Regulate everything like tomatoes: a guide to ending the drug war

In late February, the Colorado Department of Revenue Marijuana Enforcement Division released a reports stating, “On December 31, 2014, Colorado concluded a full twelve months of lawful retail marijuana sales to adults over 21 years of age. The State experienced many firsts, such as the implementation of the first-in-the-world comprehensive regulatory model overseeing cultivation, products manufacturing, and sale of marijuana for non-medical retail use.”

These so called firsts were a result of the passage of a ballot initiative in 2012, in which voters amended the State Constitution to regulate cannabis like wine. Despite the difference between the cannabis regulations and the regulations concerning alcohol, primarily the regulation on the amount one can purchase or possess, the MED reports that over 17 tons of recreational cannabis were sold in 2014. Additionally, Reuters reports, “State tax officials say sales hit nearly $700 million last year, with medical (cannabis) accounting for $386 million and recreational (cannabis) bringing in $313 million,” which amounted to approximately $76 million in revenue through taxes and fees to the State of Colorado.

Some people argue that a regulatory structure such as that adopted in Colorado and Washington, where figures are not yet released, will be the beginning of the end of the drug war. While the statistics show that arrests for cannabis possession have declined in Colorado by 84% since 2010, and arrests for distribution of cannabis have declined by 90% in the same time period, arrests for public consumption have risen by over three and a half times in only 1 year (184 in 2013 to 668 in 2014).

However cannabis is only one aspect of the drug war. Aside from asset forfeiture, the other aspects of the drug war are more taboo, and less discussed in any serious manner. Additionally, one must define what is meant by “ending the drug war.” Some would be happy to see only arrests for cannabis possession be eliminated, but would support the continued prosecution of unlicensed sales (regardless if they support licensing sales or not). While others believe that taxing and regulating cannabis, but keeping the “hard stuff” illegal is a good enough end to the drug war. Yet others believe that all substances should be able to be manufactured, sold, possessed and or consumed without government intervention. I fall in the latter category, and do not believe that taxing and regulating a substance, any substance, can lead to the eventual abolition of that taxing and regulatory structure. I challenge you to think of something, anything, that has had a taxing and regulatory structure removed from it within your life time.

I long for the day in which all substances are as legal as tomatoes. What do I mean? To my knowledge, there are no laws regulating how many tomatoes a person can grow, purchase, sale or posses. There may be laws regulating business activity in general, but not tomatoes specifically. Thus, to truly end the war on drugs, the federal Controlled Substances Act needs to be repealed, and all state and local laws prohibiting the manufacture, sale, purchase, possession and consumption of all substances must be repealed. By saying this, I am not advocating that anyone consume crystal meth, only that one should not be treated as a criminal for simply doing so. It is not only costly to treat people with vices like criminals, it is also immoral.