Fear of commerce

Jacob Sullum really nails it in this piece: Fear of Cannabis Commerce Didn’t, Won’t, and Shouldn’t Stop Legalization, where he takes on both Kevin Sabet and his “Big Marijuana” mantra, and Mark Kleiman’s kinder, gentler non-profit-based prohibition lite.

Sabet warns that such businesses will make money by producing and distributing marijuana, meaning they will have a financial incentive to sell as much as they can. That is all completely true, but it is scary only if you view consumers as the slaves rather than the masters of people trying to sell them stuff. Most Americans do not see the businesses that supply them with useful and enjoyable goods and services as the enemy [emphasis added]

This bolded part is one of the things that really annoys me about how we make laws, which are often predicated on the idea that we have to protect lesser beings than ourselves from the horror of having to make smart choices, since they are incapable of doing so.

It’s an extraordinarily offensive and elitist approach.

Unlike Kevin Sabet, Kleiman thinks (or at least hopes) that we can have legalization without commercialization. There is another name for this form of legalization: prohibition.

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61 Responses to Fear of commerce

  1. Randy says:

    Jacob Sullum is a national treasure.

  2. DonDig says:

    One thing these prohibitionist discussions sidestep is the simple reality that Americans are consuming thousands of tons of marijuana per year already, and have been for some considerable time. Big marijuana exists, and it’s called the black market. If Sabet and Kleiman think the coming of big marijuana may be a problem, they are incorrectly focused.

    Big marijuana is here. It is not a question of worrying about whether some local grower might be capable of supplying countless tons of cannabis someday, it is already at the scale of multinational corporation supply chains. It already exists. Get over it. Smell the coffee.

    The only question is whether as a people we want to be supporting a black market or a legal one. I’ll go with the big marijuana enterprise that uses lawyers and conversation to handle disputes rather than the (black market) enterprise that settles disputes with AK-47s. I can’t imagine how they choose to ignore this.

    • Plant Down Babylon says:

      Ever since the DEAth closed their office here on the Big Island, we’ve only seen the heli’s fly maybe 2x a year. Looks like their funding is drying up.

      The only way you can be messed with is if you go WAY big and make yourself an irresistible target, which is not too smart IMO. Now if I could just master the organic thing..

      Nothing but blue peaceful skies and happy faces around here, except for the lava thing in Pahoa.

      I’ve been lurking, but not commenting. Like Allan, I’ve just been enjoying living life. Giving away medicine is one of the great joys. I feel like Johnny AppleWeed!

  3. Servetus says:

    Prohibition is enslavement. It’s a means of reducing the individual’s status in the overall social order. Prohibitionists condemn independence, while dependence on society, state, or despot, is imposed. As in the historical debasement of women, peasants and slaves, it’s the scheme of tyrants. Michael Bakunin described the process in 1916:

    To establish his government, he must try, like all chiefs of state, to arrest the life of the masses moving below him, keep them in ignorance to preserve quiet, and gradually debase them that he may rule them from a loftier throne.—God and the State, p. 7.

    Kevin and Mark are looking down from their thrones on the masses and playing god, as they agitate over the possibility that a freethinking world will see through prohibition and end the divine dread of altered states of consciousness. Little do they know the world passed them by centuries ago.

  4. Frank W. says:

    “it is scary only if you view consumers as the slaves” yeah. What’s always pissed me off about the slave approach is how it’s underneath the old “sends the wrong message” angle. Stop worrying about sending messages. The kind of messages they care about apply to dog training, not people.
    On the other hand we have stories of folks lining up to buy Iphones. Those…people!

    • Windy says:

      Hubby just got one of those iPhones, his is the iPhone 5 and he got it because it only cost us 99 cents, I got the Samsung Galaxy Note 4, we got new phones because we switched from Sprint (we couldn’t get a good signal at our house and many other locales and were constantly having a problem with dropped calls) to Verizon, we did not have to line up to buy either one. So far, we are both perfectly happy with our new phones. (Same number though, darkcycle.) My only complaint was when the tech transferred my contact list none of the contacts beginning with R and beyond went on my new phone, but that is a minor detail that I easily solved by putting them in manually.

      • darkcycle says:

        I have a new number, Windy…I’ll send it to you on FB. Thanks for reminding me. We got fed up with Century Link.

  5. Howard says:

    “It’s an extraordinarily offensive and elitist approach.” [Pete]

    “Extraordinarily offensive” and “elitist” sums up Kevin Sabet perfectly. Not only does he look at the poor simpering lesser beings as needing his solution to criminalize them as a way of helping them, he wants EVERYONE involved in the activity he doesn’t like scooped up in the same net. If he really cared about public health, you would think he would focus on the 9% (conflated, yet still small) of cannabis users who supposedly have issues with the plant. But no, he wants the occasional users — the vast majority — pulled in with the “problem” users and, well, just punish them all.

    Kevin thinks he sees a silver lining in the recent election with respect to drug law reform. He’s so delusional he doesn’t notice the lining is rusted, worn thin and flaking off. He is becoming increasingly irrelevant by the day. And that, more than anything, really twists the knickers of arrogant elitists such as himself.

    [Note: I’ve been away from my favorite forums recently. Congratulations to all of you in states that are leading the charge for sensible drug law reform. Big cheers.]

    • Tony Aroma says:

      Maybe the poor guy is trying to put on a happy face, while admitting he really can’t win. He referred to legalization as a “freight train,” a metaphor for something that is unstoppable. And he “thinks” they “slowed” the train. And with respect to the election outcomes he’s talking about, he’s right, they actually have. In the same way putting a penny on the track slows an actual train. Technically, the train is slowed down ever so slightly. The penny however doesn’t come out looking so good. It must suck to be the penny.

      • allan says:

        a couple of thoughts… if the train has slowed down it’s because we’ve added some more freight cars.

        He’s a used car salesman w/ one car on his lot. Of course he’s going to praise it – he’s trying to sell it. And it’s an ugly old beater too…

        … and another thought as I read Francis’ post below. Consider how wacky a deal the whole alcohol scenario is (and I’m sure many – like Mason – have said this before) but alcohol was prohibited ostensibly because of its social harms. Then alcohol was un-prohibited and then that legal industry was given a real monopoly on intoxication. In spite of all those social/civil/human harms.

        And while I praise all the efforts of moving cannabis forward I really think cannabis will take care of itself, we need to focus attention on Prohibition and its harms. Lord knows the list is long enough! (a lot longer list than the harms of cannabis, with fatalities that folks like Kev-kev are allowed to continue to ignore)

  6. Francis says:

    “Big Marijuana”? Gee, that does sound scary. We’re probably better off just sticking with “Big Prohibition” and continuing to empower “Big Government,” “Big Private Prison Industry,” and “Big Drug Cartels” while protecting “Big Alcohol” and “Big Pharma” from the competition a safer, legal alternative would provide.

  7. mr Ikasheeni says:

    I think I know that the re-legalizing won’t result into just a privilege of the 1% like sunlight is a commodity earned with an MBA degree.

  8. claygooding says:

    It is a little late to worry about there being a big marijuana and right now the one wearing that brand is a violent criminal organization followed by peaceful budleggers in every city and state in the union just trying to get along.
    What made no sense is worrying over big marijuana when everything on the market is big somebody.

    • allan says:

      when everything on the market is big somebody.

      No shit! thanks for the laugh Clay.

      Day 3 of legalization in Oregon (yeah, yeah, July… whatever, I’m in the go mode now), sky remained in place overhead all day. All horizons looked good (after the fog burned off, that gave me some worries, “what if there is no sky and it’s all fog…”).

      • primus says:

        Lay off the high test early in the day. It can really mess with you.

        • Crut says:

          If ever there was an excuse, no, reason for high test early in the day, Allan has one.

          Come to think of it, overall, Tuesday was a pretty good reason for anyone. Damn, I don’t have any high-test here, have to make do with my limited choices.

          One day, I will have a choice. One day, we all will.

        • TwilightClone says:

          Nice track; thanks!

  9. Duncan20903 says:


    [Federal] Judge Delays Sentencing a Drug Runner After Oregon Voted to Legalize Marijuana

    But Oregon’s voters passed legislation on Tuesday legalizing marijuana in the state, a change which caused US District Judge Michael Mosman to delay sentencing for one month. Mosman said he wanted to see if the new pot laws would affect the US Department of Justice’s (DOJ) view on marijuana.

  10. Frank W. says:

    …And today in Oregon comes the story of the driver pulled over in my area and arrested for being stoned. According to ActionNews Team, the tipoff was that he was driving 10 mph under the speed limit, after which a Top Men were dispatched to determine Official Zonkitude (Mild, Allen, or Totally Flipsville). If this is how they’re going to do it they’re going to eat up their drug budget by next Tuesday.

  11. DdC says:

    Cops in South Portland Ignore Citizen Mariuana Decriminalization Vote via @tokeofthetown

    California Cops Are Trained ‘Marijuana Is Not A Medicine’
    By Steve Elliott, SF Weekly – Tuesday, August 4 2009
    A recent court case in San Diego has revealed some California police officers are basing their sworn court testimony in medical marijuana cases on badly outdated, legally inaccurate information.

    Millions Missing From DEA Money-Laundering Operation
    by Bill Conroy – October 6, 2014

    Labor Unions Are Supporting Washington State Legal Marijuana Dispensaries that Create “More Workers to Organize”
    Posted by Bill Conroy – October 22, 2014

    The 1969 marijuana shortage and “Operation Intercept”
    The extent of marijuana use and distribution in the United States was brought to nationwide attention in the spectacular failure of “Operation Intercept,” an elaborate and determined effort by the government to shut off the flow of smuggled marijuana from Mexico. The program was based on the belief that Mexico was and would remain the primary source of marijuana for Americans.

  12. Duncan20903 says:


    Well it appears that we’re not going to to have time for our coffee break. It’s just one thing after another in the realm of cannabis law reform advocates. For crying out loud we’ve got cannabis law reform coming out of our ears!!

    Nevada supporters: Enough signatures to legalize marijuana


    • Tony Aroma says:

      Bit of a misleading headline. 😉 If the legislature were smart, they’d act on the proposal rather than let the voters decide. But I doubt that’ll be the case. Which is good, since legislatures have a pretty bad track record when it comes to creating workable mj policies.

    • tensity1 says:

      Yay! Looks like in a couple of years I’ll be joining couchmates in celebrating freedom.

      After legalization success in the mid-terms, there may be a chance that the legislature will act to implement the proposal, but there were some Republican gains that may make it a non-starter. They’ve finally gotten into gear over the past year+ to get med dispensaries going, so who knows? I give it a 25% chance.

  13. CarolDuhart2 says:

    More from Nevada:


    Los Vegas after legalization will be pretty interesting. Slot machines inside a dispensary?

    • Duncan20903 says:


      I read a statement from the gaming law commission that said, “Medical marijuana and the Nevada casino industry don’t mix, gaming officials said at a conference today, and that’s not likely to change anytime soon.”

      In a lot of ways the casinos have some of the same interests to consider. I doubt that they’re against getting high since they hand out free drinks to anyone playing as long as they haven’t passed out. You can still smoke tobacco inside at casinos. But because the industry is the progeny of organized crime, and the fact that there are so many people against gambling they’re not going to let the two things mix and it’s hard to blame them. We know how it is to be on the sado-moralist hit list, and they’ve got a huge pile of money to protect so don’t expect the casinos to welcome the fans of cannabis anytime soon.

      I recall the last time I went gambling in a casino, walking out of the place flat broke, and the muzak in the garage was playing “Time Loves a Hero” by Little Feat. As I exited there was a big sign that said “come back soon, we already miss you” and my thought was “well, you may miss me but you sure don’t miss my money!”

  14. Irie says:

    Well, well, well……I knew it wouldn’t take long for the country for some of the best refer to come on board somehow, has anyone heard of the company Medicanja? Read on people…..

    “Medicanja is a registered company in Jamaica and Delaware in the United States (US). Lowe said investment to date totalling J$25 million in both companies have been made collectively by board members from their own resources.”


    Commercial Medical Marijuana, import, its coming, (hee, hee Kevin). Yep, Allen, we even have a train car with the the Rastas joining our freight train!! Whoot, Whoot!!

    Some say only 1% will profit, but I disagree, I think it will help out the little farmer as well as an outlet to sell their “select product”. It will take some time, of course, and more research, which they are undertaking at the Kingston University.

    • claygooding says:

      Irie,,there will always be a green market for good bud on a local scale,,the gifted growers will have a following of their neighbors and friends,,,,even the ones that live in another state when they visit.

      The commercial market will eventually become pre-rolled or loose pipe cut with THC content and perhaps the strain’s flavor,,in order to “kill” the culture they will kill the bud and then commercial growers will be competing and selling their products rated by the numbers and flavors.

      • divadab says:

        Under full legalization, including for international trade, weed will be coming from Thailand, Afghanisatn, Morocco, and Senegal (to mention a few) . They all have thousands of years of selective breeding to produce killer local strains.

    • primus says:

      Envision a system like beer; huge companies producing a barely adequate, mass-market product; regional growers producing regional favourites, extracts etc. for a little higher price; and craft growers with specialty strains and exotic products for the wealthy elite; and finally, imports from exotic locales for those seeking something different. There should be room for all in such a system.

      • CarolDuhart2 says:

        My model looks more like ice cream: a few national brands, some specialty homemade, local brands, and of course do-it yourself. They all work together pretty well by meeting specific needs and specific levels of taste.

  15. Colin Keesee says:

    The presumption from the “Big Marijuana” crowd is that most American adults are intermarginal consumers, consumers who are always right on the fence about whether or not to buy and smoke pot. People like Sabet and Kleiman think that tens of millions of adults, who currently do not consume cannabis, suddenly will do so if they see just one flashy ad for cannabis on TV.

    Personally, I don’t consume cannabis and if “Big Marijuana” ran ads during prime time, I still would not consume it. Conversely, people who do consume cannabis, already are and I doubt that ads would increase consumption levels.

    • Duncan20903 says:


      Their mistake is very simple, they’re presuming that prohibition works. The only evidence of that which they can point to is invisible. It’s truly astounding that the thought that the choices are binary in their minds. E.g. all of the people who are sober as the proverbial judge because cannabis is illegal. All of the people who aren’t driving impaired because of the law. All of “the children” who aren’t flunking out of school because of the law.

      Of course they’re all full of rotten bananas. But how the heck do you prove that invisible evidence doesn’t exist? That it’s the problem users that they should be worried about and those problem users just don’t give a crap about the law? OK, maybe there are some problem users who are belly up to the bar, car keys in their pocket, getting wasted on drinking alcohol because they don’t want to get arrested for “drugs” but how the heck is that better for our society?

  16. Curious says:

    Why does this site have only one blogger and the same bunch of commenters all the time? Stop being scared of opening things up to women, people of color and people who disagree with you..otherwise you are just a bunch a white guys in a daisy chain.

    • Duncan20903 says:


      Well thanks for the advice! We always like to hear the opinions of the totally clueless. We’ll certainly take it under advisement.

      We can’t force people to post here, but everyone is welcome, including your totally clueless self.

    • allan says:

      well gosh… it’s Dave! Same post, different name but the ignorance as doltish as ever.

      Don’t YOU get tired of posting the same content-free drivel?

    • N.T. Greene says:

      This site has only one blogger because… it’s Pete’s blog.

      I don’t see why this is difficult. I don’t go around to other people’s blogs whining that they’re the only voice I see on the main page and that they have a steady crowd of followers… because that’s how blogs tend to work.

    • MJ Verite says:

      What would I do without your pearls of wisdom?

    • Pete says:

      Curious — thank for the concern… troll. As others have pointed out, this is my blog, so I tend to be the one… blogging. Funny how that works. Although mine’s clearly not the only voice represented on the blog itself since I almost always post links to other articles written by a variety of people.

      And then there’s this “daisy chain” of commenters to which you refer. Strangest daisy chain I’ve ever seen – some are hanging out on the couch involved in an intense discussion, while others are eating cold pizza from the frig, and National Lampoon is playing on the stereo, with a bit of a haze in the room. We’ve got old geezers and young folks, men and women, white people and people of color. And a variety of opinions – sure, they all support reform, but they differ on strategy and how they would like to see things play out.

      Those who oppose reform and/or support prohibition are always welcome to comment. The fact that they generally don’t (and instead attempt weak-ass trolling at best) is a testament to the incredible group of commenters who hang out here. Any prohibition apologists showing up here would get their ass handed to them by this group – they’d be demolished by facts. Sort of like a flat-earther trying to peddle his nonsense to the international society of cartographers.

      So, thanks for playing. Next time, have the balls to actually engage us.

    • Irie says:

      Okay,Curious, I to am a woman, mother of two, my husband is a black Jamaican (not that it matters, but I am white)my children obviously, are mixed. I presently am taking classes moving up in my field of work. I don’t comment a lot, but I do read, laugh (a lot), and immensely enjoy this site and couch mates. For you to come here and judge us is outright stupidly on your part. My advice, come visit us, but refrain from commenting until you have taken your blinders off and know a little more than you do presently, and be kind, “a teaspoon of sugar goes way further than a gallon of vinegar”.Peace,Mon.

    • Windy says:

      Ah, 70 yo witchy Great-grandmother here, still married to the same man I married 52 years ago, still living on the same property we inherited 43 years ago. You obviously have not been lurking or you would be aware this group is quite diverse.

  17. claygooding says:

    We just received notice from blog control that we don’t have enough variety on the couch when it makes me hum “Stuck in the middle with you” the whole time I am here.

  18. kaptinemo says:

    Aaaah! Stop it, you two! Now I have Jerry Rafferty and David Bowie running in my head, simultaneously!

    (Banging head on table in time with syllables) They..Won’t…GetOUT. (Reaching for only thing that blurs eidetic PTSD-derived memories.) TGFC or I’d be all strung out on Big Pharma scheissen.

    • allan says:

      my bad Kap. I had to get it out of my head!

      Here’s a 42 minute flashback for you from 1968:

        • Sukoi says:

          Congrats on upgrading from dial-up Allan! It’s a whole different world huh?

        • kaptinemo says:

          OMG, LMFAO!

          Many thanks! I haven’t sat down and listened to Firesign Theater in YEARS!

          My all time favorite was “Everything You Know Is Wrong”. The title of the album comes to mind whenever prohibs (try to) give scientific testimony; you’d swear they were prepped by the Firesign guys.

          One of the characters (the ‘Holes in the Poles’, guy) sums them up perfectly when he says “Zey don’t know a hole from an @ss in ze ground.” Indeed they don’t.

        • allan says:

          Sukoi… not yet! I had listened to Waiting for the Electrician the night before (daughter loaded a bunch of Firesign Theater onto my iTunes in the new puter). Temporarily Humboldt County comes from Peter Bergman’s participation in the Summer of Love’s Gathering of the Tribes. Besides being brilliant with a twist he was a participant in the ’60s that actually remembered being there.

          For me it’s one of those 6º things. Old Grampa Semu was there too. He was one of those pesky native traditionalists (along with David Monongye and Thomas Banyaca, Rolling Thunder, Lame Deer and many more) that embraced the hippies and socialized with the upper crust libs of the day. (if anyone watched the TV western, the Young Riders in the early 90s, Grampa Semu played the old Indian character, he also read for the medicine man role in Dances with Wolves but lost out to Floyd ‘Red Crow’ Westerman)(he was also in one of the first Little Caesar pizza pizza commercials)

          I am ordering my WiFi on Wed (payday) so within a week or so I’ll be blazing around the wwweb. I’m sure I will be as ecstatic about that as I am w/ the difference between the new puter and this old eMac.

  19. CarolDuhart2 says:

    POC here, on a long journey from prohibition to about ready to just treat the whole thing as a medical situation. Prohibition hasn’t worked, is way too expensive, and has greatly lessened a lot of civil liberties. I’m also female as well, so I fit 2 out of three categories.

    Besides, a blog can’t be judged by just those who comment-how many people also lurk as well? I bet the lurkers are more diverse than even the commenters…

    • B.Snow says:

      Well, I’ve been (mostly) just lurking for a couple months now…

      My old office desktop’s power supply – bit the dust, from what I can tell. (I haven’t opened it up yet) = There could be more stuff burned out = like the voltage regulators on the motherboard. They might be kaput too, along w/ a variety of capacitors… maybe the CMOS battery – but it doesn’t seem to even get a chance to be that, the power doesn’t even pretend to try starting up when they button is pressed.

      So = I’ve been (re)learning to type/predicted type + swype/swipe on this silly “smartphone” = which to be fair, works *just about as well* as the 7 year old Dell in the other room.

      I am a bit skeptical about how long the battery will hold out on this thing? I’m guessing not all that long = because with a bunch of browser tabs open & music (or a web radio app) playing I can watch the little battery % charge drop 1% every few mins.
      I’m adapting to “mobile” stuff, catching up to modern tech as fast as possible, while avoiding *brain-spol’sion*.
      A $2 stylus with the rubber tip -really helps a ton- makes this several hundred $ phone usable, I can’t “type” without it!

      BUT, much of the effort I’ve put into using HTML tags – trying to make my (genetic ?) predisposition to being overly verbose in conversation, (In both text comments & speech) = Still somewhat convey the inflection/tone that makes communication meaningful!

      I’m just not “tl;dr friendly” – but I TRY (with some success) and plan to keep on improving = So, to those still reading (please) bear with me until I get back to a desktop machine, AND all the new software that’ll come with that… *sigh*

      • Windy says:

        Since I just got a new smartphone, I’ve learned a few tips, my phone has a huge battery, but it will lose half its charge if I use the phone surfing the web or playing a game (time filler when I’m waiting for someone or something) for an hour or two, a friend told me “when you leave home turn the WiFi and Bluetooth OFF, because all the while you’re gone from home the phone is searching for a WiFi signal, eating up the battery charge.” Turn it back on when you are home because using your own WiFi you are not using up the minutes/data of your plan.

  20. BIG HEMP! says:

    You know you want it.

  21. Duncan20903 says:


    When I was but a wee lad I thought that Dr. Joyce Brothers were two men borne of the same parents, that Oldsmobiles were used cars, and that newspapers coveted being awarded the Pewlit Surprise.
    A volunteer cries with tears of joy as volunteers and supporter celebrate their victory in legalizing marijuana in Oregon on Nov. 4, 2014

    With cannabis being the Rodney Dangerfield of substances on the Federal and States respective naughty lists I suppose the Pulitzer Prize won’t be awarded for that photo linked above, but not many newspaper pictures give me such a deep emotional response.

  22. sudon't says:

    I have to say, I always liked the way the black market worked. Try getting a bag of dope delivered at 3:00 AM, once it’s been legalized! Or getting it delivered any time of day.
    Another feature of the black market was that any person, with a small investment and a little entrepreneurial spirit, could put themselves into business. No hassles with licenses, taxes, byzantine zoning regulations, etc., etc… Can’t get a decent job? Be your own boss!
    When I think back to high school, and how much easier it was to get weed than booze, it worries me that kids might decide they may as well drink as get high. Is treating it like booze equating it with booze? I had no interest in booze as a teenager.
    Don’t get me wrong. Obviously I don’t want to see people going to jail over drugs. But, seeing it become this ridiculously regulated market worries me, too.

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