The political left and prohibition

"Legalization Now" Banner At The May...
“Legalization Now” Banner At The May Day Immigration Rights Rally (Washington, DC) (Photo credit: takomabibelot)

Andrew Sullivan picks up on Jack Meserve’s discussion of the political left and prohibition:


Think of a few of the currently illegal vices: recreational drug use, gambling, prostitution. With some exceptions, the left has been in favor of legalization or decriminalization of these activities. Now think of legal vices: gluttony, cigarette smoking, alcohol use. On these habits, we’ve supported bans, onerous restrictions on place and time of consumption, and increasingly aggressive fines and taxes. There seems very little consistency between these positions, and few have even attempted justifying the differences. Progressives have been guilty of letting our temperament rather than our reason guide the policies; bans on activities like drug use are seen as naive or old-fashioned, but legal vices like cigarette smoking are public-health or collective-action problems to be solved through brute government action.

Then, Sullivan offers some reader reactions to Meserve. Here are just a couple:

…legalization isn’t being pursued as a public health issue.  It’s being pursued to make sure people don’t face fines, criminal charges, arrest, or jail time for using a substance that is less harmful and addictive than other legal substances.  Any public health aspects come into play when you discuss how pot would be regulated ONCE it is legal.  But Meserve doesn’t discuss or raise any public comments about what happens post legalization in the piece.


Why is the pot legalization initiative on the ballot in Washington when legalization has failed to qualify so many times before, despite our alleged libertinism?  Well, this one contains a 25% excise tax dedicated to substance abuse prevention and healthcare in general, a state-run store regime was added, age limits put in, and specific concentrations of THC in the bloodstream for DUI were defined.  These things were absent in prior initiatives, meaning that had they qualified and passed, anyone could have set up shop across from a kindergarten to sell. It’s almost instead of us being a bunch of stoned hippies just out for a good time, we wanted to make sure that this vice was legalized in the most thoughtful, responsible way possible, while also making provisions for ameliorating possible social harms caused by legalization.  That’s left-wing social engineering at its best.

2 thoughts on “The political left and prohibition

  1. I gotta say, I think it’s too late for medical marijuana, and the fault lies clearly with the progressives. To flood L.A., for example, with 10 dispensaries in a residential neighborhood, all tricked out like Amsterdam coffee shops, was short-sighted, to say the least. Putting people on the streets with arrows pointing to cheap quarter OZs was probably not, from a public relations point of view the smartest way to proceed.

  2. It’d be nice if we could have that conversation, wouldn’t it? We seem incapable of exploring what’s been learned from these experiences around the country.

    Here, in Michigan, we have signs at freeway exits promoting marijuana dispensaries and doctors who will evaluate and approve patients for marijuana. We also have dispensaries popping up everywhere and head shops have taken off in high profile areas.

    I really think there is going to be a pushback. The public doesn’t want people going to jail for marijuana possession, but they also don’t want it to be so visible to them and their kids.

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