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May 6, 2009

Republican governor signals openness to legalizing marijuana

Coincidentally, on the same day that I engendered a robust debate when suggesting that the GOP might start considering a new set of approaches to crime and punishment, a prominent Republican governor has indicated a willingness to consider legalizing and taxing marijuana.  Of course, as this Reuters piece details, this suggestion is coming from a non-traditional member of the GOP:

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said on Tuesday he welcomes a public debate on proposals to legalize and tax marijuana, which some suggest could provide a lucrative new revenue source for the cash-strapped state.  The Republican governor, whose term in office expires at the end of next year, was asked about the idea of treating pot like alcohol at an appearance in northern California to promote wildfire preparedness.

"No, I don't think it's time for that, but I think it's time for a debate," he said. "And I think we ought to study very carefully what other countries are doing that have legalized marijuana and other drugs, what affect it had on those countries, and are they happy with that decision."...  He said a decision to legalize marijuana, which has been outlawed in the United States since 1937, should not be made on the basis of raising revenues alone.

Schwarzenegger's comments come days after a statewide Field Poll found that 56 percent of California voters support the idea of legalizing cannabis for recreational use and taxing its proceeds.

May 6, 2009 at 07:56 AM | Permalink


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Let's legalize meth while we're at it. This would have many of the same virtues as legalizing dope: we could raise needed revenue by taxing its sale; we could honor the libertarian principle that it's up to each person what he puts into his own body; we'd reduce police abuses that are part of the war on drugs; we put a dent in "mass incarceration;" and we'd avoid criminalizing a discriminatorily-chosen segment of the population.

So down with the drug war and up with meth! Maybe heroin too, now that we've discovered the Path To A Healthier Society.

Posted by: Bill Otis | May 6, 2009 9:16:37 AM

Don't you realize that debates and studies are where ideas both good and bad are sent to die?

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | May 6, 2009 10:18:18 AM

FYI, there is a glitch in the robust debate thread and it shows 33 or 34 comments but only about 26 or so appear. I tried posting to it and it appeared to post but out of order (like a new page or something) and it didn't actually appear at all in the overall thread (a response the federalist's last post). Perhaps due to a limit on the number of posts per topic or something?

Posted by: George | May 6, 2009 10:52:18 AM

Why settle for taxing the profit? Why not monopolize the retail sales and take all the profit? That's what we did with the numbers racket lottery.

(Just my personal opinion. My organization takes no position on the issue.)

Posted by: Kent Scheidegger | May 6, 2009 11:12:15 AM

Bill, it must be nice to live in your black and white world. We, apparently, either continue with the war on drugs as is, or we legalize everything. I suppose if you think meth is just as bad as marijuana, it would make just as much sense to legalize the latter as the former. I think the rest of us accept that while there are clear down sides to legalizing any drug (whether that be marijuana, alcohol, or heroin), legalization with some drugs makes more sense than others.

We already have two caricatures of thoughtless, reactionary conservatives who post on this site (i.e., federalist and supermacyclaus). Do you really want to make it three?

Posted by: Sigh | May 6, 2009 11:20:56 AM

Sigh: I would appreciate your views on this.


Posted by: Supremacy Claus | May 6, 2009 11:35:16 AM

Sigh -- I tried a nuanced and fact-driven argument yesterday, concerning the question whether the Republican Party should support abolishing the death penalty. The response to it was a pie in the face from peter, who said not one word about the subject matter, and instead demanded that I apologize for poor prison conditions, plus about five other things.

I did not notice that you took him to task for being a thoughtless, reflexive liberal. Why not?

As to the present dispute, please name one argument that has been used in the drive to legalize marijuana that does not apply to legalizing meth.

Posted by: Bill Otis | May 6, 2009 11:45:32 AM

I am curious about something serious, in the real world.

I would like to make many safe, easy to use, non-addictive psychotropic medicines available over the counter, in low doses.

Many entrenched interests flip out at this proposal (proposed, one at a time, not in a bunch).

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | May 6, 2009 12:29:57 PM

"I would like to make many safe, easy to use, non-addictive psychotropic medicines available over the counter"

Just because they're not addictive, doesn't make them safe. Lithium is fatal in even very small overdoses - such as accidental overdoses. SSRI's can, if improperly used, cause life-threatening blood pressure elevations.

Posted by: reasonsformoving | May 6, 2009 1:31:39 PM

I've said it before, so I'll say it again. Legalizing marijuana for the purposes of harvesting tax-revenue will not make one dent in California's budget barn. For comparison's sake, how much is the tax revenue from cigarettes and alcohol helping to close a 42B dollar hole? I'll tell you how much -- ZERO.

This debate will only produce good ideas when we realize there are two approches to controlled substances: public health or crminal justice. Revenue has absolutely nothing to do with it.

Posted by: Large County Prosecutor | May 6, 2009 1:40:49 PM

Lithium is not idiot proof, and would not be over the counter. It used to be a salt substitute and killed many people.

SSRI's would be safer in use and in overdose than all other medications now available over the counter. Before legalizing marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and many other scary meds that are addictive, lets allow the public to try safe medications. We have the ghastly effects of cigarettes and alcohol, we do not want to duplicate that damage with 10 more addictive substances.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | May 6, 2009 3:19:42 PM

Bill, I think once we all graduate from high school, we accept that because someone else does something wrong, it does not give us a license to do it too. I didn’t read Peter’s response (or if I did, I don’t remember it). But assuming you’re right, I don’t see what that has to do with your response here.

Regarding your question, nobody (or almost nobody) pushes for the legalization of meth because it’s much worse chemically than marijuana. If meth were as safe as marijuana, I’d be fine with legalizing it as well. Obviously, the fact that you could make money off taxing the legalization of something is not sufficient in and of itself to push for the legalization of that something. No one seriously claims that. (Perhaps there’s some 18 year old kid who does. I doubt many people hold that position.) So what’s your point? That every time we talk about an argument for legalizing weed, there should be an explicit footnote to the discussion that we’re only considering this because we believe that weed is not nearly as harmful as many other illegal drugs? That, at some point, we all agree that certain substances should be banned because they’re harmful but that weed is not over that line? If you think weed should not be legalized, why argue against the weakest possible argument in favor of legalization?

Posted by: Sigh | May 6, 2009 5:06:54 PM

Large: Legalize an illegal drug, there would be layoffs in your office. You have a conflict of interest. No policy argument you can make has validity.

As a citizen, what do think of legalizing adult pleasures in test jurisdictions, but licensing the buyer? People complain about your use of an adult pleasures, you get points. After some number of points you lose the license, a privilege.

See this for more details.


The overwhelming majority of people without trouble enjoying adult pleasures are left alone. Smoke 100 pack years, only 1 in 7 will get lung cancer.

Those causing or experiencing problems are stopped from using them. Because supplying alcohol to the unlicensed adult should be a felony, a DUI fatality would be felony murder. I would have no reluctance to execute a liquor store owner for that.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | May 6, 2009 5:49:33 PM

I looked up federal tax revenues for FY08 and the total was $2,524 billion with alcohol excise tax revenues accounting for $9.3 billion (0.4%). I don't agree that possible marijuana tax revenues will be zero but I don't believe they will be as large as alcohol tax revenues. I agree with LCP that MJ tax revenues will not solve our revenue shortfall. However in addition to the MJ tax revenues there should be a reduction in expenditures on MJ enforcement, prosecution, supervision and incarceration. Such savings will be offset by increased treatment costs but I think there should be a net reduction in MJ related expenditures.

It seems reasonable to expect that taking a public health approach to dealing with MJ abuse will be both similar and different from the PH approach to dealing alcohol and tobacco abuse. No doubt there will be numerous relapses.

I have been told that it is possible to treat a meth addiction and I know several persons who had been addicted to meth and are now clean but I don't known how the broke the habit. I suppose that a PH approach to dealing with meth abuse might work but I doubt that the sale of meth will ever be unregulated.

Posted by: John Neff | May 6, 2009 8:01:38 PM

i think what all of you fail to realize from the legalization of marijuana in the United States, compared to many other drugs (heroine, meth, lithium....etc.), is that by legalizing marijuana, it would legalize the use and production of hemp, a form of marijuana that has little to no thc. if you look up the commercial uses of hemp (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hemp), its an incredibly diverse product that could be used for clean paper, alternative textiles, rope, its amazing healthy as food, and finally, with all these bureaucrats and hippies calling for alternative, American made fuels, many people don't realize that Rudolf Diesel's original diesel engine was designed and expected to be run off of hemp diesel. I agree that the single use of taxing marijuana as just a recreational drug will do little to help our budget crisis, but as an alternative commercial product, it will definitely take a bite of our crisis.

Also, on your original argument comparing weed to meth, have you ever smoked either?? weed makes you relaxed, calm and collected, yet capable of doing everyday tasks such as driving, studying and working, while meth (which is NEVER cut with clean materials) excites, enrages, and makes the user completely out of control, resulting in ALL actions taken are for the single purpose of getting more meth.

If your not from California, stay out of Californian affairs. Its misguiding arguments like yours that have allowed our government to be overrun by blinded puppets and this stupid, oppressive, dual party system that continues to get nothing done.

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Which Republican Governor will be the next to abandon their job?

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Posted by: Werner | May 25, 2010 2:26:45 PM

I think it's a good idea to legalize it. In Portugal everyone expected a boost in the growth of cannabis usage, after legalizing it, but nothing like that has happened. Moreover, the usage of cannabis fell on 10%.

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