<< Loose Lips | Main | Least Surprising Headline of the Week >>

A Marijuana Monopoly

| 1 Comment
AP reports that the President of Uruguay has proposed that the government itself sell marijuana, as a monopoly.

As a purely personal opinion (CJLF has taken no position on the legalization issue), I think that government monopoly may be the least bad of the alternatives.
The failure of marijuana prohibition is pretty apparent.  Teens report that weed is easier to get than alcohol.

Full legalization is also a problem.  Advocates say let's regulate and tax it just like alcohol and tobacco.  If tobacco is their idea of success, I'd hate to see their idea of a disaster.  Tobacco marketers have sold cigarettes by telling men it makes them macho and telling women it makes them liberated.  In fact, it makes them both sick and dead.

Once a private enterprise has a legal right to sell something, it has a constitutional right to market it.  Once upon a time, the Supreme Court said that the greater power to prohibit an activity altogether included the lesser power to prohibit marketing, but that doctrine is gone with the wind.

The government monopolizes other "sin" enterprises.  The numbers racket is now a government monopoly at the wholesale level in most states, although private vendors handle the retail.  In a few states, government stores are the sole sellers of the demon rum at retail.

If no private seller has an economic incentive to run advertising, and if the government seller chooses not to as a matter of policy, then there will be no advertising with no First Amendment issue.

Our economic libertarian friends will recoil at the notion of a government monopoly.  Free enterprise is always better, they say.  Better at what?  Providing better goods in greater quantity at lower prices.  In economic matters generally, we assume that increased consumption is good, but that is not true with marijuana.  High prices (but not so high that a black market becomes profitable) are good in this context.

The pro-pot crowd speaks grandly of the economic advantage of taxing the profit on legal marijuana sales, but the government could keep all the profit by monopolizing the sales.  It would be a larger slice of a smaller pie, to be sure, but it would likely be more dollars overall.

It's an idea worth considering.

1 Comment

Very interesting post. Thoughtful.

Leave a comment

Monthly Archives