With a historic marijuana legalization initiative certified for November’s general election, California is ground zero for a growing national debate. No matter what you think about regulating marijuana for adult consumption, brace yourself for a blast of alarmist hot air from the drug war status quo, a nine-month onslaught of distortions, half-truths and real whoppers. Marijuana offenses account for over half of all drug arrests nationwide. No wonder the law enforcement lobby is furiously digging in its heels at the prospect of “losing marijuana.” Here are three commonsense reasons to dump decades of failed marijuana prohibition. (Spoiler alert: Billions of dollars in new state revenue isn’t one of them. That’s just gravy.)
1. Regulation will help bring marijuana distribution under the rule of law.
Proponents for maintaining the marijuana ban claim that legalization would aid criminal markets. But it’s prohibition that has ceded control to the black market; legalization and regulation would mean the opposite. Ending marijuana prohibition means ending the current state of chaos and implementing real controls on who has access to marijuana when and where.
Whether we like it or not, marijuana is a mainstream recreational drug and famously California’s largest cash crop. Prohibiting a commodity that popular has simply fueled a massive, increasingly brutal underground economy. Criminal syndicates in Mexico reportedly derive at least 60% of their profits from marijuana sales alone. The horrifying carnage that’s claimed 15,000 Mexican lives in three years isn’t about drugs, of course, but the drug profits guaranteed by prohibition. While regulating marijuana in California won’t single-handedly solve the problem, bringing the market for marijuana into the open will undermine the Al Capones and Pablo Escobars of today by ending the monopoly they currently enjoy over their most lucrative product.