Clayton Cramer talks about an article he wrote recently about decriminalization of marijuana. I would put myself firmly in Clayton’s first category, namely that I think the social costs of prohibition are higher than an increased incidence of schizophrenia, though the social cost of that is certainly nothing to dismiss. I’d have no problem funneling money we save on the war on drugs toward taking care of the mental illness that result from substance abuse. But I find Clayton’s fourth point interesting:
People arguing that marijuana laws don’t have any influence on behavior–no matter what the laws are, the same number of people will smoke pot. Yet, at the same time, they acknowledge that having it illegal drives up prices, attracting the violent criminals into the trade. Somehow, rising prices don’t affect demand or consumption.
Let me change that around a bit:
People arguing that gun laws don’t have any influence on behavior–no matter what the laws are, the same number of criminals will get guns. Yet, at the same time, they acknowledge that having guns illegal drives up prices, attracting the violent criminals into the trade. Somehow, rising prices don’t affect demand or consumption.
But I suspect that Clayton believes as I do, that the issue is a bit different. I don’t dispute that prohibition would drive the price of guns up, and the number of criminals able to afford guns down. But if I can’t have a gun either, it’s little comfort to me that the guy who robs me on the street threatens to shiv me instead of shoot me, or the guy breaking in my house threatens to beat me with a crowbar instead. Also, much like with Clayton’s argument about alcohol, we’re already an armed society. That genie left the bottle a long time ago. Of course, I also think, with respect to marijuana, that is probably also the case. It’s hard to prohibit something that you can grow in a closet with the right equipment, and if you think about what you have to do to stop something of that, it involves a police state. That’s why I’ll continue to be a proponent of decriminalization. Mental illness we can treat, a police state is a much harder nut to crack.