No, Pat Robertson isn’t for legalizing cannabis

He does think long prison terms for simple possession are a terrible idea. So they are. They’re also pretty rare. But even an arrest and a night or two in jail waiting to see a judge is expensive and harmful. The case for getting rid of possession as a crime seems strong: there’s simply no evidence that the threat of arrest and jail time cuts drug abuse. I’m less enthusiastic about legalizing commercial sales.

Adding up Robertson and Palin, I’d say that the culture warriors have decided to fight other battles, leaving the cannabis issue ripe for change. Here’s hoping that the next version of the California initiative will make sense.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

12 thoughts on “No, Pat Robertson isn’t for legalizing cannabis”

  1. Oddly enough I was just watching A DVD of David Courtwright's lecture on "Nixon's War on Drugs" in which he pointed out that Nixon is the one who repealed the 1950s era mandatory minimum for pot smoking, which was *two to ten years*. He signed legislation in 1970 reducing it to 1 year and leaving judges the option to waive even that if they thought it was inappropriate.

  2. And if there were evidence that the threat of arrest and jail time cuts drug abuse? It would be just as abhorrent to arrest and jail people for it.

  3. "I’d say that the culture warriors have decided to fight other battles, leaving the cannabis issue ripe for change. "

    Given what just happened in Montana:

    Attorneys in Montana had to work out a plea agreement after potential jurors revolted in a pot case and made it clear that they would not convict someone for possessing a tiny amount of marijuana…

    the steed has indeed flown the barn. Happiness grows out of the end of glowing pipe. Obviously, legalization is a done deal except for all the shouting.

    Meanwhile our Empire's insatiable demand for drugs continues to discombobulate other countries:

    A state of siege allows the army to detain suspects without warrants, conduct warrantless searches, prohibit gun possession and public gatherings, and control the local news media. Guatemalan law allows the measure amid acts of terrorism, sedition or "rebellion," or when events "put the constitutional order or security of the state in danger." The state of siege was put in place for 30 days, but "will last as long as necessary," Colom told Emisoras Unidas. He asked citizens to trust and cooperate with authorities.

    All because of a new highway in N. Guatemala…

    And our insatiability…

  4. "there’s simply no evidence that the threat of arrest and jail time cuts drug abuse"

    Mark, don't initiatives like Hawaii's HOPE show us exactly this, that the threat of an "arrest" and short jail stay cuts drug abuse? Coerced abstinence??

  5. I'm guessing that it's all personal variables — maybe Palin's a pothead and Robertson is undergoing chemo — and not any kind of political trend.

  6. But Palin is not for the legalization of pot — for the children.

    She's far from the only who has the view that it's not a big deal but we should in practice still give people criminal records because of it — for the children.

  7. Mark,

    How about a post listing elements that would make an initiative a "good" one.

    Obviously it can't have local options on taxing. How about it?

  8. Bux, it's clear that specific threats of swift sanctions, directed at specific convicted offenders and delivered on consistently, can change behavior. The random process of arrest, not so much.

    WMD, I'd like to see:

    – A statewide taxing and regulation authority, and a fairly stiff tax: say, 50% of the current illicit-market price, based on THC content.

    – Required posting of cannabinoid levels for all products.

    – Tight enough customer controls to prevent "export" to other states (else the Feds won't hold still for it.) That means having to show California ID to purchase, and a limit on quantity and frequency of purchase.

    – Ditto for controls on producers to avoid "selling out of the back door."

    – Marketing controls (to whatever extent the courts will tolerate them).

    What I'd really like to see is a total ban on commercial production and sale, leaving the cannabis economy to home-growing and small consumer-owned co-ops: limited size, no advertising, mail-order sales only. I doubt that the people with the money and energy to collect signatures would go for that. So I'd settle for rather onerous taxes and controls on the commercial side of the market, relaxed for the non-commercial side. You can make cannabis legally available those adults who want it without allowing the sort of orgy of legalized drug-pushing that we see with alcohol, nicotine, and "energy drinks."

  9. Mark,

    Your proposals seem sensible. Thanks for responding.

    There are some implementation problems with the customer controls – how do you limit repeat sales without some form of individualized purchase records available? Consumers are likely to be paranoid about sales records being used by law enforcement.

    How do you handle home grown? personally I think a tiered set of licenses would work – personal/friends license for up to 100 sq feet of flowering space, commercial grower licenses with both more regulatory requirements (personal license of say $200 a year, no assay of product, commerical scale at $100 per pound produced, reporting of production/distribution and assay done by a third party paid by producer). Possibly a not for profit medical grower license as well for organizations like WAMM.

  10. Thomas, the First Amendment protects speech, not commercial transactions. And it doesn't protect all speech; one type of speech that it doesn't protect is advertisements for illegal commercial transactions. Google the Supreme Court's "Central Hudson test."

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