Marijuana Control - Capitalism v. Communism

It is now official. Californians would have the opportunity to decriminalize marijuana this November by voting for Proposition 19. I am glad for the opportunity. Why? Well, let me count the ways...

We Americans have a prohibition against marijuana aka weed aka ganja. People believe that it is such a harmful substance that mere controls over it (such as minimum age for use) is not enough. It must be permanently banished from our society. Well, try as we might, it has not disappeared. Despite Billions spent on catching the buyers, sellers, smokers and growers and throwing them in jail, we have not made a dent in the popularity or use of weed. Us taxpayers pay for the jails as well.

In one of my entries, I talked about the underpinnings of capitalism - prices and how they act as signals in the overall system. Do you know why Columbus sailed to the New World? He was trying to get to India where the spices were insanely cheap compared to Europe (think 10,000 times cheaper). Now let us see how different societies handle a scarce resource. Of course, in a capitalist system, the price keeps going up till demand drops to the supply available. Under commandist systems, rationing is often used. If there are 1,000 people in a town and the town has only 1,000 gallons of gasoline, allow everyone to purchase only 1 gallon. Sounds fair but is it?

What would happen is that officially the price of gasoline would remain the same but, informally, the price would skyrocket. People who love to race their hotrods would secretively buy the gasoline from the homebodies. Meanwhile, because the price has not increased in the official market, there is no incentive for anyone to create an alternative to gasoline!

So, what is it we should be doing? Well, for one, we should be looking at our experiences with another prohibition - the one against alcohol - that we had between 1920 and 1933. Thanks to the illegalization, retail value of alcohol shot through the roof and a bunch of gangsters became filthy rich overnight. They not only smuggled whiskey from Canada, they also corrupted our society - paying off police, custom agents, tax officials, district attorneys, judges and any other official they came in contact with - and infected our institutions in ways that took years to recover from. How could they get away with bribing such people? Well, the cost of making alcohol and its retail value were so very disparate that the profits were through the roof. It was easy to bribe people with 100 or 1000 times their salary.

But did the alcohol consumption go down? Well, not really. The rich had their loopholes and sources. The poor had moonshine. The middle class bore the brunt of shootouts. Who won? The gangsters!

We have a similar situation with marijuana. There are drug cartels murdering each other and innocent bystanders and killing police officers just to make sure that they control the drug business. The biggest chink in their armor is legalization - exactly what Prop 19 is going to do.

So, PLEASE go and vote and vote for Prop 19. This is a rare opportunity to right a stupid mistake made more than 2 generations back that we all are paying for ever since.