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ASK A NORML LAWYER - INSTALLMENT 3

I was recently contacted by a journalism student for a story she was doing in the student newspaper about the War on Drugs.  Here is the email interview question and answer exchange done for that story…

Q: As a lawyer, you’re very familiar with people committing various violent crimes for a majority of reasons. What do you think are the reasons for the violence associated with the trafficking of illegal substances?

A: The violence associated with illegal trafficking of drugs is due to the substances being illegal, not inherently due to the substances themselves. There was no violence associated with any of the substances until they were criminalized(all things start legal, not illegal, after all). Violence associated with controlled substances is exactly 100% analogous to the violence associated with alcohol during prohibition, and for the same reasons (see: Al Capone). Once alcohol was re-legalized the violence surrounding it disappeared.


Q: Do you believe that a legal market of marijuana will make an economic impact? Why or why not?

A: Of course. The plant is just a weed, literally. The price of marijuana is 80-90% due to the additional costs imposed by criminalization (physical, economic, psychological – like the risk of being put in jail or prison) and perhaps 10-20% due to actual production and distribution. Also, if it were regulated (read, taxed) then there would be an economic impact to the states and feds in terms of additional revenues. Perhaps the greatest economic impact would be that we would stop wasting billions, and even trillions of dollars prosecuting and incarcerating people for the offense.

Q: If marijuana were to be legalized, what kind of precautions do you foresee being taken?

A: Marijuana should be regulated like alcohol or wine, and for adult use. The same numerous regulations imposed on the alcohol industry could easily be cut and pasted onto a legal and regulated marijuana industry.

Q: Why do you think the US government has continued the prohibition of marijuana?

A: #1, because they (the legislators who make the laws) are scared of sounding like they want your children to smoke crack. That’s how the opponenets of re-legalization frame the argument, and it is much easier for politicians to keep the status quo than to risk explaining why it is better to re-legalize to their constituents. 2 nd , Big Pharma is a huge opponent of marijuana re-legalization because they want to sell people pills at $20-50 a pop (and higher) rather than have them smoke really really cheap marijuana for the same ailments. Consequently they bribe (contribute) the politicians to not only keep the status quo, but to increase penalties.

Q: Now, for my research paper I did not delve into the cocaine industry and not many people seem to bring it up in legislature. How do you think that the legalization of marijuana will impact this drug market and why?

A: Once people see that re-legalization of marijuana is not the end of the world, and that it in fact works out pretty well, it’s possible that the re-legalization of marijuana will become a blueprint to end the Nixon’s War on Drugs as we know it. But that’s a much longer time frame. ~