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 commercial production.
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 anyone?
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 When it was repealed in the midst of the Great Depression, crime quickly fell back down.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 time.
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 foreigners).
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.