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. [emphasis added]
There are several things wrong with this.
First, it creates at best a gray market. You can grow it, smoke it, and join a co-op to help produce it, but you can’t sell it to whoever you want or buy it from whoever you want. This is very fuzzy. Can you think of any other product like this? I can’t, and I don’t think Americans would take to the idea very well (what, I can’t buy bread at the store, I have to make it myself? What the hell is a co-op?) or that our regulatory apparatus would be up to enforcing it (not to mention the potential for regulatory capture at the local and state level). Furthermore, this strikes me as little more than Kleiman’s own preferred version of Capitalism Lite – a sort of throwback to distributism – Chestertonian in its romanticism, but not terribly practical.
Second, no matter how you spin this, consumers of marijuana under Kleiman’s rules would also have to be producers of marijuana – if not directly, then indirectly through a co-operative. Rather than casually purchasing pot whenever they wanted, they would have to make a commitment to either A) grow the stuff, or B) become involved with a group of people growing the stuff. If anything, this works against Kleiman’s paternalist instincts. Where Kleiman seeks to protect the consumer from the big marijuana corporations, he ends up making consumers more financially vested in the product, and thus more bound to its success, use, and so forth. Probably not the best idea when you’re attempting to keep use of the product to a minimum. This would be like forcing drinkers to have a financial stake in whatever alcohol they were consuming. And a lot of people just don’t want that. They want the freedom to choose to simply buy the stuff at a store or, if there’s no co-op nearby and nobody growing, then from a dealer.
Which brings us to point number three. I don’t think co-ops would actually spell the end of the illicit marijuana trade unless the co-ops were allowed to scale up to the point where basically they were operating as commercial businesses. So either you lose the idyllic co-operative-only market or you sustain the demand for the black market.
And last, there is simply nothing in this argument that makes it necessary. The problem with pot is that it’s illegal, not anything inherent with the drug – at least no more so than alcohol (and probably a lot less). If pot becomes legal I hope we don’t regulate out home growers or local co-operatives. That would be a disaster and a travesty. Imagine doing to the wine industry what was done to the beer industry for so long. Imagine the Budweiser of bud – and that all legal marijuana was so lifeless. But preventing commercial sale of anything that has a high consumer demand is just asking for trouble, even if you provide avenues for that demand to be met. Those avenues are simply unnecessary when an open market could exist instead. If we really want to curtail marijuana usage, legalize it and then tax the hell out of it. At least people will be able to buy it and consume it safely.
I love the idea of co-operatives and a more cooperative economy generally, but I don’t think this is the right way to go about it. Sure, Kleiman’s proposal is better than the status quo, but full commercial legalization makes much more sense and seems much more workable. It’s also a hell of a lot less paternalistic, and if the war on drugs has taught us anything, it’s that paternalism and pot don’t mix.
Put that in your pipe and smoke it.
Some commenters are not reading me very closely. When I wrote:
I don’t think Americans would take to the idea very well (what, I can’t buy bread at the store, I have to make it myself? What the hell is a co-op?) or that our regulatory apparatus would be up to enforcing it (not to mention the potential for regulatory capture at the local and state level).
I did not mean that I didn’t know what a co-op is. If you read the whole post it’s fairly clear that I have a handle on the basic idea behind a co-op. My point is that many Americans don’t and wouldn’t understand why they were forced to either grow or join a co-op in order to have legal marijuana. My flippant example was if the same rule were applied to bread.
That being said, I think y’all are mostly right on target here. Cheers!