FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

State Control of the Weed Market

by RYAN CALHOUN

The beginning of this year saw the first fully-fledged legal weed markets open in America in nearly a century. Lines formed, similar those for a midnight movie premiere. Giddy stoners stood in shops in amazement at the ease, variety and quality of the shopping experience.

Of course, this is not the introduction of a free market in marijuana. Rather, it is the state-controlled dream of political progressives who have been pushing for a government overhaul of the weed market for quite some time. At the root of this movement is an ethos of paternalism and extortion. Weed must only be legal under the condition that the government can act as “partner” and that it be put in the hands of “responsible” retailers. And thus, Big Marijuana is born.

Marijuana’s legalization seems much more like neoliberal privatization of markets than true liberation of them. While I do not question the decency of these first major marijuana retailers, there are legitimate concerns. Those most victimized by the state’s rabid oppression of marijuana markets will find themselves very often out of luck, as extensive background checks are required by law, and any drug felony charge is enough to exclude individuals from operating as vendors. TakePart magazine notes in an article that even as weed is legalized, those in prison for the crime of possessing or selling marijuana will remain there. While new businesses boom with customers, those who formerly tried to compete in this market remain locked up in cages.

The drug war has affected millions during its hellish tear through Americans’ lives and culture, but it has always been particularly racialized and classist. This leaves many black, Hispanic and poor individuals with a permanent hex affixed to them that these laws do not address. Like with the beltway libertarian conception of privatization, legalization picks the winners of the weed market from those who were lucky enough to not find themselves on the wrong side of the law and who already have access to the capital to invest into this expensive business.

Legalization, at its best, functions as an opposition to continued state violence against drug users and possessors. It is therefore troubling that we find even after this so-called legalization, many remain shackled both by the pre-existing landscape of the market and by new regulations which prohibit them from participating in it. It is never by the political means we realize our freedom, but only a hold-back of even worse oppression. We fight an uphill battle against the incredible damage the state does. And now facing the age of Big Marijuana, we might be shocked to find the sorts of restrictions many established pot shops favor. In order to delegitimize street dealers, we have to treat them as inherently dangerous and volatile.

This is the current direction of the marijuana movement in this country. It is towards centralization and exclusion, as are all white markets to some extent or another. This can be changed. It can be changed by fully humanizing and recognizing as innocent anyone and everyone accused of a drug crime. It can be changed by recognizing all individuals as legitimate self-owners, whose purchases and consumption  are not the business of bureaucrats, cops, jailers or regulatory agencies. We must confront myths about the dangers of drugs and how they need to be controlled by those the state deems responsible.

On the bright side, attitudes are changing, especially toward marijuana use. The general tenor of the country has reached its most sane and scientific: Weed is neither dangerous nor a big deal. It is a personal choice. The only organization that seems to be living in the 1980s anymore is the federal government, which has stayed rather quiet this first historic week of 2014. Its miserable attempts to control even the most innocuous drug use are coming to a close. It is time Colorado, all other states and ultimate all individuals fully accept the ethos at the heart of the anti-drug war movement: You cannot control us.

Ryan Calhoun is a Philosophy student and activist at the University at Buffalo.

More articles by:

Ryan Calhoun, contributing author at the Center for a Stateless Society (c4ss.org), is a Philosophy student and activist at the University at Buffalo.

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
June 23, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Democrats in the Dead Zone
Gary Leupp
Trump, Qatar and the Danger of Total Confusion
Andrew Levine
The “Democracies” We Deserve
Jeffrey St. Clair - Joshua Frank
The FBI’s “Operation Backfire” and the Case of Briana Waters
Rob Urie
Cannibal Corpse
Joseph G. Ramsey
Savage Calculations: On the Exoneration of Philando Castile’s Killer
John Wight
Trump’s Attack on Cuba
Dave Lindorff
We Need a Mass Movement to Demand Radical Progressive Change
Brian Cloughley
Moving Closer to Doom
David Rosen
The Sex Offender: the 21st Century Witch
John Feffer
All Signs Point to Trump’s Coming War With Iran
Jennifer L. Lieberman
What’s Really New About the Gig Economy?
Pete Dolack
Analyzing the Failures of Syriza
Vijay Prashad
The Russian Nexus
Mike Whitney
Putin Tries to Avoid a Wider War With the US
Gregory Barrett
“Realpolitik” in Berlin: Merkel Fawns Over Kissinger
Louis Yako
The Road to Understanding Syria Goes Through Iraq
Graham Peebles
Grenfell Tower: A Disaster Waiting to Happen
Ezra Rosser
The Poverty State of Mind and the State’s Obligations to the Poor
Ron Jacobs
Andrew Jackson and the American Psyche
Pepe Escobar
Fear and Loathing on the Afghan Silk Road
Andre Vltchek
Why I Reject Western Courts and Justice
Lawrence Davidson
On Hidden Cultural Corruptors
Christopher Brauchli
The Routinization of Mass Shootings in America
Missy Comley Beattie
The Poor Need Not Apply
Martin Billheimer
White Man’s Country and the Iron Room
Joseph Natoli
What to Wonder Now
Tom Clifford
Hong Kong: the Chinese Meant Business
Thomas Knapp
The Castile Doctrine: Cops Without Consequences
Nyla Ali Khan
Borders Versus Memory
Binoy Kampmark
Death on the Road: Memory in Tim Winton’s Shrine
Tony McKenna
The Oily Politics of Unity: Owen Smith as Northern Ireland Shadow Secretary
Nizar Visram
If North Korea Didn’t Exist US Would Create It
John Carroll Md
At St. Catherine’s Hospital, Cite Soleil, Haiti
Kenneth Surin
Brief Impressions of the Singaporean Conjucture
Paul C. Bermanzohn
Trump: the Birth of the Hero
Jill Richardson
Trump on Cuba: If Obama Did It, It’s Bad
Olivia Alperstein
Our President’s Word Wars
REZA FIYOUZAT
Useless Idiots or Useful Collaborators?
Clark T. Scott
Parallel in Significance
Louis Proyect
Hitler and the Lone Wolf Assassin
Julian Vigo
Theresa May Can’t Win for Losing
Richard Klin
Prog Rock: Pomp and Circumstance
Charles R. Larson
Review: Malin Persson Giolito’s “Quicksand”
David Yearsley
RIP: Pomp and Circumstance
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail