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.