By Nathan Barton
In the last commentary I discussed the role of government in controlling weeds. Weeds along streets and roads, on public property, and on private property. I believe that there are many ways to deal with weeds that do not require government.
But let me move on to the other kind of “weed control.” That is, cannabis: marijuana. It has many nicknames, including “weed.” It is in the news a lot. Especially government control of same, and the constant round of legislation, ballot issues, and debate over that. And in many parts of North America, especially in the Great Plains States, marijuana is indeed a weed: “ditch weed” found in the bar ditches and uncultivated fields along highways and county roads.
As with noxious weeds, I can find nothing granting any government agency or authority to regulate or control marijuana (cannabis) or its close relatives, hemp. Especially not on private land. But somehow, government has assumed this “authority” and, by tacit agreement, the electorate and their elected representatives have recognized this power. And allowed billions of dollars – far more than ever spent on weeds like thistle and hound’s tongue – to be spent to control weed. An effort which failed.
Today, governments in more and more of the Fifty States say that they have given up eliminating the threat of weed, but are still “protecting us” from weed.
The truth is, they’ve just made their number one priority “controlling” weed to the profit of the government. As a result, recent reports are that legal cannabis is NOT replacing illegal “black market” cannabis. Why? Because the regulations, the taxes, the bureaucracy, and the control have skewed the market. Colorado, for example, continues to spend millions of dollars and cop’s efforts to seize “black market” cannabis even while they reap millions more in taxes on “legal” pot and its products.
There are several reasons for the continuing “black market” – a trend seen in Washington, California, and elsewhere. Legal marijuana is much more expensive because of the overhead, especially the regulations and taxes. Legal marijuana cannot be taken with its buyers to other states – well, not legally. Colorado (and other states that have legalized) are “sanctuary states” (like Cambodia or Laos during the Vietnam War) where the risks of growing weed to export to other states (Utah, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, etc.) are less. And because of perceived risks, the costs of doing business for legal cannabis wholesale and retail businesses is much higher, raising the price of their product.
It is a bit more complex, and perhaps extreme, than similar dual “legal/black market” enterprises selling booze, tobacco, and prescription drugs. Some things are legal in some states and not in others. Government regulation and taxes warp the prices. Restrictions on age, residency, etc. mean that some customers are not able to go the legal route.
Please don’t get me wrong: I think that recreational use of marijuana is a very stupid thing to do. I think that it is just as bad for the average person as recreational use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs. It is wrong, it is stupid. Should it also be illegal?
It is obvious that government fails at preventing such, and in protecting us – even our children – from these things. And I just do not see that government should have any power to impose my preference on others. Many things that are wrong, should not be illegal. This is just one of them.
And if we allow government coercive power to enforce (that is, literally, to use force – including the power of the gun or the sword (deadly force) my preference on other people in the case of drugs… When will someone else use it to enforce THEIR preference on how to worship God, or how to seek medical attention, or how to teach my children?
It is NOT government’s job to protect us from weeds. Of any kind.