“President Joe Biden, who recently issued a mass pardon for low-level marijuana offenders, says cannabis consumption should not be treated as a crime. His administration nevertheless defends the federal ban on gun possession by marijuana users, arguing that Second Amendment rights are limited to “law-abiding citizens.”
Last week, a federal judge agreed, dismissing a challenge to that rule by medical marijuana patients in Florida. The reasoning underlying that decision shows that the constitutional right to armed self-defense, which the Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld, is still subject to legislators’ arbitrary whims and irrational prejudices.”
“Winsor noted a long history of banning gun ownership by people convicted of certain crimes. But as Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett pointed out in a 2019 dissent as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, that history does not suggest that any crime, or even any felony, will do.
“Legislatures have the power to prohibit dangerous people from possessing guns,” Barrett wrote. “But that power extends only to people who are dangerous.”
Are cannabis consumers dangerous? Winsor suggested that they are, accepting the Biden administration’s analogy between the gun ban for marijuana users and laws enacted in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries that prohibited people from either carrying or firing guns “while intoxicated.”
That analogy fails, however, because those laws did not impose general bans on gun possession by drinkers. They applied only when gun owners were under the influence.”
“Voters on Tuesday approved the legalization of recreational marijuana in Maryland and Missouri while rejecting similar measures in Arkansas, North Dakota, and South Dakota. Meanwhile, voters in five Texas cities passed ballot measures that bar local police from issuing citations or making arrests for low-level marijuana possession. But the most striking election result for drug policy reformers looking beyond the ongoing collapse of marijuana prohibition happened in Colorado, where a broad psychedelic decriminalization measure is winning by two points with 80 percent of votes counted.
Prior to yesterday’s elections, 37 states had approved marijuana for medical purposes, and 19 of them also had legalized recreational use. The Maryland and Missouri results raise the latter number to 21.”
“When California legalized recreational marijuana in 2016, the state had more than 3,000 weed shops. They ostensibly served the medical market, but the rules were so loose that pretty much anyone who wanted pot could buy it legally. Six years later, California had less than half as many licensed marijuana merchants, accounting for between a quarter and a third of total sales.
Something clearly has gone wrong “when you try to legalize weed and accidentally end up illegalizing it instead,” note University of California, Davis, economists Robin Goldstein and Daniel Sumner. In their book Can Legal Weed Win?, they explain how burdensome licensing requirements, regulations, and taxes have frustrated plans to displace the black market.”
“They looked at the effects of cannabis use in both adults and teenagers, using study participants who said they used marijuana at least once per week over the previous three months. Average use among study participants was four days per week, with some participants saying they used marijuana every day. Participants in the control group were matched for age and gender.
The major takeaway: Cannabis users were no more likely than non-users to be apathetic or anhedonic (that is, to experience a loss of interest or pleasure). Nor were more frequent cannabis users likely to be more apathetic or anhedonic than their counterparts who partook less frequently.
The researchers came to this conclusion by first having participants answer questions about their emotions and interests (for instance, rating statements such as “I would enjoy being with family or close friends” or how interested they are in learning new things). Cannabis users scored similarly to non-users on measures of apathy and motivation, and scored lower than non-users on measures of anhedonia.
Around half of participants were also asked to complete some simple tasks, with a promise of small rewards (chocolates and other sweets) for completing these tasks. Participants could accept or reject the offers, and would get points toward rewards if the task was completed. Participants were also asked to rate who much they wanted several rewards—a £1 coin, a piece of candy, or listening to part of one of their favorite songs—and asked after receiving the reward how pleasurable they found it.
“We were surprised to see that there was really very little difference between cannabis users and non-users when it came to lack of motivation or lack of enjoyment, even among those who used cannabis every day,” said Skumlien. “This is contrary to the stereotypical portrayal we see on TV and in movies.””
“Most people in California know what a disaster legalization has been. Most people know that the black market still accounts for the majority of marijuana purchases in California. Most people (especially those who live outside the big cities) are well aware of all the illegal grow operations. What this series does is provide specific examples of the dangerous environment that still exists, full of threats, violence, and even murder.”
“There is the assumption in these stories that the breakdown in the system is due to a lack of control and enforcement by police and regulators. The stories are reluctant to address the real sources: The extent of state and local taxes drive up prices, and the ability of local officials to decide who can participate in cannabis is a huge factor in the persistence of the black market. While the stories do bring up these issues to provide some context, they really don’t contend with how much of the California black market is a result of the exorbitant costs to do business legally in the state.
Instead, the illegal grow operations and unlicensed dispensaries are presented as a failure of enforcement.”
“The real failure here is that the state and local officials have put in so many regulatory barriers and taxes that the market cannot function properly within the boundaries of the law. Illegal grow operations flood the market with cheap goods, and licensed operations can’t compete because they have to give so much money to the government. The same holds true for dispensaries.”
“A legal market with high taxes and overly stringent regulations is still a market in which people aren’t arrested and jailed. Rules can be loosened to what people will tolerate, as they have been elsewhere. But New York officials have yet to learn that markets function based on the choices of participants. The wishes of government regulators who want to use them as social-engineering tools and ATMs don’t really matter. Marijuana markets will thrive so long as there are customers to be served. The question is whether they will thrive in the open under light taxes and regulations, or underground to escape the heavy hands of politicians.”
“The federal government’s decadeslong war on marijuana, one of the most life-mangling policies ever enacted, could be ended with a single sentence: The Controlled Substances Act shall not apply to marijuana.
Put it in a bill, vote on the bill, pass the bill, sign the bill, done. Much of the federal government’s drug war law enforcement machinery would grind to a halt. No legislative horse-trading, no Christmas tree–style gifts to favored constituencies, no giving old bureaucracies new responsibilities. Just the simple and urgent removal of the legal justification for grievous government harm.
This elegant approach, redolent of the 21st Amendment’s repeal of federal alcohol prohibition, is untenable to big-government lifers like Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D–N.Y.), as Jacob Sullum has repeatedly detailed in these pages. But it’s the shortest line to a point where a supermajority of Americans want policy to be. And it’s a template that could and should be used, at every level of government, by every flavor of politician.”
“The cannabis industry, of course, remains completely illegitimate in the eyes of the federal government. That means anyone who grows or distributes marijuana in California, even with the state’s approval, is committing federal felonies every day. But even though President Joe Biden wants to keep it that way, he has promised not to interfere with states that reject marijuana prohibition. So why are the feds not only busting marijuana merchants in California but doing so in collaboration with local law enforcement agencies?
The explanation, as you may have surmised, is that these particular marijuana merchants were breaking state law as well as federal law. Their businesses were not just “illegal” but also “unlicensed.” Yet the fact that unlicensed pot dealers continue to thrive in California is testimony to the ways in which the state has botched legalization. Most local governments do not allow recreational sales, and even those that do frequently impose caps that artificially limit the supply. Bureaucratic barriers, costly regulations, and high taxes are daunting deterrents for weed dealers who otherwise might be inclined to go legit.
Those burdens, combined with local bans, explain why unlicensed sales still account for about two-thirds of the marijuana purchased in California. As a recent report from Reason Foundation (which publishes Reason) notes, California has one licensed recreational outlet per 29,282 residents, compared to one per 13,838 in Colorado and one per 6,145 in Oregon. Worse, the report adds, California’s stores are distributed unevenly across the state, leading to “massive cannabis deserts” where “consumers have no access to a legal retailer within a reasonable distance of their home.””