California's de Facto War on Weed

Thursday, November 09, 2017

There is an interesting article at Forbes regarding California's legalization of recreational marijuana, which reminds me of the following quote from Ayn Rand, and for reasons more than the immediate subject matter:

The conservatives see man as a body freely roaming the earth, building sand piles or factories -- with an electronic computer inside his skull, controlled from Washington. The liberals see man as a soul freewheeling to the farthest reaches of the universe -- but wearing chains from nose to toes when he crosses the street to buy a loaf of bread. (from "Censorship: Local and Express," in Philosophy: Who Needs It, p. 186)
Rand is speaking of the false mind-body dichotomy, and the fact that both sides of the political spectrum generally agree with it, but choose opposite sides. The error has consequences in real life, as seen in the policy positions each side chooses. Rand's eloquent similes further note that each side of the error results in policies that are inimical to political freedom, and thus to man's life. California gives us a nice example, isolated to a single issue, of how each side of the error ultimately is anti-freedom when carried out.

Here's the "freewheeling" soul, ... man:
In 2016, California voters legalized the sale of recreational pot. Many voters felt they were striking a blow for personal freedom with their vote.
So California deactivated its "chip controlled from Washington." Of course, most of these voters are lefties, so the political apparatus they had in place correctly interpreted this mandate -- which was more a whine for permission than a blow for freedom -- by fitting the chains:
Since that day, all levels of the California governments have been coming to grips with how to implement the voter's choice. Of course, that really means how to regulate the sales and how to tax those sales.
Among the many interesting facts and figures Thomas Del Beccaro throws around, we can see a startling similarity in the status quo before and after "legalization." It is relevant to remember, as we can learn from Del Beccaro, that when the gang in charge fails to supply loopholes for extremely high levels of taxation (or prohibition of an activity that does not violate individual rights, such as use of a drug), other criminals will provide relief in the form of a black market.
Still in business trouble. (Image courtesy of Unsplash.)
[A]t the time of the vote, California already had the largest pot market in the country -- although its size is disputed because most of the market is illegal sales. Some have said, that as of 2015, "California . . . has the largest legal cannabis market in the U.S., at $1.3 billion." On the other hand, others have reported that over $7 billion in illegal crop has been seized in California. Given the Feds think they seize only around 10% of the illegal crops, you can see how large the market could well be.
So, although marijuana is "legal" in California, there remains a huge black market for it because it isn't quite legal to keep the money one makes from selling it.

As I have noted before, of a similarly fishy-sounding legalization scheme in Uruguay, "improper government regulation makes the whole concept of 'legal' farcical." In sum, California has moved from outlawing the possession of marijuana to outlawing the possession of nearly half (in some cases) of the revenue from selling it. One might as well ask if is really legal at all.

-- CAV


Dinwar said...

I think you may be overly harsh. Yes it would be better to not tax recreational drugs. However, demanding perfection all at once isn't rational either. I look to this as a positive first step on this front. Not perfect, certainly, but something to build on. People will see that pot users are not evil canabalistic maniacs, allowing us to expand these liberties.

Gus Van Horn said...


You are correct that the law can have some positive cultural consequences. That said, I am not demanding perfection here: It would be unrealistic to expect California or anywhere else to get anything like this comprehensively correct.

But it is interesting to note how the consequences of either of outright prohibition or onerous taxation are resulting in a huge black market. Why not gain as much knowledge as possible from this situation: Neither recreational drug users NOR BUSINESSMEN are ipso facto evil, nor should the government interfere with their activities, so long as they injure no one.