Tuesday, July 2, 2013

McDaniel rejects another try at medical marijuana initiative

Posted By on Tue, Jul 2, 2013 at 9:18 AM

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel has rejected yet another attempt to write a new medical marijuana initiative proposal. Again he cites ambiguities. I'm beginning to think medical marijuana backers will have to go to court to get on the ballot. (Clarification: The denial today was from a group with full decriminalization, not the medical marijuana group, which has been turned down three times and working on another draft.)

NOT GONE TO POT: Asa Hutchinson still prefers the criminal justice system to decriminalization for marijuana.
  • NOT GONE TO POT: Asa Hutchinson still prefers the criminal justice system to decriminalization for marijuana.
And speaking of marijuana, who should pop up in The Atlantic on the subject but Asa Hutchinson, former federal drug warrior and now a Republican candidate for governor. He's friendly to the idea of treatment rather than incarceration for minor offenders at least. But this idea of decriminalizing for medicine or otherwise and using tax proceeds for scholarships, as some have proposed? Terrible because of all the government regulation.

Arkansas we have the Arkansas lottery scholarships, lottery money coming in which funds our scholarships. Well, we're going to be having pot scholarships, because you're going to have revenue coming in to generate it, and the public's going to sell it because you're gonna be able to send your kids with scholarships based upon marijuana tax revenue. You're going to have retail shops, you're going to have distribution, you're going to have cultivation, all highly regulated. That's the path we've got to go. I believe it would increase harm. So two paths you can take, and I believe the best one is keep it criminalized, keep it illegal conduct, but let's make the adjustments from lessons that we've learned over the last two decades.

The writer in the Atlantic isn't buying.

This is a bad argument for two reasons:

The drug enforcement bureaucracy and prison system are much larger and more costly than any sane regime of regulating marijuana.

The federal government and the states already have bureaucracies that regulate certain goods, like alcohol and tobacco, and that collect revenue. (In Washington, where they've legalized marijuana, the regulatory tasks are going to be carried out in the alcohol control bureau.)

But the biggest reason Hutchinson's argument falls flat is that small government isn't an end in itself. Even if the "regulate marijuana" bureaucracy turned out to be a bit bigger than the "enforce prohibition" bureaucracy, it would be facilitating market transactions among consenting adults, rather than paying paramilitary SWAT teams to kick down doors and haul nonviolent offenders to cages.

Preferring a smaller, extremely coercive government to a somewhat larger, much less coercive government makes no sense. Better to fund scholarships for 100,000 people than to needlessly jail 25,000 people, even if the scholarships cost more money and require more staff!

Hutchinson, by the way, has been at the Aspen Ideas Festival, a liberal hangout, to debate guns. He advanced the NRA line that more guns make you safer, particularly in schools.

Towards the end, Hutchinson told the audience that there were no gun regulation proposals currently being discussed that he thought should trump his conception of liberty. He said it in that calm voice of his, as if nothing could be more obvious.

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