Friday, November 8, 2013

The Marijuana Pipe Dream

There is so much discussion about the legalization of marijuana these days, especially after two states voted to legalize the use the drug (Colorado and Washington). Today, 18 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana usage. This is the White House’s position on marijuana policy straight from the Office of National Drug Control website: “Marijuana is classified as a Schedule I controlled substance under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). As a Schedule I drug, marijuana is classified under the following criteria: A. The drug has a high potential for abuse. B. The drug has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States C. There is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug under medical supervision.” Yet, the federal government has done very little to enforce federal laws as it pertains to legalized medical marijuana. The Supreme Court has ruled numerous times, and most recently on the Arizona Immigration law, that state law cannot trump federal laws citing the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution. So why doesn’t the federal government sue those states who have legalized medical marijuana because their laws conflict with federal laws? Meanwhile, the DOJ has sued numerous states over conflicting immigration policy. This truly shows the hypocrisy of the federal government. Do not get me wrong, I am a big states rights advocate, but the DOJ certainly shows its bias when it comes to enforcing federal laws.

Liberals have argued for years that legalizing marijuana would raise tax revenues for both federal and state governments. Legalization would also be helpful to the environment for several reasons. First, the pesticides and other toxins being used to grow illegal marijuana are poisoning our lands (and many of these illegal marijuana farms are located on pristine state and national park lands). Secondly, it would reduce energy and water consumption to run these illegal marijuana farms. Legal marijuana farms would no longer need to be hid in remote areas and could have clear access to the best and cheapest energy source – the sun. Legalization would also reduce the need for enforcement which would save state and federal governments millions annually. Finally, legalization would provide access to medical marijuana for all.

All of this sounds great, but it is dream for several reasons. First, if marijuana has any medical advantages let the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approve the drug and then let it be dispensed though pharmacies. This is standard procedure for all drugs and those that do not comply are violating federal law. Secondly, higher taxes and reduced enforcement is more than likely going to lead to a black market for cheaper tax free marijuana. To think legalization in the U.S. will suddenly stop the flow of illegal marijuana into the U.S or farmed within the U.S. is just naïve. The only true way to collect tax revenues on marijuana is to implement a flat or fair tax. Hence, environmental gains will be small if any since the demand for marijuana will rise and not go down if it is legalized. Finally, if marijuana legalization leads to higher drug usage and dependency it will cost state and federal governments more in enforcement, healthcare, and entitlement costs than it will receive in tax revenues.

I think states should have the right to enforce marijuana laws as they see fit without federal government intervention (but it will not happen). That being said, I voted against the legalization of marijuana in Colorado because I think it will ultimately be detrimental towards society.


  1. I agree with you, Patrick. I think it should be a state issue. It hasn't come to a vote since I've been in Texas but I too would vote against it. Like you I just think it's bad for society in general.

  2. Not the way a true Libertarian would think, but just cannot get by how drugs are bad for the most part unless you are sick.