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February 8, 2010

"Would Ending The Drug War Stimulate Economic Growth?"

The title of this post is the headline of this new commentary up here at The Atlantic.  Here is how it starts:

Correspondent Richard Posner wrote an interesting blog post suggesting six ways that the U.S. could stimulate economic growth, without making the debt much worse. I agree with much said in the post, but there's one point that I want to pick at a little. Posner believes that ending the drug war would help. I'm not so sure.

There are many philosophical reasons for ending the drug war that are quite compelling.  If you have any libertarian friends, just ask them, and I'm sure they'll happily rant on for hours.  There are also a couple of economic benefits that I've heard.  But providing for more economic growth isn't an argument I've come across very often.

Thoughts, dear readers?  Is it time to start talking about an "Economic Stimulants Package"?

February 8, 2010 at 05:37 PM | Permalink


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As stated before, the Supremacy is not that much smarter than the lawyer dumbass. No, this high school graduate is only 1 to 2 years ahead of the lawyer dumbass. Note the date.


Eventually, even the lawyer dumbass will come around to recognize the absolutely self-evident.

I use the word, dumbass, as a technical lawyer term of art. It is meant only in the nicest way.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Feb 8, 2010 9:36:04 PM

not a chance in the old hot place! in fact considering the number of prison guards, prisons, and associated personnel who would LOSE their jobs if it happened FORGET IT.

Now if they ended the war and then made it all legal and TAXED it ...maybe.

Posted by: rodsmith3510 | Feb 9, 2010 1:56:48 AM

The linked article correctly notes that Judge Posner's post hugely overestimates the prison population reduction that would come from legalization. Folks who spend most of their time with the federal system need to remember that the state prisoner population is far different.

Posted by: Kent Scheidegger | Feb 9, 2010 1:27:20 PM

Kent Scheidegger has it right. The last figures I saw from the Michigan Department of Corrections for a recent year showed about 50,000 felony convictions, with an imprisionment rate of about 22% overall. Drug offenders were imprisoned at about an 11% rate, or about 1,800 imprisonment senteneces for about 17,000 drug-felony convictions. I suspect many of these had mustiple offenses, and/or had prior records, and/or were serving other sentences, as well. About 4,300 people were imprisoned for crimes of violence, for an imprisonment rate of about 40% for those offenses. I suspect many of these incuded sex offenders, for whom imprisonment is almost always required by the sentencing guidelines. The biggest number, about 4,900 imprisonment sentences, were imposed for "other" offenses, at about a 22% rate. Essentially, these were property offenders. Under the guidelines, most of them probably had lengthy records, or were serving other sentences in prison as well, or had failed so often, and so exhausted the patience of the judge and probation departments, that no other outcome was foreseeable. Many of these offenders probably have a drug history and background, but they're not being sent to prison for drug crime convictions. Does Judge Posner want to expand his definition to include people with drug crimes in their history as "drug criminals" to be released?

Posted by: Greg Jones | Feb 9, 2010 4:11:21 PM

Well those are lots of assumptions. Local (city and county) prisoners are also part of the mix. These are frequently possession charges.

The real economic impact would be for industry. Hemp is a renewable resource that has lots of commercial use. Cars can run on hemp oil, hemp fibers could replace oil based synthetic fibers, as a crop the commercial implications are remarkable.

I do realize that the public employees employed in the law enforcement and prison industry are and will fight hard for their government employment, but the money could be quickly diverted to other government funded projects. We seem to always have projects we want the government to provide.

Posted by: beth | Feb 9, 2010 8:46:09 PM

Does anyone know how the myth that the prisons are full of persons serving mandatory minimum sentences for simple possession of MJ got started? In Iowa simple possession of MJ is a serious misdemeanor and there are no mandatory minimum sentences for serious misdemeanors and we don't put pole in prison for serious misdemeanors in any case. When you tell people that they get very angry.

Posted by: John Neff | Feb 9, 2010 8:46:46 PM

Simple possession - definitely not consistent from state to state. There are tens of thousands of non-violent marijuana prisoners however. It is a range of offenses usually beginning with conspiracy to -----. these prisoners range from medical marijuana patients, grow ops, import, distribute, money launder, depending on the amount possession can quickly go to intent to distribute etc. etc. etc. All non-violent marijuana offenses.

Posted by: beth | Feb 10, 2010 12:12:03 AM

If cars run on hemp oil, does that mean more people will be running their car in closed garages? If you drive an Aztek, it brings a whole new meaning to the word "hotboxing".

Posted by: Res ipsa | Feb 10, 2010 9:17:07 AM

lol good one res ipsa! i can see it now. 1000% increase in the construction industry and they have to stretch to bull all the new garages!

Posted by: rodsmith3510 | Feb 10, 2010 4:20:51 PM

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