Consumers, Not Government, Should Set Cannabis Prices

The whole point of decriminalizing drugs is to get the government out of regulating their consumption.

Marijuana sold legally in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, June 1, 2008
Marijuana sold legally in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, June 1, 2008 (Valentina Solito)

I don’t often find myself disagreeing with Walter Russell Mead but one of the arguments he makes at his blog today against decriminalizing marijuana — which the state of Colorado did this year — is quite misguided.

According to Mead, “a key question is how Colorado should set the prices for legal pot. Set it too low,” he writes, “and cheap Colorado weed could help prop up the black market in other states but set it too high and people will prefer to buy from the black market in Colorado.”

The assumption here being that a central authority should set cannabis prices which is quite absurd. The whole point of decriminalizing the drug is to get the government out of regulating what Coloradans can and cannot consume — which is, of course, the only argument in favor of legalization that matters.

Now that there can be a free market in cannabis, demand and supply will determine its price, just as happens with any other product. Why should cannabis be any different?

Mead further notes that “quite apart from these price considerations,” the black market in Colorado is unlikely to go away. Which is probably true because marijuana remains illegal in virtually all other states.

But that is far from an argument against legalizing drugs. By that logic, no state could ever take the first step of decriminalizing anything!

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