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Jan. 10 2010 - 6:23 pm | 2,211 views | 0 recommendations | 19 comments

Pot Smokers Should Oppose Marijuana Legalization

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California’s pot smokers have been in characteristically jubilant spirits recently. Even as the state’s cigarette smokers, fast food eaters, and SUV drivers are increasingly maligned and legislated against, Joe Joint is increasingly tolerated. (Strange, because there is almost certainly a large percentage of Californians who identify as both potheads and Burger King addicts.) A measure to legalize recreational marijuana use in California will likely appear on the ballot later this year - this despite the fact that there is no state in the country more hostile to the Marlboro man and his ilk.

California’s “stoner community” is about to encounter some unkind bud, however. For legalization will only succeed in making their habit more expensive, more restricted, and less pleasurable.

California’s pot smokers should first realize how privileged their position currently is. Defacto decriminalization has occurred in many communities here already, meaning that people buy and smoke marijuana with impunity and without fear of legal sanction. What’s more, California’s marijuana fiends can engage in their hedonistic habit without having to pay taxes, submit to onerous regulations – or even produce picture ID at purchase time.

It should give pause to California pot smokers that someone like myself, who wants to make it more difficult for people to smoke marijuana, will probably vote in favor of legalization. But this is because I realize the effects that legalization will have.

To begin, consider the language that the pro-legalization movement is using in pushing its case. Rather than base its argument on abstract (and admirable!) principles such as freedom or personal responsibility, the leading pro-legalization group is instead arguing its case based upon the argument that California needs to “tax and regulate” cannabis consumption. In a sense, then, the argument for legalization is based on the notion that the current marijuana market is too “unregulated” – that is, too free. The state needs a piece of the action! Moreover, as we’ve seen countless times, one of the leading tactics that states take to discourage a behavior – especially here in California – is to levy taxes on it. Upon legalization, there can be no doubt that Sacramento, aware of the health care costs that chronic marijuana smoking incurs, will tax marijuana sales to the point of in-affordability. A “yes” vote on marijuana legalization is also a “yes” vote for higher marijuana prices. Whither the money for munchies?

Consider now the “regulate” portion of the pro-legalization argument. As things now stand, Californians of any age can buy marijuana of any potency, from anyone, at any time. After legalization, marijuana sales will be regulated like alcohol: there will be age restrictions, restrictions on the potency of the product (“sure, we want people stoned, but not that stoned!”), and restrictions on who can sell the stuff. The free-for-all that California’s marijuana smokers have enjoyed for the past decade will be subsumed under onerous levels of regulation and bureaucracy.

One of the most insipid peans to the “greatness” of marijuana smoking is Peter Tosh’s reggae classic “legalize it, don’t criticize it.” But the clarion call of today’s pot smokers should be, “criminalize it, don’t criticize it.”


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  1. collapse expand

    I wonder if you have any sense of what the mark-up is on pot as currently sold? I wonder if you’ve ever considered the ‘tax’ that has always been built into marijuana sales precisely because it is illegal? I can tell you that the prices for legally purchased medical marijuana are considerably more reasonable than what you pay in the typical distribution system. Not to mention that, legalized, a customer will have some actual choice over what they are purchasing.
    With all due respect, your calculations may make for controversial commentary but have little or no grounding in fact.
    And there is nothing insipid about Peter Tosh.

    • collapse expand

      Hello Rick,

      Mr. Epstein is just jerking you around, he is not serious. He just likes watching people get all hot under the collar over his perennially preposterous postings. Next week he will be posting how motherhood is bad for the economy or apple pie should taxed at the same rate as cigarettes. He has some weird “Andy Kauffman-esque” joke running where he is the only one who gets the joke (I sure know I don’t get them).

      In response to another comment. See in context »
    • collapse expand

      Contrived arguments and manufactured controversy are what it’s all about. I tried to take it up with Lewis DVorkin, but he defended Epstein the same way the major media defended Fox News when they were called out.
      Maybe you will have better luck.

      My problem is the RSS feed only gives the article title, not the author.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
      • collapse expand

        You are an incredibly arrogant person. I cannot believe that you would assume that someone whose opinion is radically different from yours deserves to get fired. Because, hey, as long as you and your idiot cronies are all walking to the beat of your own drums (which are strangely synchronized to the beat of the New York Times), then the media must still be uncensored and unbiased.
        Here’s my problem with you people: why do the majority of these attacks on Epstein start with his morals and his intent? It’s like you’ve already made up your mind that the point he’s making could never make sense, and that it’s therefore not worth thinking about, because you know who the author is. That is an asinine and illiberal assumption, and about as closed-minded as the “Fox News” people you claim to abhor. People do have different values, and those values deserve to be respected.
        I’m certain if you respond, in your head or on the internet, it will be to critique my morals as well. So, give it your best shot. But, hey, you’ll just be proving my point. Because while I may not always agree with Epstein, I also have my own opinions, and apparently that makes me a troll.

        In response to another comment. See in context »
    • collapse expand

      Please, what’s the retail price of any wonderfully legal pack of cigarettes in your place? How much of it is the actual cost of tobacco, which can be sold for medical purposes dirt cheap.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
  2. collapse expand

    This strikes me as analagous to why people should vote against Civil Unions for same-sex couples… that is: It’s not marriage.

    It’s still a dang sight better than what we have now… and we can always take another step after we take the first one.

    Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

  3. collapse expand

    Additionally, think about the prison’s unions!

    How many people will be forced out of work when the lower classes are allowed to purchase marijuana without sanction just like the middle and upper classes?

  4. collapse expand

    There is simply absurd, Ethan. You could argue that marijuana should be legalized but not taxed and regulated too strictly – but criminalization is the ultimate regulation, and the loss of freedom/fines that accompany it are far more damaging than any taxes on its consumption might be.

  5. collapse expand

    It should give pause to California pot smokers that someone like myself, who wants to make it more difficult for people to smoke marijuana, will probably vote in favor of legalization. But this is because I realize the effects that legalization will have.

    I don’t think CA pot smokers give a rat’s ass what you think; nor do i think any would be swayed by your blatantly misinformed logic.

    They routinely disregard the existing laws risking jail time for a buzz as it is. Why on God’s Earth do you think they would listen to you?

    As a general piece of professional advice, make at least a minimal attempt to gain an understanding of the issues and perspectives of the people about which you are writing. I could provide a lengthy dissertation on why you are an idiot; but since you are an idiot, it would be wasted language.

  6. collapse expand

    Following Mr. Epstein’s column has all the satisfaction of beaning the dunk clown at the carnival. He just gets back on the seat with a mocking, “High and dry.” And then you pony up another simoleon for three more balls.
    Not that the price of the drug war in general–tens of thousands of murders a year in Mexico and the US, untold billions in enforcement and prisons, communities decimated– would make any difference to Mr. Epstein. He’s so on a roll.
    Kersplash!

  7. collapse expand

    Legalization of marijuana is not the true issue. The true issue is that by not regulating and controling the production of THC we are allowing people to consume a product that has no quality control. This would be comparable to making any drug production and sale there of illegal, driving this industry underground and losing control over quality and distribution. Legislation against legalization actually does more harm than good in protecting the public from inferior or laced products sold on the streets. Have we not learned that public demand is what drives sales and our head in the sand approach to making recreation drugs illegal only compounds the problem. Without control over food production and preparation how safe would you feel when dining out at your favorite restaurant.

  8. collapse expand

    Either way, we’re winning the culture war on dope in California and it’s about high time. You should kick that Burger King habit if you can.

  9. collapse expand

    Perhaps we could make it legal for people who make $X a year (adjusted for inflation) but keep it illegal for people who make less than that.

    This way, it wouldn’t have much of an impact upon job creation with regards to law enforcement and prison guards.

  10. collapse expand

    Whether he’s putting us on or just wrote this without learning the most elementary cost basics of the business, I’m starting to wish that True/Slant had an opposite to “follow me”.

    Can’t we have an “ignore me” link that will cause a contributor to not show up in your headlines?

  11. collapse expand

    The tax on marijuana can only go so high before it becomes very affordable to grow this easy-to-grow plant at home. I mean, if its not illegal and you don’t have to hide the smell? Couldn’t be simpler. Much like keeping a fishtank and a few houseplants. Can’t wait to control my indoor marijuana garden with an iPad app– hate on that one, hippies.

  12. collapse expand

    Who does this guy think he is fooling? Taxed to kingdom come? Really? What about just growing your own herb, picking your own seeds, tending your own plants so the DEA don’t poison your bud? How much are we being taxed right this minute because of the prohibition of marijuana? And it’s not just monetary, it’s loss of life, global corruption, loss of civility. I hope no one takes this guy seriously.

  13. collapse expand

    This argument is silly. The effect this will have on law enforcement and jails, especially on minority communities, is almost worth it alone. And if the state tries to charge too much money on taxes and such, I’m almost positive that there will still be a black market for it. i think its more likely to drop in price than to go up. And in terms of quality, I can grow my own bud and be in control of the quality of it. Its a lot easier to grow weed yourself than it is to ferment your own moonshine…Basically if the government gets too greedy, people will go back to underground markets. And if companies like Malboro start producing terrible product, again peope will stick to reliable growers of quality herbs. True pot heads are very picky, even proud of the quality of weed they smoke. Pot heads argue whose weed is better and looks prettier. The corporate stuff would be for the newbs and casual smoker. But most importantly, I wouldn’t have to feel like a criminal for smoking, and thats what counts. Even under the currently loose laws in california, you still can’t fire up a joint in your backyard without the nagging sensation your neighbors might complain or something. Basically, its practically legal, but you still have to watch your back and stress off of it. But I don’t drink booze very much and don’t smoke cigarettes. I am healthy, pay taxes, stay in shape, and work full time. There is no reason I and other peopel shouldn’t be allowed to smoke marijuana. Im sure the government has alterior motives when it comes to legalization, but that is an issue bigger than this law and needs to be addressed at a federal level. And i think people like Feinstein are behind greedy political corruption. And there is no doubt, marijuana helps open your mind to a greater range of experience, while fast food and beer seems to dumb you down. I think thats the real reason so many government agencies are against legalization.

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    About Me

    I'm a writer based in Portland, Oregon. My work has appeared in the Weekly Standard, the American Spectator, the New York Press, The Big Money, sp!Ked online, the Epoch Times, the Daily NK, and others. From 2005 to 2007, I wrote a column on culture and politics for the (alas, now defunct) Seattle-based Internationalist Magazine. In so doing, I filed dispatches from Berlin, Seoul, Paris, New York, and, yes, Reno - among other places. In 2009, I reported on business from Shanghai. I attended Reed College, in Portland, Oregon.

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    Location:Portland, Oregon