While I don’t hold out much hope for changes in the federal
government, other than more big government, there is a little bit of hope for
more liberty coming from the state and local levels. When voters in Oregon, Alaska, and the District of Columbia
head to the polls in November, they will have a chance at legalizing marijuana.
Of course, the term “legalization” is perhaps being used
liberally, as there will still be government rules and regulations on the sale
and use of marijuana. For example,
in Oregon, the ballot initiative would allow those of the age of 21 or older to
buy and possess up to one ounce at a time.
Alaska’s amendment would be similar, but would also allow
homeowners to grow up to six plants.
If the initiative in DC were to pass, then residents would
have to grow their own marijuana or get it from someone who does grow it. It would not be available through
In other words, it is partial legalization in all cases. While I am a purist on this issue (I
think all drugs should be fully legalized/ decriminalized), I believe this is a
good step in the right direction.
If these initiatives can help the residents there be at least a little more
free, then it is a good thing.
This isn’t about whether or not you like marijuana or agree
with others using it. This is an
issue of liberty. The law should
protect people against force or fraud from others. It should not be used to protect people from
themselves. Drug laws make using
drugs a victimless crime. You are
fining someone or throwing them in prison for supposedly harming
themselves. How does that help
And just like any bad law, there are unintended
consequences. I believe the worst
unintended consequence from the war on drugs is the crime it produces. When alcohol prohibition was
instituted, violent crime spiked.
When it was repealed in the midst of the Great Depression, crime quickly
fell back down.
The drug war is the face of the inner cities. It is not the drugs themselves that
cause the problems. It is the fact
that they are illegal. It creates
a black market and you end up with gangs in shootouts. You don’t see beer or wine companies
shooting it out on the streets. If
drugs were legal, you would likely buy them at a drug store, or from some other
commercial store. The legalization
of drugs would probably cut overall violent crime in half in a short period of
My biggest issue with these measures to legalize marijuana,
aside from the fact that they don’t go far enough, is that they are being used
to collect additional taxes. Many
people cite additional taxes as a reason to legalize marijuana. I think this is a bad reason. The governments at all levels have too
much money and they certainly don’t need more.
The war on drugs and the push for some states to legalize
marijuana provides many valuable lessons on liberty. Another interesting thing here is that these state
initiatives are helping to bring back the idea of federalism.
The U.S. Constitution is supposed to grant limited and
enumerated powers to the federal government. As the 10th Amendment says, the powers not
delegated by the Constitution are left to the states and the people. In other words, if it isn’t
specifically spelled out in the Constitution, then the federal government
should not be involved. This would
include drugs. Therefore, the
entire federal war on drugs is unconstitutional, like most everything else that
comes out of DC.
We can see with these ballot initiatives that there are
differences in what will be allowed.
Colorado and Washington already partially legalized marijuana, and those
measures were different.
The limits will be different, the production will be
different, the taxes will be different, and many other details will be
different with each one. Some
states may have the initiative pass, while others don’t.
The key here is that there should be differences. This is federalism and it is a better
system than having the politicians and bureaucrats in Washington DC dictate how
over 300 million people should live their lives (and that doesn’t include
Decentralization is better for liberty. People can see what works and what
doesn’t. When Colorado didn’t go
to pot after legalizing pot, it sent a message to some voters that maybe
legalization isn’t that big of a deal.
There are several states that allow medical marijuana and
there are several more pursuing it.
Again, there are different rules in different states. But it is better to have partial
legalization than no option at all, with DC calling the shots.
In conclusion, I see these ballot initiatives as highly
positive for the cause of liberty.
Aside from the additional taxes, they are mostly a step in the right direction. I hope that more states continue to go
on this path, which will eventually serve to nullify the unconstitutional
federal drug laws.