Grow your own?

Regarding the “grow your own policy” Mark Kleiman proposes, I have to say this is a very misguided approach.  While I love the notion of small, localized marijuana farmers, growing organic pot and sharing with their friends, the fact is not everyone will want to take the time or effort to grow the plants, and those that do take the time and effort won’t always be inclined to just give it away.  These people should have every right, even if only a symbolic right, to purchase marijuana without the stigma of illegality attached.  If something is basically harmless, or harmless enough to be legal to grow, well then it should be legal to sell and to purchase as well.  It should be introduced to the market, where small growers and big industries can compete.  If anything will lend itself to local, niche markets its marijuana, so I imagine a good deal of the pot sold in America, should prohibition end, will come from small growers.

Mark is simply wrong to say that excessive use alone would drive sales, like in the alcohol, tobacco or gambling industries.  For one thing, those industries would still exist if people used fewer of these products, but not to the same scale.  Smaller companies would still provide alcohol even if people began drinking only a tenth of what they drink now.   The market will fill the void, which is why we have Coors and local breweries.  The one does not eliminate the other.

Denying the capitalist element, or restricting it to home-grown only, has more than purely symbolic repurcussions, however.  For one thing, legalized marijuana should provide some tax revenue which can be used to fund police departments or other local efforts to combat real criminals and real social problems.  One of the strongest cases to be made against prohibition is that it creates a black market, and with the black market comes not only a loss in tax revenue, but also a rise in violent crime and arrest rates.  The grey market created by pseudo-legalization would be better, but not good enough.

Andrew writes, of Mark’s proposal:

I love this idea – because it is rooted in individual freedom, private property and the obvious point that making a plant you can grow in your garden illegal is a monstrosity.

While I agree with all these points in principle, I don’t think full legalization would change the matter whatsoever.  One could still grow their own.  But the individual freedom and private property of those who chose instead to buy their own would also be protected.  If it’s as legal to grow pot as it is to grow tomatoes, then it should be as legal to buy pot as it is to buy tomatoes.  I don’t like the billboard big-business capitalism anymore than the next guy.  I prefer to get my vegetables at the farmer’s market.  If I had room to grow my own carrots, I probably would.  But I like to have the choice.  My apartment is certainly too small to accommodate cornstalks, however nice it would be to grow my own corn.

Full legalization is the only route here.  Anything short of that would still be a monstrosity, if only one of lesser scale.

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16 thoughts on “Grow your own?

  1. I consider marijuana fairly harmless. I have real reservations though about legalizing a product that, when used correctly, guarantees some form of impairment 100% of the time. It’s a nightmare scenario for police and for potential accidents (to all: please spare me anecdotes about how pot makes you drive better – been there, done that, don’t agree).

    I think the Amsterdam model has got to be the only way to go here. It still provides for profit, it gives the govt tax revenues, etc but it isn’t completely legalizing it. It’s also working very quietly in California.

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  2. Most people would argue that alcohol guaranteed some form of impairment 100% of the time (cooking with it aside). I mean, even if you are fairly impervious to a drink, it can still provide some buzz. It still effects motor skills. I just don’t think that’s a good enough argument against….

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  3. This doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. There’s an intuitive distinction between marijuana and tomatoes. One is a vegetable, the other is an addictive drug that may lead to health problems. That’s a non-arbitrary reason to restrict property rights and stop short of full-blown legalization.

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  4. But Will, if the argument is that we should be allowed to grow it but not to sell or purchase it here, how does that change the matter? It’s still an addictive drug (though that’s up for debate). So we are allowed under the law to grow marijuana and tomatoes, but not to buy marijuana? And we provide no legal framework with which to use in the sale of marijuana either, essentially creating a grey market? That doesn’t resonate with me. I think half-measures are the wrong approach.

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  5. One is a vegetable, the other is an addictive drug that may lead to health problems. That’s a non-arbitrary reason to restrict property rights and stop short of full-blown legalization.

    We already allow many things that are addictive and potentially harmful, coffee, chocolate, and diet coke are great examples. Making herb illegal on the same grounds would count as an arbitrary use of principle for me.

    From personal experience, marijuana is lightly addictive, not like tobacco, and is quite possible to use without severe effects. If you drink three beers regularly with dinner, the beer doesn’t actually have that great of an effect.

    Financially, I think the greatest motivator would be industrial hemp not quality sipping herb. I think there are some great arguments against, I just haven’t seen anyone make them yet. And, as a proponent, I’ll pass on making them myself.

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  6. I think we could get into logistical arguements about duration of the ‘buzz’ etc. You have a beer in a bar and wait the legally-recomended hour and you can drive home with no real worries. Given the potency of today’s marijuana, if you smoke a bowl at your buddy’s house, he might as well make up the guest room.

    This may raise a completely ancillary issue: If we legalize marijuana, we may have better case for mass transit. I picture special friday and saturday night ‘stoner’ rates on the subway in our big cities, while buses and taxis see a big increase in ridership in others. Or maybe we just create bike lanes with padded walls on both sides?

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  7. I smoke cigarettes, drink coffee and beer all of which give non habitual users highs of various degrees. It’s been years since I’ve had a coffee buzz. As long as I keep it to beer, I can drink till I’m full and feel almost no intoxication. My personal experience says that herb is similar…. even with the really good stuff. Not to say I have anything against public transit or Saturday night cab rides.

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  8. I agree – but then you are arguing for long-term, habitual use. In this age of lung cancer, addition medicine, etc it’s hard to sell marijuana on the premise that, “If you smoke lots of it, the buzz won’t be too bad.” As stated, I know from experience that it’s pretty harmless, but I also know that driving stoned left me often arriving at places and not remembering parts of the drive. I’d be curious to hear some realistic proposals on associated laws. Do we use the alcohol framework, or something else?

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  9. There is certainly a health concern. Is it actually worse than smoking a pack a day? A big mac a day? Would users widely turn to inhalers or other health mitigating forms (using it in cooking) that hasn’t been true in the case of tobaco?

    Just like beer vs taquilla, there are strains (Indica) that will have you waking up, crouched in front of the fridge two hours later. This speaks to your last point. I’m unaware of a reliable test for impairment that would be similar to alcohol. I wonder how this has actually been implemented in the Netherlands or California for that matter. Implementing regulation, on many fronts, would be problematic for marijuana in a way that isn’t true for alcohol.

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  10. ED –

    The rationale for stopping short of full-blown legalization is that it would prevent a dedicated Marijuana industry from aggressively marketing the drug. This does nothing to lessen the actual effects of marijuana, but it may help avert the development of a pot equivalent to Big Tobacco. Matthew Yglesias has written a few posts on this that I don’t care to dig up right now.

    I’m not sure if I agree with his argument – like you, I’m a bit wary of restricting peoples’ right to buy and sell products – but it is something worth considering.

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  11. Will:

    The rationale for stopping short of full-blown legalization is that it would prevent a dedicated Marijuana industry from aggressively marketing the drug.

    I’m the first to decry rampant capitalism, the aesthetic and moral consequences of too much marketing, too much capitalizing of a good thing – but (and this is a major sticking point) – I can’t justify only legalizing the growth of something and continuing to keep the purchase illegal. That simply isn’t right. Now, perhaps there is some other way to regulate the industry that keeps it smaller. I’m really in favor of keeping companies small and localized to whatever degree possible, but I don’t think consumers should pay the price with their freedom – only their pocket books.

    Also, I’m envisioning the future of the League as some sort of benign marijuana co-op on the Washington-British Columbia border. Why ruin that dream, ED? Why?

    Hey, but my larger point is that co-ops and corporations can co-exist and compete. Though, to be fair, I’d like to see more co-ops and fewer massive corporations, though I’m not sure how to localize our economy…

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  12. “Now, perhaps there is some other way to regulate the industry that keeps it smaller.”

    Easy. You write it into incorporation and limited partnership codes that such organizations can’t sell intoxicating THC products, under penalty of losing limited liability and converting to general partnerships.

    Now maybe I’m wrong and you’ll get giant Marijuana firms that resemble large law firms in their organizational structure, but I don’t think the economics work that way.

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  13. We already allow many things that are addictive and potentially harmful, coffee, chocolate, and diet coke are great examples. Making herb illegal on the same grounds would count as an arbitrary use of principle for me.

    Cascadian –

    None of the things on that list are massive carcinogenic. Not comparable, in my opinion.

    Allowing people to use it, as they accept the health consequences, strikes me as a reasonable position. Allowing it to be marketed increases use, exposes more people, and creates a much stronger lobby groups in favour of something that is, as a substance, at least as harmful as tobacco cigarettes. It’s a case of the conflicting demands of preserving life and favouring personal liberty. The harm done to life by “grow your own” is sufficiently small for it to make some kind of sense as a policy; the harm done by putting the drug on the mass market is, IMO, too great to justify it.

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  14. Katherine: yes smoke is a different kind of health hazard than caffeine, heavy salt use, and fats. I’m not sure they’re any less damaging. With education on the smoking front, use has dropped dramatically. On the other side we have a skyrocketing obesity rate and MickyDs advertising to children.

    I’m not in favor of supporting RJ Reynolds. I do however, value consistency. It’s difficult to see why we allow one and not the other. When we add the many prices of the drug war into the equation, it’s even harder for me to see a justification to continue as we have.

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