In 2011, Gallup reported that 62% of 18-29 year olds and 50% of the general public supports the legalization of marijuana; 69% of liberals and even 34% of conservatives also support such measures. Obviously the pro-pot movement has taken root in the American populace and especially in the minds of Millennials (even managing to infiltrate the minds of the most conservative among us).
Myth #1: Legalization Would bring in Enormous Tax Revenues
The Heritage Foundation’s Charles Stimson published an extensive legal memorandum urging for the failure of the RCTC Act of 2010, which would have legalized pot in California. This memorandum debunks the myth that legalization would eliminate the black market for marijuana and would bring in enormous revenue, therefore stimulating the economy.
Dr. Rosalie Pacula, a drug policy expert at the RAND Corporation for over 15 years, testified that under the California law: “There would be tremendous profit motive for the existing black market providers to stay in the market. The only way California could effectively eliminate the black market for marijuana is to take away the substantial profits in the market and allow the price of marijuana to fall to an amount close to the cost of production. Doing so, however, will mean substantially smaller tax revenue”(Stimson 9).
In other words, simple economics expose the assumption that drug dealers would voluntarily enter the legal market, when the cost of production is virtually zero. In fact, it was calculated that “an individual will be able to produce 24,000 to 240,000 joints legally each year” (Stimson 9). This is more than any individual could possibly consume, and it is encouraging individuals to sell pot on the side, subverting taxation. Why would anyone buy marijuana legally when they would have to pay a higher price for it? It would be a much higher price considering California proposed a $50/ounce tax on top of the list price. Why would drug dealers leave the black market when they don’t have to?
Fiscal conservatives should not be lured into such intellectual inconsistency. We are not going to solve the budget crises and pay off our $15 trillion debt with whatever change is left from a feeble government attempt to tax the un-taxable.
Myth #2: Marijuana is a Victimless Drug
Marijuana has a history of being linked to crime in the United States and throughout the world. “60% of arrestees test positive for marijuana use in the United States, England, and Australia” (Stimson 6). And while many pro-legalization advocates argue that most of these marijuana users are people arrested for non-violent crimes, they fail to note that marijuana usage is strongly correlated with cocaine and other more serious drugs, as well as murder, assault, money laundering, and smuggling (Stimson 5-6). Surely, legalization advocates do not believe that all marijuana users are little angels?
In fact, in Amsterdam, one of Europe’s most violent cities, pot is legal and a prevalent aspect of society (Stimson 6). Heritage reports that “Officials are in the process of closing marijuana dispensaries, or ‘coffee shops,’ because of the crime associated with their operation” (Stimson 6).
California’s partial legalization via usage of “medical marijuana” is beginning to show the same effects. LAPD reports that areas surrounding cannabis clubs have seen a 200% increase in robberies and a 130.8% increase in aggravated assault (Stimson 6). A drug that increases crime doesn’t exactly qualify as “victimless.”
In addition to this, local communities where neighborhoods and residential housing are dominant will be adversely affected. Residents who live in areas with extensive marijuana usage have repeatedly complained about the incredible smell put off by the plants. Even worse than the smell though, is the growing crime rate in residential areas which is induced by theft of marijuana from yards where it is grown (Stimson 6).
It may be ideologically convenient for some to oversimplify the issue as a violation against individual liberty, but when all the facts are presented, it is obvious that the only liberty being violated is the blatant disregard for property rights, law, and order.
Myth #3: Marijuana = Alcohol
Legalization advocates link marijuana and alcohol as equally mild intoxicants, suggesting that they deserve equal treatment under the law. However, as the above research suggests, marijuana is more dangerous to the health and safety of society.
For better or for worse, alcohol as been part of human history for millennia. Typically, individuals responsibly self-monitor their consumption thereof. Alcohol has also been regulated by cultural norms rather than by government. Society, culture, and religion have proven to be the best regulators of alcoholic consumption. The same cannot be said of marijuana – as seen in the information presented earlier.
In addition to its lack of historical precedent in America’s historical experience, marijuana also has much more severe health effects than alcohol. 1) marijuana is far more likely than alcohol to be cause addiction, 2) it is usually consumed to the point of intoxication, 3) it has no known intrinsically healthful properties (it can only relieve pain –and artificially at that), 4) it has toxins that can result in birth defects, pain, respiratory damage, brain damage, and stroke, 5) it increases heart rate by 20% to 100% elevating the risk of heart attack (Stimson 4).
In relation to history, economics, and health, marijuana is nothing like alcohol.
Conclusion: Conservatives should not be afraid to combat the growing sentiment that supports the legalization of marijuana. Economics, historical precedent, and conservative principles are all on our side. It is up to unashamed, unapologetic young conservatives to articulate that message and continue to stand for ordered liberty.