24 Comments

Even if you don’t favor marijuana legalization, it’s just logically absurd that cigarettes and alcohol are legal in this country and not marijuana.

But I also agree on the political merits here: There is a lot to be gained with little risk.

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Suppose an amusement park has a roller coaster that kills 100 guests a year and another that kills 50 guests a year. The fans love these roller coasters and so the park can't close them.

Would it be logically absurd for park management to decline to build a third roller coaster that kills 10 people a year and drives another 20 insane?

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No, I guess not. When considering the issue in those terms, though, it’s just arbitrary. Alcohol and cigarettes are far more destructive to health.

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But consider: building the insanity coaster is very popular.

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Come on now. Marijuana isn’t *that* crazy, is it? Ha.

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I voted to legalize medical marijuana in Oklahoma a few years back. But it has led to increased organized crime, especially involving Chinese nationals. I'm not sure of the right public policy approach, but I'm much more suspicious of efforts to legalize marijuana than I used to be and want a to hear a thorough discussion of the issues.

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I am much more worried about abuse than I used to be, but I think the criminal syndicates are a product of this weird situation where you can sell marijuana pretty openly but trafficking either the plant or the money across state borders is still illegal. Once it's fully legal, ConAgra or whoever will just grow it in plantations and sell it cheaper than the criminals can.

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This seems unsurprising, almost by definition whoever supplies the weed to dispensaries is engaged in organized crime because it is federally illegal. Yes, in theory the states allow limited scale grow operations but realistically until you can supply that product via an open legal market with banks and financing there will be a criminal element involved.

But if it's actually just outright legal (no dumb rules that try to keep out agribusiness) why would it involve any more criminals than tobacco or alcohol production?

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Same.

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Are you aware of what the high THC concentrated waxes and stuff that's in the vapes is doing to young minds? Flowers are seldom more than 20% THC. Concentrates are up to almost 100% THC (and no CBD). I am a weed (flower) light user. It's a luxury belief to just brush off the danger of weed at this point. The elites won't suffer, the lower classes will and are suffering. Some youngsters are presenting with Schizophrenia from concentrates. I voted for legalization in WA, but frankly, I'd be happy to just be buying my weed from Oregon growers like I used to before legalization because a dispensary on every block is a disaster.

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The high THC concentration is a real problem. Not your grandparents' weed. Criminalizing the old stuff was a huge mistake; legalizing the new stuff may well be just as big. Are we going to empty the prisons only to overwhelm the mental health care system. Take care to regulate adequately what you propose to legalize.

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Such a thoughtful comment. Thank you. It's a trojan horse at worst or a wolf in sheep's clothing at best.

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Spot on. Weed legalization is another issue that people can verbalize easily on one thing that Biden has gotten done and that is generally appealing to swing voters.

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This is where you and i differ, even tho i support legalization: “The other reason I’m surprised Biden hasn’t come around on marijuana is that it’s an obvious way to fight his image as an old fart.”

But it also ruins his old-timey, comforting image among older voters, no? I know polls looks bad, esp among the Youngs. But doesn’t this hurt his relatively good #’s w older folks? I think reclassification will strike ppl as reasonable compromise and substantively impactful. A couple of my NY lib friends texted about it almost immediately

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I understand your point and I'm very much opposed to draconian sentences for drug usage, but I do think most people will quickly grow very, very tired of the smell of marijuana if its legalized. Pity the people that live in an apartment building where you will have many smokers lighting up several times per day. Its bad enough smelling it from other cars while driving around - yes its that strong. I'm not sure what the answer is other than encouraging its consumption by ways other than smoking it after its legalized, which I believe it eventually will be. But given the threat to democracy posed by Trump, I see the wisdom in Biden calling for legalization.

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We could treat marijuana about the same way we treat tobacco cigarettes these days, letting it be legal but still discouraging its use with restrictions and public approbation. It would be interesting to see smoking a joint become something seen not as forbidden fruit but as vulgar and dumb.

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Yes but tobacco, despite being worse, isn’t the same level if public nuisance, at least outdoors. Trust me brah, weed smoke is heavier and lingers longer ;)

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This might be low-key the best case for full legalization: full access to capital could drive a ton of innovation and costs way down for edibles and other vectors with little or no nuisance cost to nonsmokers.

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I haven’t been around weed smoke since the 1970s, but I remember I thought it less offensive than tobacco smoke at the time. Nevertheless both need to be restricted. Japan treats cigarettes the way we treat weed: not outdoors.

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Obviously this is a good idea. I suspect that Biden is simply personally not on board. Remember, Hunter has struggled for years with drug addiction and Biden isn't of a generation where the MJ/hard drug distinction feels natural to him.

Yes, when you look at the research it turns out that marijuana substitutes for opiod usage rather than causing it but Biden isn't really a policy wonks type -- his positions come more from his guy than from policy white papers.

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I generally support marijuana legalization, but I worry that it alienates the kinds of minority voters who are trending Republican these days.

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I get your same sex marriage point but that issue was relatively new in politics compared to marijuana. Same sex marriage first became an issue during the Clinton years when Biden and other old farts have been in the senate for many years at that point. Drug issues have been a political issue for many decades. These people have heard that marijuana was bad since the 1960’s or earlier while same sex marriage was a very very fringe issue until the late 90’s. In other words I don’t know what Nixon said about gay marriage but I sure know what he thought about marijuana and other drugs.

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I think the political analysis is right, and I agree that’s very important, so Biden probably should endorse legalization.

But I think full legalization is a bad idea on the merits, until we work out a better paradigm for regulating “sin” businesses. I liked Matt’s description of them as “akrasia” industries: https://www.slowboring.com/p/the-best-season-for-a-mailbag

For political economy and constitutional doctrine reasons, we’ve proven really bad at regulating opioids, gambling, social media, processed foods, etc. I don’t actually want a mature Marijuana industry with full access to and government by the capital markets, maximizing production and use and lobbying for those interests. Keeping Marijuana at Schedule 3 would be a very imperfect way of having some leverage over abusing it, but it might be better than ripping the brakes out.

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Except for all intents and purposes it's widely available in half the country. The only thing keeping it federally illegal is doing is making sure that organized crime plays a substantial role in providing that demand. And the research on marijuana legalization suggests it functions as a substitute for opiate and alcohol use so that seems like a very strong positive.

More generally, it's not really clear to me that marijuana functions to ruin lives -- or even make them on net worse -- the way these other sin industries do. I've lived with a fair number of stoners and while I wouldn't describe them as the most ambitious people they tended to be pretty happy.

As long as we have an economy that forces many people to work boring repetitive jobs (retail etc) I tend to think marijuana probably improves lots of those lives. Sure, maybe it's not what you want for your kids but until we change the economy so no one is stuck making their living in these shitty ways, I think it's at best unclear that MJ on net makes those lives worse. Especially when you consider that for many people they are going to use something and that the effects of alcohol are pretty horrible.

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