This doesn’t make any sense to me. Mark Kleiman argues that pot should be legal to grow and use and give away but not to sell commercially. His reasons? Because it’s bad for you, like beer is bad for you. And because the Marijuana lobby would be really, really bad. (Note, Kleiman does not propose to ban the sale of alcohol and return us to the days of stills and home breweries.)
Kleiman is wrong on many fronts, but mainly he’s wrong because most people who want to smoke pot don’t want to grow it. They want to buy it. And all these people spending money to grow their own aren’t going to give it away to everyone for free, which leaves us with a demand to fill but not nearly the level of supply needed to fill it. The only thing standing between that demand and the supply shortage would be the government. Which, naturally, leads to black markets, drug dealers, confiscation of property by police departments, drug raids, shooting deaths and so forth. Not too far a cry from where we’re at now.
So we have a choice: create a legal market or a new black market.
One of these two markets will exist no matter what we do, because people are going to smoke pot one way or another. The laws we have now don’t prevent this. Allowing home growing but not commercial sales won’t either. Nothing will. This is one vice that isn’t going anywhere and doesn’t really need “America’s marketing geniuses” in order to peddle.
Kleiman thinks all the companies selling marijuana will be like the Big Tobacco companies, with a fierce lobbying arm and a huge monopoly over the market, preying mercilessly on helpless consumers. But that’s not going to happen if we just legalize marijuana and don’t set up regulations which grant these big companies de facto monopolies to begin with. Small growers, like small brewers, will do just fine. And no, we won’t have a bunch of crazed cannabis users at the mercy of Marijuana Inc. Some people will smoke too much pot, but plenty of people already do and many of them quit before their lives are ruined.
A better idea would be to simply not regulate out home growers from the market – which is a legitimate concern. Setting up laws which prevent home growing will crowd out home growers and make big corporations much more powerful. Simply opening up the market to both will create a much more level playing field. I think it will actually be extremely difficult for big corporations to compete with local growers – economies of scale be damned, pot smokers enjoy the quality of their product too much – but at least that competition will exist.
Furthermore, I’m much more afraid of violent drug dealers, over-eager SWAT teams, and the whole awful black market cycle of violence than I am about the lobbying arms of a few big corporations which apparently fill Kleiman with fear. I’ll take lobbyists over drug cartels any day.