Six Drug Czars, and Between Them They Can’t Muster a Decent Argument for Marijuana Prohibition

By Jacob Sullum

“Our opposition to legalizing marijuana is grounded not in ideology but in facts and experience,” say drug czar Gil Kerlikowske and his five predecessors in a Los Angeles Times op-ed piece that urges Californians to vote against Proposition 19. They argue that voters should listen to them because they are “experts in the field of drug policy, policing, prevention, education and treatment.” If this is the best case the experts can make against marijuana legalization, they had better call in the amateurs.

Kerlikowske et al. say it’s not true that “legalizing and taxing marijuana would generate much-needed revenue,” because everyone will grow his own, thereby avoiding sales and excise taxes. Although “people don’t typically grow their own tobacco or distill their own spirits,” they say, marijuana is different because it is “easy and cheap to cultivate, indoors or out.” If growing pot were as easy as the Six Drug Czars imply, there would not be much of a market for all the books and periodicals that explain how to do it properly. In any case, one could also say that tomatoes are “easy and cheap” to grow, or that beer is “easy and cheap” to brew. I’ve done both, but I still buy tomatoes and beer in stores. The supply is more reliable and varied, and it’s a lot easier. Accounting for the time and effort required to grow tomatoes and brew beer, buying them in the store is cheaper too, even though I have to pay taxes on them.