Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Libertarians: Here's A Real Chance to Legalize Marijuana

I've written before about legalization - it's not one of my main causes, but I've find the mindlessness of the opposition frustrating. A lot of money is wasted prosecuting it, and the worst part of marijuana prohibition is that a molecule of great medical value for chemotherapy patients is criminalized in the absence of reasons for doing so, other than vague "what about the children"-brand belly-aching. This wouldn't be the only benefit: we would also experience the decreased cross-border illicit trade (and decreased criminal activity) we observe any time we legitimize a previously black market. There are plenty of officers who feel the same way: check out the organization Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP). As they point out, this is an issue agreed on by William F. Buckely, Milton Friedman, and Reagan Secretary of State George Schultz. Should be a no-brainer!
Even Glenn Beck has decided it's at least worth an airing. (I've added two links to this article since I first posted it - is it me or are Americans suddenly talking about this issue?)

Unfortunately at the national level, the risk-benefit for getting involved in legalization means that if we wait for Congress to move on this, we'll wait forever. That's why we should support state-level efforts, even if they come from unlikely Libertarian ally Tom Ammiano, who has submitted a bill highlighting yet another potential benefit of legalization: consumption-based taxation. California is breathing an ill-placed sigh of relief at the moment after having finally passed a budget - ill-placed, because we're still in a deep, deep hole. We could sure use the $1.4 billion this would generate. That marijuana is California's most lucrative cash crop has long been known. So why leave this in the realm of cocktail-party jokes? Why not realize revenues, and use this fiscal crisis as an opportunity?

I am all for Ammiano's bill. Please spare me the "You're proposing a new tax and are therefore not a real Libertarian" cliches. I'm a Libertarian, not an anarchist. Like any entity, governments need revenues to run. In fact I would argue that any Libertarian who doesn't seize the opportunity that Ammiano's bill provides is less a Libertarian than me. Exactly how government revenues are generated is where the real debate is, and I've always advocated moving taxes from income and property tax to consumption tax. It's basic psychology that people react to taxes as if they're punishments (which they are), so why not tax consumption and waste? I'd rather pay taxes on something that's a consumible "dead-end" (like marijuana) rather than on my investments or income. Wouldn't you?

The best part of it is, if you don't use marijuana, it would only decrease your share of taxes, and it wouldn't cost you a cent.

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