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The Independent Institute
Commentary

Colorado and Washington Blazed a Marijuana Legalization Trail: Should Others Follow?


A lot of people on Reddit have pointed out that the term “Super Bowl” might mean something different this year as the Lombardi Trophy is guaranteed to go to a team from a state that legalized marijuana. Should other states follow suit? Absolutely: the economist Jeffrey Miron refers to drug prohibition as “one of [the US’s] most disastrous policy experiments,” and it is clear that we would live in a safer, freer, and more prosperous world if we ended drug prohibition. In large part, it is because this would also eliminate a lot of the violence associated with the drug trade.

In a recent New Yorker interview, President Obama claimed that he doesn’t think marijuana “is more dangerous than alcohol” and that “it’s important for [the legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington] to go forward” because of the fact that only a small percentage of the people who break laws against drug use actually get punished. I can’t say much about the science behind people’s claims about the effects of marijuana, but from a public policy standpoint the case for legalization is overwhelming.

As I’ve written before, the War on Drugs is literally a textbook example of a public policy with negative unintended consequences. In plain language, people like to get high, and they aren’t that sensitive to changes in the price of getting high. Reducing the supply of drugs doesn’t do much to people’s drug consumption, and it can actually increase revenues for drug gangs.

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Art Carden is a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute in Oakland, California, and Assistant Professor of Economics at Samford University.
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