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March 31, 2009

Thoughtful academic thoughts on ending marijuana prohibitions

Though President Obama last week gave too little respect or serious attention to the idea of legalizing marijuana in his on-line town hall meeting (background here), academics of late have been giving a lot of attention and respect to arguments for ending criminal prohibitions on marijuana.  Specifically, consider these notable articles that have all recently made appearances on SSRN:

March 31, 2009 at 09:57 AM | Permalink


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With all due respect, rolling out a few papers (no pun intended) about how marijuana ought to be legalized hardly constitutes serious thought. Inescapably, marijuana is bad news, and rightly illegal. Imagine your judge stoned. Imagine your cop stoned. Imagine your mom stoned. Imagine your banker stoned. Yeah, man, let them all get stoned. Yeah, right. Legalizing pot is a bad idea. But pretense of 'thought' to create provocation? Professor, I'd expect better from you. Talk about a credibility vacuum.

Posted by: bbb | Mar 31, 2009 11:36:28 AM

bbb, that argument is entirely unpersuasive. I don't want my judge, cop, mom, or banker stoned anytime they are doing their job. Similarly, I wouldn't want any of them drunk while doing their job. Yet alcohol is still legal. Do you believe alcohol should become criminalized?

If my judge, cop, mom, or banker wanted to get stoned on his/her own free time and didn't harm anyone while doing it, then all the more liberty to them. Similarly, don't you think highly qualified and skilled judges, cops, moms and bankers occasionally get drunk with no harm to their respective jobs?

Individuals who can smoke marijuana responsibly and at responsible times should be able to do so, just like individuals drink responsibly. Your statement about judges, cops, moms and bankers does nothing to convince me otherwise, and in fact, strengthens my thoughts on this subject. (Disclosure: should it be legal, I would choose to not smoke marijuana, yet I believe I should have the liberty to decide for myself if I wanted to do so responsibly).

Posted by: not persuaded | Mar 31, 2009 12:00:06 PM

To begin, bbb, I hoped you reviewed at least some of the linked papers before concluding based only on their titles that they "hardly constitute serious thought." In addition, just as I tend to assume that my judge, cop, mom and banker have all once been drunk, I also tend to assume that they have all once been stoned (at least those that came of age in the 1960s). Among the many problems with prevailing law, in my view, is that all these people need to lie (and are even expected to lie) about having ever been stoned, while an entire legal industry depends upon them being eager to get drunk again.

The goal of my post was to encourage serious consideration and reflection on ending marijuana prohibitions, which is what all the links papers seek to do. You comment, in contrast, reflects tired rhetoric and misguided moralizing. I expect better from my commentors, though I won't seek to attack your credibility while I express disappointment in your comment.

Posted by: Doug B. | Mar 31, 2009 1:39:02 PM

@bbb You seem to be under the false assumption that "legal marijuana" equates to "everyone is stoned".

You disregard these papers so easily, yet just as ignorantly invent some sort of magical reality where people lose self control?

Further, there are many users who never get "stoned", as their ailments are treated without over-indulging to the point of inebriation.

Posted by: Marijuana Facts | Mar 31, 2009 2:06:34 PM

Here is a solution that ends the self-defeating war on drugs, leaves the majority of people alone to enjoy adult pleasures, and restricts their potential damage. It averts repeating the experiences with cigarettes and alcohol.

Indeed, it ends the legal paradox and illogic, hypocrisy of enduring the damage of deadly legal substances, and less deadly illegal substances.



Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Mar 31, 2009 2:59:05 PM

Aren't "thoughts" "thoughtful" by their very nature, Prof?

Duuude, reading the title of this post makes me wonder if you've been smoking rope in the quad. ;)

While legalizing marijuana may make sense to some people (potheads), thankfully the President (a cocaine and beer man, hisself) isn't about to walk into that pit of rattlesnakes. Glen Beck would blubber for WEEKS on the teevee, rending his clothes and chanting about the "endtimes", should Obama suggest that maybe pot isn't worse than a round of G&T's.

Obama is too smart for that. Just be happy he's called off the DEA in California. That's just the best you're gonna get from Reichsfuhrer Holder, Joe "Lock 'em Up" Biden, and the Obamanator.

Only question is, what will DEA do now that criminals like terminal cancer patients and Tommy Chong can run free? Disguise themselves as truckstop whores to bust meth use? Hang out at the CVS to make sure you haven't added an extra "0" to the quantity on your Vicodin script? Use thermal imaging to detect people overheated from drinking too many Red Bull and vodkas, popping X tabs, and dancing (badly)?

DEA agents have mortgages too, you know.

Posted by: dweedle | Mar 31, 2009 5:30:04 PM

Milton Friedman (along with many, many, many other economists) thinks this should be discussed seriously.


But I suppose a Nobel Prize winning economist doesn't know as much about the economy than the Obama Administration. However, I would bet that Barrack Obama does not believe his own message-based on his dramatic change in body language during the virtual town hall. Legalization/regulation will become more likely IF this president makes it to a second term.

Posted by: Brandan B. | Apr 1, 2009 10:28:39 AM

Great post, dweedle.

Posted by: John K | May 16, 2009 11:20:38 AM

I setup http://www.pumraa.com to follow the new legislation that Barney Frank is pushing for. I'll have the full bill text up as soon as its published, but right now they say its to federally decriminalize 100 grams (3.5 oz) for personal possession like the 2008 version of the bill.

Posted by: Pumraa | Jun 19, 2009 7:42:21 PM

I come to relize that some people think that if marijuana is legalized then, it is going to be like smoking a cigeret out in the open. That is so not true. For those that think that they realy need to stop and think. Judges do not go to work drunk nor do police officers. If marijuana was legalized it would be handled the same way alchohol is handled. There would be a penalty for being in public under the influance. I would know for a fact that when my mother would beat me or have sex with me it was not because she was high. She was drunk and would become very violent. Same goes with my father in law that beet his wife when he was drunk , and many others. I have seen so many times that people I know are waisted get into a vehicle. Stop and look and tell me when the last time you know some one that got violent after geting high. If any thing marijuana should become legal and alchohol ilegal . Even just alchohol becoming ilegegal. This wont happen though because to many police oficers and government officles, and judges like to drink. HMMMM....

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