[The following commentary on California's Proposition 19 - 'the new marijuana law' - was submitted via email by RR reader Paul Emery, News Director at KVMR-FM 89.5 who often comments on these pages. My own views on Prop19 are available here.]
Thanks George for giving me the opportunity to express my opinion of Proposition 19. Here are some basic observations.
There are striking parallels between alcohol prohibition during the Great Depression and marijuana prohibition during our current Great Recession. The lessons learned from the repeal of Prohibition have a lot to tell us about the marijuana policy choices that we now confront. The Eighteenth Amendment was supposed to put an end to the evils of alcohol. Instead it created a gigantic black market, with unprecedented levels of crime and corruption,
Two main reasons for the repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment in 1933 were that during the Great Depression there wasn't enough money available for an endlessly escalating war on alcohol, and that it is unsustainable in a democracy to prohibit a substance used by large percentage of the population. Can we afford it now?
To quote Jesse Ventura "When you prohibit something, it doesn't mean it's going away; it means it's going to be run by criminals."
Over a hundred million Americans have used marijuana--more than 40 percent of the adult population. The war on drugs is mainly a war on marijuana. In 2008, police made 850,000 marijuana arrests, with nearly 90 percent of those for possession.
Source: "Crime in the United States 2009," FBI Uniform Crime Report (Washington, DC: US Dept. of Justice)
If a government’s legitimate use of state power is based on the consent of the governed, then at what point does marijuana prohibition — in particular the federal enforcement of prohibition — become illegitimate public policy?