Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea, and frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee. Little Jackie paper loved that rascal puff, and brought him strings and sealing wax and other fancy stuff. No matter what Peter, Paul and Mary say, this 1962 song is about marijuana, a product which is now basically legal in Washington and Colorado.
What is interesting is that marijuana appears to be the one substance that the nanny state is not going after. Now don’t get me wrong, I am a free-market type and I believe that it is not only ridiculous that marijuana is illegal, but it is awful social policy. The prohibition on the sale and use of marijuana criminalizes people for no reason, and has led to a huge underground economy, higher crime, and probably more drug abuse than an open and legal market would.
It is interesting that 80 years after the repeal of alcohol prohibition we live in a country where there are still blue laws and dry counties. Governments continue to overtax alcohol and regulate it as a controlled substance. At the same time, governments throughout the country – particularly in my home town of New York – have made cigarettes more expensive and more difficult to obtain than marijuana or a variety of narcotic substances. Nannies in communities throughout the country are regulating the color that one can paint their house, regulating the types of food that can be purchased, even banning bottled water and infant formula, but marijuana regulations are falling. Why is this?
One could take the cynical view and claim that politicians all smoke weed so they want to make it less of a social stigma. This may be true, but from my experience politicians love cigars and scotch too, but in New York they have priced cigars out of the market, and in Minnesota they are trying to increase the tax on scotch by over 500 percent. Others think that politicians do what their donors tell them to do. If this were true, then the push for marijuana legalization would mean that the drug dealers are spending less on contributions than are the stoners. Again, I am not sure that this is likely.
Maybe the simple truth is that politicians are not the ones who decided to legalize marijuana in either Colorado or Washington. In fact, in both of these states legalization came through the voter initiative process. Ths legalization occurred in a year when socially liberal turnout was high compared with those who have socially conservative views. As such, not only did marijuana legalization measures pass but so did same-sex marriage provisions. It is highly unlikely that the political system would have passed any of these measures, and I think that in a normal election year it is highly unlikely that these would pass even by initiative.
The nanny state is strong and growing. But at least if I go to Washington or back home to Colorado I can get stoned and not worry about it.