Article by Richard Cowan is a former NORML National Director and author of What Are The Regulatory Challenges Faced By CBD Medicines?
He also writes for The American Enterprise Institute www.AEI.org , the “conservative” think tank.
He is a graduate of Princeton University and he managed to maintain his intellectual integrity during the Trump cult. In short he was smart enough to know better when he wrote his latest column for Bloomberg, calling for decriminalizing marijuana possession, but leaving the supply side to the black market:
Yes, there is something more than a little strange about someone with such impeccable Conservative credentials opposing the free market because it works too well.
Of course, he would also seem to be too late for the party. First, while he is opposed to arresting marijuana users, he doesn’t mention the fact fact that we have already arrested over 22 million Americans for simple possession of marijuana, and continue to arrest over half a million every year, more than for all violent crimes combined. But now that the carnage is winding down (slowly) and now that sick and dying Americans in most states are able to get access to it, he shows concern for marijuana policies being too free.
He acknowledges that “Government bans on any product ask law enforcement to come between willing buyers and willing sellers. This always has the potential to result in unjustly selective enforcement and to breed disrespect for the law.”
It had that “potential”… fifty years ago when William F. Buckley and Milton Friedman and Ludwig von Mises, opposed marijuana prohibition.
Also, we did not know fifty years ago that having cannabis for sale over-the-counter in the Netherlands would result in a lower use of hard drugs because of the “Separation of the Markets” enabled people to buy cannabis without going to poly drug street dealers, which is what happens when you leave cannabis in the black market.
Of course, we should have known that the laws promoted by a racist like Harry Anslinger, would be brutally enforced by racist law enforcement, just as they are today.
His argument for keeping cannabis in the black market with heroin, cocaine, meth, and fake “synthetic marijuana”: “The chief drawback of opting for full legalization is that the number of problem users will increase.”
Of course, while legal markets do have conventional ways of promoting sales, i.e. advertising, illegal markets have ways of creating images and demand. There was never an ad for “Acapulco Gold”. In fact, there never really was a specific strain by that name, but fifty years ago it was world famous, and still is. Madison Avenue, eat your heart out.
And then there is the fact that very few Americans were using marijuana when the “Marihuana Tax Act was passed in 1937.
Today? “More than half of American adults have tried marijuana at least once in their lives, according to the survey. Nearly 55 million of them, or 22 percent, currently use it – the survey defines “current use” as having used marijuana at least once or twice in the past year. Close to 35 million are what the survey calls “regular users,” or people who use marijuana at least once or twice a month.”
Sounds like a typical government program.
“Problem users”, anyone who uses more than Mr. Ponnuru would approve, will always find a way… In fact, contraband markets actually encourage problematic use, because there is no regular supply. Every day is a great game. A treasure hunt.
And then there is the “attractive nuisance” of the black market that draws young people into the contraband markets, again with hard drugs, and often violent players. Also, there is the subsidy to organized crime gangs in Mexico and other poor countries. Mr Ponnuru would have us continue to destabilize these countries with thousands of violent deaths every year, so “Problem users” are inconvenienced.
Such a policy would also be counterproductive for the very reasons that Ponnuru cites for free markets. See The Iron law of prohibition.
So, in order to avoid the possibility that “problem users” may smoke too much, we are supposed to place our trust in big government and/or leave a major industry in the contraband markets.??? And think it is “Conservative”?
Attached bio for this column because of National Review ??
Richard Cowan is long-time marijuana legalization advocate. Cowan’s December 1973 cover-article in the late William F. Buckley’s National Review magazine, calling for American Conservatives to support marijuana legalization drew international attention to the absurdity of marijuana prohibition and was described as opening a new front in the drug war.
In The December 6, 1986 issue of National Review, Cowan’s cover article, How the Narcs Created Crack, is credited with introducing “the Iron Law of Prohibition” and became the subject of a book on the economics of contraband, the stronger the enforcement, the stronger the drugs.