In my opinion, of all the policy disasters to which the Left has subjected us in recent years, the legalization of marijuana is near the top of the list. This is one area where I part company with doctrinaire libertarians. Wherever cannabis has been legalized, the results have been bad, and are getting worse.
People are beginning to notice–in this case, the London Times, on California: “The dark side of California’s cannabis boom.” In my opinion, there is no bright side.
Unburdened by the onerous taxes and regulations that legal dispensaries in California must contend with, the illicit shops can offer marijuana at much cheaper prices.
This, campaigners say, is a sign that the state’s well-intentioned experiment to legalise cannabis is failing and has created a thriving black market for untested and unregulated products, all while serving as a hotbed for crime.
“The illegal market still dominates California, just about everywhere,” Adam Spiker, the co-founder of Southern California Coalition, a cannabis trade association, said.
This always happens. Marijuana is cheap to grow, so if you legalize cannabis, you are more or less legalizing illegal cannabis, which takes over the market. The Times reports that illegal cannabis shops are everywhere in the Los Angeles area, and they are magnets for crime.
An illegal dispensary visited by The Times appeared to be doing strong trade, with a steady stream of customers passing through its doors. The operators of similar shops, according to police reports, are often arrested with about $1,000 in cash, a supply of cannabis and a gun.
The lack of protections in the illegal trade makes violence more likely, police say, with owners, employees and customers vulnerable to being robbed or killed.
If you get caught selling marijuana–a legal drug–illegally, there is little if any penalty:
Proposition 64, which legalised recreational cannabis after being passed by California voters in 2016, lowered the penalties related to the drug.
That has made the police’s job “extremely difficult,” Ceccia said, adding that because criminals knew they would not face strict sentences for marijuana-related offences, there was not much of a deterrent and “we’re not going to arrest our way out of this”.
Well, we could, but the will is lacking. Instead, California relies on a “progressive enforcement strategy.” Good luck with that.
As with moth lucrative criminal opportunities, “illegal” cannabis has been taken over by gangs:
The gangs of Los Angeles are getting in on the act, according to law enforcement. Two of the area’s largest gangs, Varrio Nuevo Estrada and East LA-13, have opened dispensaries of their own, according to the Los Angeles Times. These shops also sell methamphetamine, heroin and guns, fuelling their rivalry.
Cannabis has always been a gateway drug. If you legalize marijuana, you can be sure that a tidal wave of meth, heroin and so on will follow. And guess what: people prefer not to live in a state that is bedeviled by drugs and gang violence:
The drug trade is fuelling homicides and violent crime, both of which are on the rise in California. That, in turn, has led to an exodus from the Democrat-controlled state. California lost more than 352,000 people between April 2020 and January this year, according to official figures.
The problem is acute in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Nationally the cities are ranked first and second, respectively, for the number of residents leaving, according to a report from the property website Redfin.
Legalizing marijuana means enabling illegal marijuana, and encouraging the sale and use of hard drugs. The inevitable result is violent crime. It will be a long time before we can fully evaluate the consequences of the improvident legalization of marijuana.