Monday, May 25, 2009

What Would Happen if Marijuana Were Decriminalized? A Freakonomics Quorum

I believe that we are rapidly approaching a tipping point in Western society where marijuana will finally be allowed to come out of the closet. So many people from all walks of life smoke it on a regular basis despite the laws, and it permeates pop culture - hell, there's a show called 'Weeds'!

Full disclosure: I've never smoked weed. I've been in the room when others have been lighting up, but if there was a contact high from that, I can tell you that it was pretty weak. I have no interest in smoking weed, much like I have little interest in smoking cigarettes or drinking beer or bungee jumping or playing Yahtzee. My interest in this issue is practical: we are wasting billions of taxpayer dollars on the prosecution and jailing of pot law violators. I'm also the guy who thinks we should be legalizing prostitution for the same reason. People are going to do these things whether we want them to or not, much like they are going to smoke and drink and bungee jump and play Yahtzee.

If you legalize it, you can control it. As long as it is illegal, then it is the criminal that controls it. The War on Drugs is not only a waste of time, it's a waste of money and a waste of lives. Change the focus from prosecution to treatment and regulation. I mean, how is it a positive thing to be jailing 800,000 Americans a year for smoking pot? That's 800,000 Americans who are not only costing the taxpayer billions to arrest, charge, and jail them, but they're also not working, contributing to the economy, or paying taxes. I'm thinking the justice system has better things to do than nail some housewife for carrying a dime bag in her purse.


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