We should all applaud the Governor of Colorado, John Hicklenlooper, for warning other governors seeking to legalize marijuana that it should not be seen as a means to fill government coffers with gold. Of course, that’s easy for him to say after Colorado pulled in close to $3.5 million in revenue in January alone. Not surprisingly, some of this revenue will go toward the war on drugs. Mike Adams at High Times, for example, reported that Colorado police chiefs want some of the cash to address the unintended consequences of the law, i.e. stoned drivers, illegal grow operations and traffickers.
Revenue generated from the so-called stoner tax will also help fund other government initiatives, such as building new schools, substance abuse education, etc. While the idea of potheads exercising their negative rights to help the government advance positive rights sounds appealing on the surface, it could lead to some potentially intended consequences. Arizonans should think long and hard about how legalization of marijuana regimes could be abused.
First, the State of Arizona, or other states flirting with legalizing recreational drugs, should not be in the business of artificially creating regulated markets as a means of increasing its power. Allowing government planners to pick economic winners and losers in an engineered market will ultimately lead to corruption. If we are going to legalize marijuana, everybody should have an equal right to compete in the market freely.
Second, rather than downsizing the war on drugs, legalizing marijuana under a highly regulated scheme will actually intensify the war by creating a new creepy mission for regulators. Weed legalization regimes provide government bureaucrats with a legal, as well as political, pretext for social intervention. For example, now that government is subsidizing healthcare, and Obamacare forces health insurers to cover substance abuse counselling, regulators may now believe that they have a responsibility to intervene in the lives of drug users as a means of controlling costs.
Libertarians have an equal distaste for the so-called war on drugs, government intervention as well as taxation. If Arizona should continue down the legalization road, it should be done so in a manner that does not increase the power of the state at the expense of the individual. Every Arizonan should have an equal right to consume, grow and sell marijuana without excessive regulation and competitive discrimination. If we are not ready to allow the private sector to regulate the recreational drug industry, then maybe it’s not such a good idea after all.
In the end, the decision to legalize marijuana should be a social, rather than political, decision. As such, society, rather than government, should be responsible for mitigating the unintended consequences by accepting responsibility for the outcomes. Our churches, nonprofits and social entrepreneurs will be happy to address the social demand spawned by recreational drug use. The last thing we need is for government actors to generate more unnecessary violence through inflammatory regulations and police interventions.