I’ve got a copy of “Marijuana Legalization: What everyone Needs to Know” by Jonathan P. Caulkins, Angela Hawken, Beau Kilmer, and Mark A.R. Kleiman and hope to find time to read it soon (although I’m not looking forward to it).
I’m sure I’ll be talking about it here.
However, an excerpt has been printed at Huffington Post: Important Facts About Marijuana Legalization
If alcohol is more dangerous than marijuana, what’s the logical justification for one being legal and the other illegal?
If we were making laws for a planet whose population had never experienced either marijuana or alcohol, and we had to choose one of the two drugs to make available, there would be a strong case for choosing marijuana, which has lower organic toxicity, lower addictive risk, and a much weaker link with accidents and violence.
But that’s not the planet we inhabit. Here on this planet, alcohol has been an ingrained part of many cultures since the Neolithic revolution (which may have been driven in part by the discovery that grain could be brewed into beer). People have used cannabis plant products for thousands of years, but its widespread use as an intoxicant in the United States is a phenomenon of the last hundred years. Even today only about one in sixteen American adults used marijuana at all in the course of a typical year; for alcohol, that figure is more than half.
History matters. Custom matters. Practicality matters. Even if there were public support for it, going back to Prohibition wouldn’t work—without a truly ferocious degree of law enforcement—precisely because centuries of tradition and decades of marketing have left alcohol use a deeply ingrained feature of most social systems outside the Islamic world.
The technical term for this is “path dependence.” If alcohol had just been invented and no one was yet using it, it would go straight into Schedule I: high potential for abuse, and no accepted medical value. And that ban might make sense. But once there is an established user base, prohibition becomes impractical. Marijuana is not, or at least not yet, equally entrenched.
Really? Path dependence? That’s what you’ve got?
This sounds like the justification for deciding to go with VHS over Beta.
Yes, I know – it certainly is annoying since you have collected all those Beta tapes, but that’s the way it goes… VHS wins. Sorry.
The difference being, of course, that they’re not arresting people for having Betamax.
So this is what you tell the 800,000 people arrested each year for marijuana? Sorry, alcohol got there first?
It does, of course, allow one to neatly sidestep the historical racism, culture wars, and a whole lot of other factors.
It’s not a logical justification at all, nor is it an explanation. It’s a nonsensical and frankly offensive armchair statement made by an academic with no clue regarding the real world.
1. to show (an act, claim, statement, etc.) to be just or right
2. to defend or uphold as warranted or well-grounded
I don’t think so.