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April 2009



And with legalization came the inevitable plague of two-headed dogs

NPR’s John Burnett does a bizarre speculative piece: What If Marijuana Were Legal? Possible Outcomes. In it, they attempt to envisage the U.S. two years after marijuana’s legalization.
Radley Balko says that it might be the worst NPR piece he’s ever seen. And Bruce Mirken’s fisk of the story was passed on to the reporter.
Here’s an example of the ridiculous nature of the piece:

Since the prohibition on cannabis ended, has it delivered the results its supporters claimed it would? […]
Now that it’s cultivated domestically and sold legally, surely that has crippled the cartels? […]
[Robert] Almonte, director of the Texas Narcotic Officer’s Association, says all cannabis legalization has done is force the drug mafias to improvise.
“As far as marijuana is concerned, they have been selling it less expensive than what it can sell for here in the United States,” Almonte says. “But more importantly, we’re seeing a more potent marijuana. And with that we’re seeing an increase in the emergency room admissions.”

Now I like imagining things, and I think I’ve got a pretty good imagination. I also understand that we can’t know all the details about what will happen for sure with legalization.
But imagining the future isn’t just about pulling random things out of your ass. You can use logic and current knowledge to at least eliminate some of the more ridiculously stupid assumptions, and yet Burnett swallows Almonte’s nonsense uncritically.
Emergency room admissions up from marijuana?
Legalization causing increased potency?
Cartels selling marijuana cheaper than we can sell it for in the United States?
Did none of this smell just a little bit… off… to Burnett?
Couldn’t he take just one moment to think through the idea of cartels attempting to smuggle drugs into the United States and undercutting legal sales? Or perhaps explain why Mexican bootleg alcohol isn’t dramatically undercutting alcohol sales in the U.S. Are there dealers on street corners offering Mexican cigarettes for $1.50 a pack?
You know, it really is amazing how often we hear the nonsense that cartels will be relatively unaffected. I do understand that there is quite a bit of cognitive dissonance going on. Despite all the logic and facts we present about how legalization will cripple the income for cartels and drug gangs, people simply don’t want to believe that it will actually work.
Why? For one thing, they’d have to face the fact that all of the violence, death and destruction was easily avoidable.
There’s a second reason. They really want to be able to show off their dicks by physically beating up an enemy. Destroying the cartels by cutting off their business is extremely unsatisfying from a war perspective. You don’t get to beat them. They just go off and do other things.
So what drug war supporters hear is that we want to take away their “victory” (not that one was actually possible) while simultaneously proving that the avoidable destruction of innocents was their fault.

Supreme Court acknowledges existence of the Fourth Amendment

This is a pretty big victory (Arizona v. Gant), and it breathes a tiny bit of air back into the 4th.

The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that police need a warrant to search the vehicle of someone they have arrested if the person is locked up in a patrol cruiser and poses no safety threat […]

I love it when sophomores think they understand the world

I was caught by the title of this piece: Put the poor before pot: The consequences of legalization by Justin Guiffré, a sophomore majoring in international affairs at George Washington University.
He starts out with the obligatory 4/20 references…

Every year on April 20, college campuses across the nation become flooded with Bob Marley music and a bit more smoke than usual as students discuss the intricacies of life and debate whether or not “Dark Side of the Moon” was meant to sync with “The Wizard of Oz.”

Well, duh!
…and then suggests:

One problem that is consistently ignored by these pro-legalization proponents is that legal marijuana would likely make the world very hungry, and I’m not talking about the kind of hunger that can be solved with a trip to Mitchell Hall’s 7-Eleven.

I was really interested at this point, because I had never heard this argument before. Was he suggesting that legalization would move production to the consuming countries, thereby removing a large (albeit illegal) source of revenue to poorer countries? An intriguing, though seriously flawed, notion.
But no, his suggestion was even more bizarre.

Despite my generally liberal stance on marijuana, I am against making it legal. One of the first things that would happen after legalization would be an explosion in production of marijuana. This would likely come from producers of other crops switching over to marijuana. […]
The exchange of food crops for cash crops is already a very serious problem, one visible in the tragic spread of malnutrition and hunger in Ethiopia and Eritrea. As author William Jobin describes in his book Dams and Diseases, “malnutrition lingers as a chronic condition in the dry areas of the Horn of Africa cotton production is a primary example of the danger of emphasis on cash crops.”

Well, first of all, we’re not getting much marijuana from the Horn of Africa these days, and I doubt seriously that would change significantly with legalization. Marijuana grows anywhere, which means that it’s not going to be tied to a geographic area, thereby driving those countries to avoid growing food crops. It’s going to mostly be grown in the consuming countries, which tend to have sufficient food crops.
If anything, legalization of drugs in general is more likely to take away drug crops from poorer countries (where the black market reigns) forcing them to grow more food crops instead.
Additionally, when it comes to marijuana, advanced techniques make it possible to grow an amazing amount in a very small space. And legalized marijuana will also mean legalized industrial hemp — an incredible source of nutrition. And there we have it – legalized marijuana means more food.

Surprisingly, this hunger issue is something that both sides of the legalization question fail to address properly. Until pro-legalization groups can come with a plan that would effectively mitigate this, I don’t see any reason to even consider legalizing marijuana. If I have to choose between smoking marijuana legally or feeding the world’s poor, I will choose the latter any day of the week, even on 4/20.

First of all, we haven’t addressed it properly because nobody asked us. It would be like chastising us for not addressing the impact of legalization on intergalactic travel — we never thought we needed to address it.