Keith Humphreys on what a legalized marijuana industry would look like:
If the U.S. legalized marijuana today, those now fading cultural meanings would not rule the day, capitalism would. Cannabis would be seen as a product to be marketed and sold just as is tobacco. People in the marijuana industry would wear suits, work in offices, donate to the Club for Growth and work with the tobacco industry to lobby against clean air restrictions. The plant would be grown on big corporate farms, perhaps supported with unneeded federal subsidies and occasionally marred by scandals regarding exploitation of undocumented immigrant farm workers. The liberal grandchildren of legalization advocates will grumble about the soulless marijuana corporations and the conservative grandchildren of anti-legalization activists will play golf at the country club with marijuana inc. executives, toast George Soros at the 19th hole afterwards and discuss how they can get the damn liberals in Congress to stop blocking capital gains tax cuts.
Adam Serwer responds to another blogger’s argument that cultural attitudes toward pot would limit institutionalization:
The prospect of a full-fledged, commercialized marijuana industry with the web of influence that could come with it is one of the reasons I prefer decriminalization to full legalization — and I certainly don’t think that anyone using marijuana for medical reasons should be subject to legal sanction.
But I disagree with Waldman that our cultural understanding of marijuana would not change. We already have something of a prior example with alcohol and prohibition. The Temperance movement was mostly made up of Protestant denominations, whose opposition to alcohol consumption was laden with racist, anti-Catholic and anti-immigrant stereotypes. A hundred years later, alcohol consumption is no longer associated with unruly Negroes and their white ethnic enablers. Alcohol is entirely respectable, even as the industry still exploits a sense of youthful rebellion still associated with consumption. The president can hold a “beer summit.” The former commander of the Joint Special Operations Command drinks Bud Light Lime.
While the idea of a future president lighting up a j while hammering a budget deal is somewhat amusing, it doesn’t really alleviate all of my other concerns about the commercialization of marijuana. But cultural change associated with the drug is inevitable — after all, it’s not even legal yet, and our views of marijuana and who consumes it have already changed.
[h/t Andrew Sullivan]