Saturday, May 23, 2009

What Would Happen if Marijuana Were Decriminalized?

A Freakonomics Quorum

By Stephen J. Dubner
New York Times Freakonomics blog

Two years ago we ran a quorum debating the pros and cons of decriminalizing marijuana. Since then, a largely theoretical debate has moved quite substantially toward the realm of reality, with a growing number of states and municipalities having changed their laws. The details from place to place vary greatly and are very much a patchwork; the most prominent state to make a move is Massachusetts. The California legislature, meanwhile, is wondering whether marijuana could save its economy — which, as we read just this morning, is badly in need of saving.

Although President Obama doesn’t seem interested, arguments in favor of decriminalization are popping up everywhere, from the Law Enforcement Against Prohibition platform to the senior thesis of a graduating economics major at Brown named Max Chaiken, which finds that “a legally taxed and regulated marijuana market could generate upwards of $200 billion annually in excise tax revenues for the federal government … [which] would be enough to fund Medicaid.”

So we asked a group of people — Paul Armentano, Mike Braun, Joel W. Hay, Jeffrey Miron, and Robert Platshorn — to think about a national decriminalization of marijuana (unlikely, let’s be honest) and answer the following: What would be some of the most powerful economic, social, and criminal-justice effects?

Here are their answers. As you will see, consensus on this issue is now — and will probably always remain — elusive.


Blogger TexasCowboy said...

People carrying a 'joint or 2' are no different than Texans carrying around their Bud Lights. The huge amount of wasted taxpayer money to house so-called druggies makes no sense. But we should not kid ourselves, there's money to be made everytime a person is convicted of a small drug offense, from the courts, the lawyers and private prisons which house them. I'd much rather see people with multiple DUIs imprisoned, not someone with a couple of reefers.

10:27 AM  

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