S.E. Cupp writes in the New York Daily News that marijuana legalization is
Pot could put progressives in a tough spotWait -- what? "No good liberal" would argue for legalizing guns? Do you suppose that may be because owning guns is, um, already legal? How do you compare the laws on guns, ownership of which is legal in every state, with possession of a product that, until recently, was 100% illegal for 100% of citizens, and didn't become fully legal for people lacking doctors' notes until about a week ago, and only one state? Is Cupp's point that demanding greater legal access to anything and everything is the only position a left-winger can take that's intellectually consistent, regardless of current levels of legal access? So if we oppose decriminalization of privately owned anthrax, we're hypocrites, too?
... some obvious extrapolations make it clear that the legal weed experiment could at least put the politics of progressivism -- all the rage in liberal circles now -- in a tricky spot.
For one, there are glaring inconsistencies between the liberal argument for pot legalization and positions on other issues. An obvious one is gun control.
The same argument used against guns is used for pot: that legalizing pot and making it more available will reduce crime. No good liberal would say the same of guns, though there is substantial evidence to prove more guns equal less crime.
And if we're going to compare the nation's gun laws and Colorado's new pot laws, let's take a look at some of Colorado's restrictions: you can buy pot in Colorado if you're over 21, but only an ounce at a time if you're a resident, and only a quarter ounce if you're from out of state. You can share with friends, but you can't sell to them. You can't smoke in public, or even in the pot shops themselves. Communities can ban pot shops altogether. You can grow your own, but you're limited to six plants -- three immature and three mature -- and the place where the pot is grown must be locked and enclosed. Only licensed dealers can sell, and licensees were limited to those who already had licenses to sell medical pot. Oh, and you can still be fired in Colorado for smoking pot, even if you smoke on your own time.
Substitute guns for pot in the list above, and just try to imagine the gun community shrugging and accepting any comparable restrictions.
Oh, and Cupp herself notes,
... there are already complaints in Colorado that pot is over-regulated and over-taxed. There's a 15% excise tax levied on "average market rate" marijuana, a special 10% sales tax and the state's general 2.9% sales tax will also apply. Yikes.Actually, they will: we learn here that Colorado state representative Jonathan Singer, the sponsor of the legalization bill, is willing to reconsider the tax level to prevent black market sale of weed. On the other hand, the fact that pot is selling out tells us that, at least for now, supply has definitely met demand at a market-clearing price. (And the price may drop if this changes.)
Economists suggest this could make Colorado's pot industry too costly for the state and the consumer, in which case users rely on an inevitable black market to pop back up, making Colorado a tourism-only pot state. Will progressives really admit, in that case, that their own high taxes and burdensome regulations crippled an industry with so much potential?
But let's backtrack: here are fairly high taxes on weed. When you try to raise taxes on guns, the gunners howl. Sorry, S.E., but guns are still far less regulated than Colorado weed.
And perhaps this would be a good time for David Waldman to weigh in on the analogy:
I was cleaning my legal pot & accidentally killed my neighbor. http://t.co/l4EFPHDF6g— David Waldman (@KagroX) January 7, 2014
Every teacher should smoke pot in the classroom. For safety. http://t.co/l4EFPHDF6g— David Waldman (@KagroX) January 7, 2014
If I walk down the street w a giant bag of pot over my shoulder, cops will walk on eggshells if they dare stop me. http://t.co/l4EFPHDF6g— David Waldman (@KagroX) January 7, 2014
Cupp also argues that pot legalization is hypocritical for people who want to ban trans fats and restrict sugar and salt and tobacco. That that seems reasonable on the surface, but I don't accept it. Support for legalizing marijuana stems from the belief that it will be smoked no matter what, and jail isn't the right place for adults who do the smoking -- just as with alcohol. Decades ago we concluded that alcohol prohibition was a failure, but legalization hasn't stopped us from investigating alcohol's risks to individual and public health. We have designated drivers and sobriety checkpoints and pressure on bartenders not to serve the severely intoxicated and recommendations that pregnant women avoid alcohol -- all in the context of legal alcohol. Maybe we'll do the same for pot, if we can ever decouple the health research from the process of jailing people for pot.
Oh, and I love this from Cupp:
... some are suggesting the Colorado law could have a libertarian ripple effect. In the conservative National Review, which supports legalizing marijuana, editors hoped that "Colorado's recognition of this individual liberty might inspire some popular reconsideration of other individual liberties, for instance that of a working man to decide for himself whether he wants to join a union, or for Catholic nuns to decide for themselves whether they want to purchase drugs that may work as abortifacients -- higher liberties, if you will."Yes, you read that right: Cupp seriously thinks people are going to look at pot legalization, even though it's backed by liberals, and think: "Wow, libertarianism!" -- and then support right-to-work laws or the end of the contraceptive mandate. Really? If she's serious about this, I think she's high ... on paint fumes from political talk show greenrooms. Only political pundits think in categories like this. Normal people never do.
If pot legalization emboldens libertarianism in just such ways, it would have a pretty devastating effect on progressivism.