Laws regulating cannabis are laws regulating the body

In honor of 4/20, here is a paper I published a couple years ago in my school paper on the science of marijuana consumption. And here’s a few interesting facts about the drug:

  • sea squirts were the first organisms to develop cannabinoid receptors
  • when Tupac Shakur was cremated, members of his musical group Outlawz combined his ashes with marijuana and smoked him
  • the first ever sale on the internet was a small bag of marijuana
  • Carl Sagan, writing under a pseudonym, once wrote an article outlining what he saw as the beneficial effects of smoking it

Combing through the history of drug criminalization in America, it is clear that much of the law arose in response to national or state crises. It’s very obviously too simplistic to say, these drugs became illegal because they are dangerous; it’s also disingenuous to claim criminalization occurs simply to oppress or discriminate against certain groups of people (although, certainly, racism played a role in several criminalization campaigns, definitely including marijuana’s). The attitude has changed toward recreational weed: people think it should be legal because it’s safe and has legitimate medical benefits (instantly making its Schedule I status ridiculous). These things are true, but when progressives rest their drug legalization case on these mild criteria they weaken the case for more dramatic legislation which could produce effects far more progressive. Marijuana should be legal because laws which regulate it are laws which regulate the human body, in ways that only effect the user. The case for legalization is a case for freedom and autonomy, and from it follows the lifting of prohibitions on ketamine, opioids, barbiturates, benzodiazepines, methamphetamine, heroin, lysergic acid diethylamide, psilocybin, ecstasy,cocaine, etc. The economic argument for drug decriminalization is clear; the legal argument (like the iron law of prohibition) is clear; the moral argument is deontological and follows from much of the spirit of new political voices that wonder about government’s role in regulating the body.

The argument, often given by marijuana consumers, that it should be illegal because, were it to become legal, small businesses would get wiped out by larger conglomerates, and lower quality weed would get produced, is partially false and wholly single-minded. Most of the people that get jail time for weed are busted only for possession, not distribution; some people have been charged with life imprisonment for minor acts of growing — some of them retired veterans dealing with mental health issues. Focusing on how potent the weed would be if decriminalized is focusing only on how we, free individuals, will make out; it leaves these people in prison for a minor bump in hedonism. Further, cannabis’ potency has soared over the years since its initial popularity (in truth, a consequence of prohibition). It’s unlikely that it would start to de-escalate, as demand is so high. And weed is available in a multitude of forms now: the experimentation could only grow with laxer drug laws. Also, small businesses are often the ones hardest hit by regulation of products. The massive cartels will suffer most by drying up the black market, and then individuals who want relatively harmless drugs like marijuana can avoid entering a seedy underground (where they are exposed to far worse ails) to obtain it.

Prohibitionists also claim to be concerned about the children: with weed legal, won’t younger people start doing it? Again, the case for drug legalization is a case for autonomy, so this argument is misguided anyway, but to answer it — the best research from Colorado after recreational legalization (see Reason) suggests no statistically significant fluctuation in youth use. Marijuana is already immensely popular with young people; it can’t get much more in-fashion. Also, the recreational measures being introduced propose 21 as a purchase age: if kids are obtaining the drug from their neighborhood dealer now, the new laws would only direct them to buying from older, and probably more responsible people.

Most of the arguments point to decriminalizing weed, and not just because it’s safe and has medical benefits. These arguments also justify the extension of similar opinion to “hard drugs.”

For a more just criminal justice system, and a more free society … legalize it.

Happy 4/20. (And no, by the way, I don’t smoke.)

Growing Weed in Humboldt County (and the Economics of Prohibition)

And yet California, long the marijuana movement’s pacesetter, and a haven for high-capacity growers, finds itself in the perhaps-unwelcome position of losing outlaws like Ethan. Should the state follow Colorado’s and Washington’s leads in legalizing recreational use, as is expected, already-fragile economies in the north—specifically in the “Emerald Triangle” of Mendocino, Humboldt, and Trinity counties, home to some quarter of a million people—could be crippled. The “prohibition premium” that keeps marijuana prices, and those economies, aloft would fall, possibly so precipitously that many growers would lose their incentive and (perhaps ironically) leave for more-punitive regions. In recent years, many growers have reportedly left California for places like Wisconsin and North Carolina—markets where a pound of marijuana might fetch double what it does in the Golden State. Legalization helps keep growers out of jail, but regulation slashes their profit margins.

This is from Lee Ellis in The Believer. Read the whole thing, it’s a great piece of journalism, although I don’t link to this because I think it’ll teach readers anything new. I just like it because it reports on one of my old stomping grounds. I don’t smoke much pot anymore, but there is nothing quite like smoking weed from Humboldt County.

Uruguayan government: “monopoly” on pot

Last week, Uruguay’s government passed legislation to legalize marijuana. While the government will not be growing any cannabis plants (they are leaving that to private cultivators and farmers), the state will be playing a major role in the market… by fixing the price for marijuana at $1 per gram.

The rationale behind this production legalization and price fixing is to limit the amount of marijuana being trafficked into the country (mainly from Paraguay). As many of you may know, the narcotics trafficking business in Latin America is wrought with intense violence and organized crime. By fixing the price at $1 a gram, government officials believe this initiative will drive these traffickers out of business (at least in Uruguay). However, as all government interventions go, we need to ask ourselves, what are the possible unintended consequences lurking around the corner?

The issue I have is not with the legalization of marijuana, but with the price-fixing component of the legislation. Interventions into the market distort information (price) signals, forcing entrepreneurs to work off of incorrect information for their profit and loss calculations. Given that the drug market is already entrenched in these distortions, is this price-fixing component of the legislation a step in the right direction, or does it just complicate matters further?

The incentive structure, given the fixed price, is not the same as it would be in a free market. Any incentive that could have pushed these traffickers to move away from violence if it resulted in greater profits has been removed. Perhaps these violent traffickers will leave the marijuana business in Uruguay, but will they relocate efforts to other countries, or perhaps begin focusing on different illegal narcotics to traffic into Uruguay? If these new freedoms being granted to Uruguayans are coming at the cost of increased violence in other countries as a result of this price-fixing component, should we consider this a success?

I Supported Ron Paul Because of Weed… So What?

When Ron Paul campaigned for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, I had no idea who he was nor did I care much for politics, let alone his. Like many recent high school grads, the extent of my interest in politics didn’t go much further than the U.S. Government class I was required to take to graduate. I was what you would call a single issue voter.

The only issue that I really cared about at the time was, admittedly, marijuana legalization. Yes, I was one of the kids that spent his days before–sometimes during–and after school smoking weed. I literally sat through school sleeping until I could leave and go smoke. You could say I was bored with my education. I tired of listening to teachers and their sometimes ludicrous assignments and consigned myself to sitting in the back of the classroom so that I would be allowed to sleep, undisturbed. Apathy dictated my high school years. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy learning, but I was bored and didn’t really give a shit.

Fast forward to the 2012 Republican primaries. It was campaign season, and the debates between Republican candidates Romney, Santorum, Gingrich, and Paul were just starting to heat up. To be honest, I was mostly interested in seeing if any of these candidates embraced marijuana legalization. President Obama had never actually opined for the plant’s legalization, but his pro-marijuana statements were enough to get many young peoples’ votes, crucial to his being elected in 2008. This somehow led to the erroneous belief that Obama would push for legalization of the plant, which never happened.

Personally, I wasn’t disappointed. I mean, it’s not like he had promised to legalize. No promises were broken. With the Republican primary race in full swing, I wanted to see whether I actually had any real hope of seeing marijuana legalized, or if I would have to wait yet another four years to get my hopes up. It was soon after that I started to pay attention to Dr. Paul.

Here was this stoop-shouldered, old Texan with a slight stutter who spoke with such passion and reason I couldn’t help but pay attention. Mostly, he talked about economic and foreign policy issues that I had little knowledge of. Even before I knew his stance on ending the War on Drugs, for some reason Dr. Paul’s honest delivery and conviction stood out to me. I knew that he had been in Congress for years, but beyond that I defected to my parents’ opinion of him: crazy.

I started to do some research on Dr. Paul’s background and found that he was a man of extremely reputable character. He was an anomaly from the get-go. Defying conventional opinion of politicians; a brief look at his voting record betrayed the saying that all politicians are liars. With voting records now published online and easily accessible, I would have been able to find out right away if he had voted contradictorily to what he said. Here was a politician that held an ideology that sometimes went against his personal views, yet defended it to the death because of his conviction in its power to affect widespread positive societal improvement.

I suppose at this point it’s important to iterate my own opinions on liberty. Mostly, I don’t think it’s proper to glorify the idea of liberty to the extent that some do, and I think that it even hurts the movement as a whole when some consider themselves missionaries of the ideology. I don’t worship liberty, but I do see it as a fundamental right for humanity—and liberty to me means the ability to make decisions regarding your own social, economic, and political lifestyle, as long as they’re peaceful.

I researched Dr. Paul online, found YouTube videos of him speaking, and was instantly hooked. Beyond marijuana legalization, I found that I agreed with everything that he pushed for: his main issues that stood out to me were a non-interventionist foreign policy, ending the War on Drugs, returning to some semblance of budgetary balance, accountability of the Federal Reserve, and free markets. As I know now, these very ideas form the primary backbone of the liberty movement. Before, liberty was just something I included in the Pledge of Allegiance and was told that it was somehow crucial to being American. I had never bothered to ask why. Once I did, I came upon entire organizations devoted to spreading the ideas of liberty. They’re dedicated to educating any who might listen on the importance of social, economic, and political freedom.

Since initially paying attention to Ron Paul and happening upon the liberty movement, I feel like it is almost my civic duty to at least inform others of these ideas, even if they disagree. These ideas are founded in reason and logic. These days, you’ll find me telling any like-minded friends who will listen how a lazy stoner like me was motivated by liberty not only to get off my ass, but to learn. I’ve come to the conclusion that the ideas are ultimately important beyond me. Although I find it wrong to tell others they hold erroneous opinions, all I can do is to try to help inform and see where that takes them. I don’t think I’m alone in finding Dr. Paul’s passion contagious. At the same time, I’m not glorifying the man, but the ideas that he manages to deliver are powerful, and it’s these ideas that are worth paying attention to.

Even though Dr. Paul did not win the 2012 Republican primary, he instilled something far more important, affecting an entire generation still in its intellectual infancy. I truly believe that these ideas will come to reach more people in the future and will affect many in the same way that they have moved me.

I think it’s only fitting that I end this article in Dr. Paul’s own words:

Ideas are very important to the shaping of society. In fact, they are more powerful than bombings or armies or guns. And this is because ideas are capable of spreading without limit. They are behind all the choices we make. They can transform the world in a way that government and armies cannot. Fighting for liberty with ideas makes more sense to me than fighting with guns or politics or political power. With ideas, we can make real change that lasts.