Where drugs are taxed and regulated, there is a gray market for those who’ll undercut the tax and regulations. We see that in Manhattan, where profiteers transport van-loads of low-taxed North Carolina cigarettes to sell on the street corner. We see that in Canada, where Americans cross the border to get cheaper prescription drugs. In my state of Oregon, many Washingtonians cross into Portland to shop with no state sales tax. But the reason cartels are in power is because they can take the risk and exercise the brutality necessary to prosper in a prohibition market. When pot is legal to grow for personal use and sold with reasonable taxation, Mexican cartels are forced to play by the same business rules as American entrepreneurs, and the Mexicans can’t win in that environment.
What about criminal justice costs? Wouldn’t legalization at least decrease these? Surprisingly, legal drugs — especially alcohol - cause more arrests every year than illegal ones. Legal drugs are more available and therefore more abused. Driving while intoxicated, public drunkenness, and liquor law violations result in over 2.5 million arrests every year. That isn’t to say that current drug policies are not costly to the criminal justice system. They are. But that is precisely why we need smarter enforcement policies — not legalization, which would likely compound current costs.
Once again, alcohol is a toxic and addictive drug which causes in its users insanity, criminality, and death. Of course there are more liquor law violations leading to arrest, because we arrest kids that try to use fake IDs, store clerks who sell to minors, bars that don’t card, and people who are drinking where they shouldn’t be. Oh, and because alcohol is the most popular drug in the country, with about three-quarters of all high school seniors trying it at least once. If marijuana legalization leads to another 850,000 arrests a year and, therefore, no cost savings, at least those arrests would be for people violating the law regarding supplying to minors, driving under the influence, or behaving in a criminal way that affects others – not merely possessing marijuana.
If Dr. Sabet’s reasoning makes your head hurt, try working through it backwards. He says legalization of marijuana would increase abuse, thereby increasing arrests, thereby leading to more costs. So, then, if we went returned to a strict new alcohol prohibition where anyone caught with a beer can be arrested and jailed, fewer people would abuse alcohol, we’d make fewer arrests for alcohol, and we’d have lower criminal justice costs for alcohol.
If that doesn’t work, whenever Dr. Sabet finishes a paragraph, just append one of the following taglines, as appropriate:
- …and that’s why the government needs to lock me up in a cage for smoking a joint on my back porch!
- …and that’s why we need to make alcohol and tobacco Schedule I drugs!
- …and since legal alcohol and tobacco are so toxic and addictive, that’s why we need to ban non-toxic, low-side-effect marijuana!
Article from National Cannabis Coalition and republished with special permission