholesale legalization for production and sale of any amount of marijuana, voters in these states nonetheless chose to make it legal to possess and grow marijuana. This was a critical blow to the already-crumbling foundations of drug prohibition.

Isn't It High Time We Legalize Marijuana? http://blogs-images.forbes.com/cache/gravatars/acarden_40.jpg Art Carden Contributor

http://blogs-images.forbes.com/thumbnails/blog_1022/pt_1022_1497_o.jpg?t=1334956621 Let's Be Blunt: It's Time to End the Drug War http://blogs-images.forbes.com/cache/gravatars/acarden_40.jpg Art Carden Contributor

http://blogs-images.forbes.com/thumbnails/blog_1022/pt_1022_722_o.jpg?t=1308843183 The Drug War: What is It Good For? http://blogs-images.forbes.com/cache/gravatars/acarden_40.jpg Art Carden Contributor

As I have written before, drug prohibition is (literally) “a textbook example of a policy with negative unintended consequences” most visible in the extensive criminal underground and widespread violence associated with prohibition. What can we expect from legalization, and what could we expect from further liberalization of drug laws?

  1. Less Crime. Moving drug cultivation and commerce out of the shadows and into the legitimate marketplace will mean that participants in the market can resolve their disputes without resorting to violence. This will also deal a blow to international drug gangs by raising the supply of marijuana from competitors and by lowering its price. Since the demand curve for drugs is fairly inelastic—and I see no reason to think marijuana is an exception—this will reduce drug dealer revenue.
  2. Lower Demand for Hard Drugs Like Crack and Crystal Meth. At the margin, marijuana is a substitute for drugs like crack and meth. With lower prices and a much lower probability of prosecution associated with its use, I expect some drug users will switch to marijuana. Over the long run, I expect marijuana legalization to reduce the demand for harder drugs.
  3. A “Peace Dividend” From Scaling Back the Drug War. Scaling back the drug war frees up resources for more productive pursuits. Instead of busting pot smokers, Colorado and Washington cops can spend their time and energy fighting violent crime and fraud. Washington and Colorado residents who otherwise would have rotted in jail for a few years can go about their productive lives. Resources invested in avoiding detection can be redeployed toward more productive pursuits. You might finally be able to use the towel under your door for its intended purpose. The ball is in President Obama’s court on this one: I hope he respects the wishes of Colorado and Washington voters.

Yesterday’s results are historic because, as a Facebook friend pointed out, the results in Colorado and Washington show that ending prohibition can win at the ballot box, and this might encourage politicians to embrace prohibition repeal. If we’re lucky, our children will inherit a world in which the disastrous effects of drug prohibition are nothing but a sad chapter in a history book.


Some of the facts in this article were gathered from NORML.org.

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