How not to legalize marijuana

I really ought to read Mark Kleiman more.  Always full of smart arguments.  Here he is on why we need to think very carefully about what a legalized marijuana regime would look like:

On the cannabis front, my plea is for a “grow-your-own” policy: consumers would be allowed to cultivate pot for their own use, to give it away, or to join small consumer-owned co-ops to produce the stuff for them. No commercial sales.

“Why not?” demanded several outraged commenters. Why allow use but not sale?

Two words provide the gist of the answer:  marketing and lobbying. A legal cannabis industry, like the legal beer industry, the legal tobacco industry, the legal fast-food and junk-food industries, and the legal gambling industry, would do everything in its power to expand its sales, including taking political action to weaken whatever regulations and minimize whatever taxes were imposed…

To the consumer, developing a bad habit is bad news. To the marketing executive, it’s the whole point of the exercise. For any potentially addictive commodity or activity, the minority that gets stuck with a bad habit consumes the majority of the product. So the entire marketing effort is devoted to cultivating and maintaining the people whose use is a problem to them and a gold mine to the industry…

So the prospect of a legal cannabis industry working hard to produce as many chronic stoners as possible, and fighting hard against any sort of effective regulation, fills me with fear.  I don’t believe that the actual tobacco companies would enter the cannabis market, but I don’t doubt that the cannabis companies that would emerge from full commercial legalization would have all of morals  the tobacco outfits morals, and a less tainted product to sell.

It’s a really smart post.  You really ought to read all of it.  And while I’m at it, can never hurt to have another plug for his terrific book: When Brute Force Fails.

Myths of midterms

Busy day, so you’re not going to get a lot of originality or comment, but I cannot resist “myths about” pieces.  Especially when they are written by Political Scientists I know and respect.  Here’s Alan Abramowitz and Norm Ornstein on myths about the midterm election.  There’s 5– I like #2 best:

2. It’s an anti-incumbent year.

We hear this almost every time midterm elections come along at a time of widespread voter discontent. But even when voters seem very unhappy, the vast majority of incumbents in both parties are reelected. Despite Congress’s low approval ratings this year, only a handful of incumbents have lost their primaries, and there were peculiar reasons for several of those defeats. While a second round of incumbents is likely to lose seats in November, it is unlikely that more than 10 percent of lawmakers will be ousted. Even in 1974, which was the worst midterm for incumbents in the past 50 years, 87.7 percent of Congress won reelection. Voters are highly selective in voting out incumbents in the general election — even when polls suggest that they are eager to boot all the rascals and clean house, they rarely follow through.

The incumbents who do lose in a given midterm tend to come overwhelmingly from the president’s party. In 1994, during Clinton’s presidency, only Democratic incumbents lost; in 2006, during George W. Bush’s second term, only Republican incumbents lost. This year it is likely that almost all of the incumbent casualties will be Democrats.

Good point.  It’s almost never truly an “anti-incumbent” year but anti-incumbent of one particular party.  Even then, it is easy to overstate.  The vast majority of Democratic incumbents will win re-election.

Quote of the day

From Yglesias, on the Islamic Center:

And this is what we have going on in Lower Manhattan today. A completely legitimate undertaking that’s being stymied out of a mixture of geographical ignorance, a slanderous attribution of collective responsibility for 9/11 to all Muslims, and political opportunism. On the other side are people standing up for non-discrimination and religious freedom.

Hallowed Ground

This image from the Daily News story about the “Ground Zero” Mosque tells you all you really need to know:

Bars, strip clubs and bars are plentiful.

In fact, there’s a number of similar businesses on this “hallowed ground” in lower Manhattan:

Thunder Lingerie and More is one of the typical New York businesses in the downtown WTC area that mosque opponents are claiming to be be hallowed ground.

Opponents of a proposed lower Manhattan mosque and community center speak in hushed tones about the sanctity of the “shadow of Ground Zero.”

Tell that to the patrons of the Pussycat Lounge, a strip club where a photo of a nearly naked woman marks its location just two blocks from where the World Trade Center stood…

Many come to the scene of the worst terrorist attack on American soil to pay tribute to pain and unspeakable tragedy. They’re welcomed by solemn memorials and a visitors center amid the noise of reconstruction.

If they’re so inclined, they can also buy porn, play the ponies and take care of all manner of personal business within steps of the former World Trade Center.

In a walk of the streets within three blocks of Ground Zero, the Daily News counted 17 pizza shops, 18 bank branches, 11 bars, 10 shoe stores and 17 separate salons where a girl can get her lady parts groomed.

I had a talk with Kim about this the other day, and she was under the impression that the Islamic Center was going to be built on the actual WTC site.  I’m sure that’s very common among people who don’t pay particularly close attention to the news.  I think a lot of the opposition would evaporate if people actually knew what was within a 2-block radius of ground zero.  Then again, a lot of public opinion would be different if people were actually informed.

If the opponents of the Mosque really cared about creating some sort of sacred zone, rather than just attacking Islam to score political points, it’s pretty clear that the “Ground Zero Pussycat Lounge” and “Ground Zero Waxing,” among others, would certainly have to go as well.  Thus, it’s pretty clear what the actual purpose of the Islamic Center opponents is.

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