What we can learn from Colorado
by kingjayroche on November 12, 2014 - 10:42pm
Chosen article: “Government’s still harshing Colorado’s mellow” by The Globe and Mail columnist Tom Flanagan.
This article, written by University of Calgary political science professor Tom Flanagan, examines the ripple effects of Colorado’s decision to legalize marijuana. As mentioned in the article, Colorado was the first North American jurisdiction to authorize the legal sale and recreational use of marijuana (to anyone who is at least 21 years old). More precisely, as Tom Flanagan points out that, the 2012 approved referendum regulates free enterprise and renders “the legal possession limit for consumers at one ounce (28 grams), except for ‘medcard’ holders, who can possess two ounces.”
After a brief introduction of Colorado’s legal infrastructure for marijuana, the author mentions a study – by the “respected, liberal-leaning Brookings Institution” – which praised Colorado’s efficient implementation of its 2012 referendum. Using that study as support, the author points out the positive effects that stem from Colorado’s referendum: a new tax-paying industry, a diminishing need for law enforcement, a quality standard for marijuana products as well as an increase in tourism. Conversely, Tom Flanagan also detailed the surprising increase in the medical grey market due to the ambitious 25-per-cent excise tax – an area in need of improvement to truly make marijuana legalization a successful venture.
After analyzing the various effects the generated by legalization of marijuana in the state of Colorado, Tom Flanagan formulates two main conclusions. The first one, according to him, is that price is a key factor. Price matters because “a high price for legal marijuana, even if driven by a laudable desire to earn tax revenue for schools, will perpetuate both the street black market and medical grey market.” To further illustrate this claim, he compares the high taxes imposed on marijuana to those imposed on tobacco products and how that involuntarily created a black market for cigarettes sales. The second conclusion, is as follows: “free enterprise, with appropriate regulation for health and safety, can handle the sale of products once deemed to belong in the realm of vice.” Once again, Tom Flanagan uses comparison (Canadian provinces withdrawing from prohibition in the 1920’s) to illustrate the benefits of letting free enterprises handle legal marijuana sales, given how hard government monopolies are to dismantle.
To finish off, Tom Flanagan claims – albeit with no justification – that “Canada will eventually legalize the possession and sale of marijuana”. That legalization, he adds, should integrate private enterprise instead of yet another government monopoly.
If I had to provide a specific ethical question in relation to this news article, it would be: was Colorado’s marijuana legalization moral - when measuring the consequences generated – and, if so, can the legal infrastructures be improved?
A more general ethical question, considering Tom Flangan’s penchant for utilitarianism, would be: is legalizing marijuana ethical, as to creating, for society as a whole, more positive consequences than negative ones?