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Drugs and Decentralization
America Goes to Pot

Though only a few states have completely legalized marijuana use, there is significantly less opposition today to loosening pot laws than ever before—and even the DEA is starting to feel the heat. Politico reports:

“The summer of 2015 could be viewed historically as the tipping point against Nixon’s war on pot, the time when the DEA, a federal drug-fighting agency created by Nixon in 1973, found itself in unfamiliar territory as a target of congressional scrutiny, budget cuts and scorn. In a conference call this week, the new acting DEA administrator repeatedly downplayed marijuana enforcement efforts, saying that while he’s not exactly telling agents not to pursue marijuana cases, it’s generally not something anyone focuses on these days: “Typically it’s heroin, opioids, meth and cocaine in roughly that order and marijuana tends to come in at the back of the pack.”[…]

The national tide is clearly not in the DEA’s favor. Since Colorado legalized recreational marijuana in January 2014, three additional states have followed suit with full legal weed; the District of Columbia’s fight to legalize continues; the number of medical marijuana states has grown to 23; 14 states have legalized nonpsychoactive CBD oil; and 13 states have legalized industrial hemp, spurring a rapidly expanding legal market for a plant long demonized by the DEA.”

Americans, however, should be careful about this issue moving forward. While winding down the drug war seems, at the moment, like the worst possible policy except all others, Mark Kleiman et al.’s golden oldie from our magazine, “A Voter’s Guide to Legalizing Marijuana”, helpfully summarizes the issues surrounding American drug policy and shows that the questions involved are m0re complicated than the rhetoric used on both sides of the pot debate might suggest. Read the whole thing.

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  • JR

    Legalize it, don’t criticize it. Ya mon…….

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    The war on drugs is filling our prisons, destroying poor neighborhoods, and lining the pockets of criminal organizations. How much better would things be if all victimless crimes, were legalized? Billions are spent every year policing, imprisoning, and treating the victims of the violence. Billions more are lost in taxes on the income that criminals earn from their activities. It is foolish to think that the drug war can be won, or that it is doing anything but destroying lives.

    • rheddles

      How much better would things be if all victimless crimes, were legalized?

      A bit better for most of us and catastrophic for some of us. Do we want to socialize their losses as we do banks’?

      • JR

        I agree. There will be those who will develop marijuana dependency. Sucks for them? Absolutely. But I would argue the societal benefits of not creating a class of criminals whose offense is smoking a little grass outweighs the societal costs of having pot-aholics. This is a real world case with trade offs where legalization is the least bad solution.

        • rheddles

          I don’t disagree with you at the present time. But I can’t help remembering the Opium Wars and what they did to China. And some of China is watching for the chance to get even. Legalization seems to have its problems in Colorado, so I’m not ready to go full tilt yet. Letting the states roll it out slowly seems to make a lot of sense. But I’m not sold yet.

          • JR

            Fair enough. I’m a big proponent of State’s rights. Let them figure it out. But to your point, CO did some research and it turns out that 80% of pot is consumed by at most 10% of users. As somebody who went to school in CA, I can tell that this breakdown makes total sense to me.

          • rheddles

            True, but CO’s tax is so high that they haven’t driven the gangs out of business. That’s the goal of legalization.

  • Fat_Man

    Time to acknowledge that the war on drugs is a complete and utter failure. My own belief is that we should completely deregulate drugs and focus our efforts on developing treatments for addicts who want to get off drugs. There will be many drug users who will use drugs to complete their slow motion suicides. It will be sad, but at least they will not be driven to consort with criminals in order to do it. Darwin will have the final say.

    • fastrackn1

      “Darwin will have the final say.”

      Darwin should always have the final say….

  • FriendlyGoat

    WE don’t want to forget that Big Tobacco is salivating for the legalization. I do understand the ills of the status quo, but we haven’t seen the saturation of legal weed and other drugs that may occur for perhaps 100 or more years. There are costs to that too. There are other issues, as well. If we legalize pot but allow employers to fire people who test positive for it, we haven’t necessarily fixed much.

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