Marijuana

Thoreau argues with liberal friends about legalizing pot:

If I say that the drug war enriches criminals, I am suggesting that without the drug war the criminals would make less money.  I have no illusion that organized crime would vanish, but at least they’d have fewer revenue streams, and riskier revenue streams.  If they get money by selling drugs, the people that they get their money from will not call the cops.  If they get their money by identity theft, somebody will most definitely call the cops.  Even if they get their money by trafficking sex slaves, at the very least there’s a person who wants to call the cops, and now and then somebody will get away and call the cops.  But nobody calls the cops to report “Officer, that guy just sold me a joint.”  (At least not before getting stoned.  Once he’s sufficiently stoned, well, I suppose anything’s possible.)

My friends, however, do not believe that legalization will have any effect on crime, or at least no significant effect in the long run.  I think it requires a great deal of cynicism to believe that organized crime will not be hurt at all if a major revenue stream is eliminated.

Bonus thoughts on the public health argument against legalization here. Pete Guither explains why Thoreau's friends are mistaken.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.