As we all know, Colorado’s legalization of recreational marijuana went into effect the other day, and Washington will soon follow. I would spend some time discussing the merits of legalization, but I largely agree with Grover’s post on Green Wednesday. As one might expect, it didn’t take long for the op-eds to offer their opposition to legalization.
David Brooks (NYT) weighs in on the issue. He remembers his days smoking weed as an adolescent and assures us that he is no prude (“I don’t have any problem with somebody who gets high from time to time, but I guess, on the whole, I think being stoned is not a particularly uplifting form of pleasure and should be discouraged more than encouraged.”) The real concern is the impact of marijuana on the adolescent mind and the impact of legalization on marijuana use. Ruth Marcus (in WaPo) focuses on this issue, arguing that “our children will not be better off with another legal mind-altering substance.” If early marijuana use has negative impacts on the adolescent brain (Marcus cites research that “long-term users saw an average decline of eight IQ points”) this should be a source of concern. Of course, Colorado does not legalize the use of marijuana by people under age 21—a point that Marcus acknowledges—but this is beside the point. Alcohol is prohibited for those under 21, and yet illegal drinking is widespread. The core issue for Marcus: “although alcohol seems to be the teen drug of choice among the adolescents I know, the more widely available marijuana becomes, the more minors will use it.”
Brooks arrives at the same conclusion:
We now have a couple states — Colorado and Washington — that have gone into the business of effectively encouraging drug use. By making weed legal, they are creating a situation in which the price will drop substantially. One RAND study suggests that prices could plummet by up to 90 percent, before taxes and such. As prices drop and legal fears go away, usage is bound to increase. This is simple economics, and it is confirmed by much research. Colorado and Washington, in other words, are producing more users.
It is simple economics: legalization should result in a reduction in prices. A reduction in prices should lead adolescents who drink alcohol to consumer marijuana instead. The core question: is this necessarily a bad thing? (more…)