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Why Congress Should Legalize Pot

November 19, 2014 in Economics

By Jeffrey Miron

Jeffrey Miron

Following the liberal footsteps of Colorado and Washington, Alaska, Oregon and the District of Columbia passed ballot initiatives to legalize marijuana this month. Florida’s medical marijuana law failed, but only because as a constitutional amendment it needed 60% support; 58% voted in favor of it.

In 2016, another five to 10 states will likely consider legalization — possibly Arizona, California, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, Nevada, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont. It’s not surprising. Opinion polls show that marijuana legalization now commands majority support across the country.

Do these developments mean that full legalization is inevitable?

Any society that professes to value liberty should leave adults free to consume marijuana.”

Not necessarily, but one would hope so. Marijuana legalization is a policy no-brainer. Any society that professes to value liberty should leave adults free to consume marijuana.

Moreover, the evidence from states and countries that have decriminalized or medicalized marijuana suggests that policy plays a modest role in limiting use. And while marijuana can harm the user or others when consumed inappropriately, the same applies to many legal goods such as alcohol, tobacco, excessive eating or driving a car.

Recent evidence from Colorado confirms that marijuana’s legal status has minimal impact on marijuana use or the harms allegedly caused by use. Since commercialization of medical marijuana in 2009, and since legalization in 2012, marijuana use, crime, traffic accidents, education and health outcomes have all followed their pre-existing trends rather than increasing or decreasing after policy liberalized.

The strong claims made by legalization critics are not borne out in the data. Likewise, some strong claims by legalization advocates — e.g., that marijuana tourism would be a major boom to the economy — have also not materialized.

The main impact of Colorado’s legalization has been that marijuana users can now purchase and use with less worry about harsh legal ramifications.

Yet despite the compelling case for legalization, and progress toward legalization at the state level, ultimate success is not assured.

Federal law still prohibits marijuana, and existing jurisprudence (Gonzales v. Raich 2005) holds that federal law trumps state law when it comes to marijuana prohibition. So far, the federal government has mostly taken a hands-off approach to state medicalizations and legalizations, but in January 2017, the country will have a new president. That person could order the attorney general to enforce federal prohibition regardless of state law.

Whether that will happen is hard to …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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