Drug Dealers Have Rights Too

Mark Kleiman writes:

The mere cultural prejudice of a majority of voters against the cannabis consumption of the minority does not, in my view, constitute sufficient justification for the costs imposed on that minority. The fact that millions of non-addicted pot-smokers keep right on smoking despite not only the laws but the arrests suggests to me, by the canons of revealed preference, that smoking pot is a practice that those people value, and that other people might value were they allowed to pursue it within the law. Their lost consumers’ surplus ought to count as a cost of the law, and I see no countervailing benefit of comparable magnitude. In addition, by banning a practice that poses little social risk, we waste enforcement resources and encourage disrespect for the law.

So I conclude that the ban on cannabis smoking — as opposed to cannabis commerce — cannot be justified, and that the majority in this instance acts wrongfully in restricting the liberty of the minority for no particular public purpose. That does not shake my conviction that allowing commercial marketing of cannabis along the lines currently permitted for alcohol would risk a very substantial increase in the level of abuse, as the legalization of the old “numbers game” led to the substantial prevalence of problem lottery gambling we now observe.

Therefore I favor non-commercial legalization as the ethically and practically appropriate approach to the most widely used illicit drug.

Mark makes a great argument that the ban on pot use is unjustified and should be repealed. But where is the similar justification for keeping peaceful pot commerce banned? Doesn't the fact that millions of pot-dealers keep right on dealing despite not only the laws but the arrests suggest, by the canons of revealed preference, that selling pot is a practice that those people value, and that other people might value were they allowed to pursue it within the law? What makes capitalist acts between consenting adults any more objectionable than personal drug use?

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Users v. pushers

Imagine a legal pot market. Very smart people on Madison Avenue make big bucks by persuading kids to become chronic stoners, just as today very smart people on Madison Avenue make big bucks by convincing them to become chronic cigarette smokers and alcohol drinkers. (You can' make any money selling to moderate users; they don't use enough.)

Why is it justified to regulate the act of persuading people, for money, to ruin their lives? And why is that unlike regulating the act of getting stoned?

Are these really hard questions? They weren't for John Stuart Mill, who regarded consumption as a "self-regarding act" not legitimately subject to regulation and sales as an "other-regarding act" legitimately subject to regulation.

Didn't Mill also popularize

Didn't Mill also popularize the notion that the answer to bad speech is better speech, not censorship? Why shouldn't Madison Avenue have just as much right to try to convince us of the benefits of regular pot smoking as academics and government officials have to try to convince us of the costs? Let them fight it out in the free market of ideas. As it stands, the government not only prohibits the other side from marketing itself, but what the government does tell us is mostly lies and half-truths, and people like Jonathan Caulkins think this is a good thing.

You have a good point here,

You have a good point here, we loose ourselves in words but we are missing the point. Cannabis should be allowed for smoking and for commerce, only this way everybody will finally get convinced that legal cannabis will bring the worse of us. I personally can't imagine a cannabis market or I simply refuse to.
Buttler, Drug Intervention counselor