The so-called “quarterback of the anti-legalization movement,” Kevin Sabet, is taking his reefer madness dog-and-pony show to the United Nations’ 61st Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna.
Sabet and his organization, Project SAMUEL*, are holding a seminar on March 15 entitled, “Cannabis Legalization Five Years Later: What Have We Learned?”
The flier for the event was forwarded to me by a friend attending the commission in Vienna. Here’s what Kevin Sabet and his partners will be claiming about the effects of marijuana legalization. I’ll provide the factual rebuttals, in case anyone in Vienna can use them.
Legalized states are growing much more high-potency pot than they can consume, and it is ending up on the black market!
This one is a two-parter, so let’s start with the first part.
Yes, legalized states are growing a whole lot of pot, but it’s not because it is more than we can consume.
It is because legalized cannabis is now like any other agricultural commodity. What was once guys hiding a few lights in grow tents in closets and garages is now industrial warehouses and acres of farmland.
Most importantly, what was once a captive consumer base for one of few weed-dealing growers is now a growing consumer base for a plethora of pot shops. Now you’re in a hyper-competitive market. If you can grow more at less cost and sell it at lower prices, you’ll have the advantage on your competitor.
The effect of this can be seen in the precipitous decline in wholesale pot prices on the West Coast. Where growers used to command $2,000 a pound for the finest crops, now I know growers happy to get $500. I regularly see specials around Portland, Oregon, for well below $100 an ounce.
That’s where the second part of Sabet’s worry – that it’s ending up on the black market – comes into play.
Legalization increases the supply and decreases the price of marijuana, that cannot be denied. That effect, however, is only limited to the states that legalize. In prohibition states, marijuana is scarce and the price is high. An ounce of West Coast-quality marijuana is selling for well over $300 on the East Coast.
Supply follows demand. So long as there’s profit to be made, marijuana is going to be trafficked. Sabet’s not revealing any grand fallout from marijuana legalization; he’s expressing how legalization magnifies what has been happening in the marijuana market for decades.
Namely, that prohibition is the problem. Prohibition is what creates the criminals and defiles the land and corrupts the system. Prohibition is what makes a flower so profitable that its trafficking is inevitable.
We had a blanket federal and fifty-state policy prohibiting marijuana. All it accomplished was growing the consumer base, enhancing the herb’s potency, and enriching criminals. It’s a policy that is soundly rejected by the American public, voters in eight states, and now a legislature in a ninth.
Besides, it is too late now to turn back the clock. The feds might succeed in shutting down commercial marijuana industries, but they cannot force states to re-criminalize personal cultivation and possession. A federal crackdown would actually be the black market’s dream come true – eliminating their well-capitalized professional competition.
What about states restricting how much cannabis can be grown? All that would do is act as an artificial price support for the legal market that the black market would easily undercut.
The only real solution to the problems Sabet offers is more legalization, not less. Nobody’s going to ship a $500 pound of marijuana to New York from Portland if it only fetches $520 in return. It may seem counterintuitive to people like Sabet, but the best policy would be one where everyone in America has such unfettered access to plentiful marijuana that there’s no real profit in it.
Like, when’s the last time you heard of a black market light beer dealer?