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Should Investors Fear the Marijuana Morality Police?

Written By Geoffrey Pike

Posted May 30, 2016

dccannabisThe Republican majority in the House of Representatives is attempting to control the District of Columbia’s ability to spend money in order to create a system of stores in which people will be allowed to purchase marijuana, even without a doctor’s approval.

Washington DC (the city) currently allows small amounts of marijuana for cultivation and possession. This step towards legalization was taken in 2014 when the voters passed a ballot initiative.

The initiative won with about 70 percent of the vote, which is a rather overwhelming majority. There is little question that the people of Washington DC favor marijuana legalization.

Currently, D.C. officials are not allowed by law to use money from annual appropriations in order to regulate, legalize, or reduce penalties for the possession, use, or distribution of schedule 1 substances, which includes marijuana.

But city officials are open to the possibility of using other pools of money to help regulate marijuana sales. Since money is fungible, it would be easy for D.C. officials to make some simple accounting entries in order to spend money in regards to marijuana.

Some members of the House are attempting to include additional language in the 2017 funding legislation that would close this loophole and prohibit D.C. politicians from using any funds for the purpose of regulating marijuana.

From a libertarian standpoint, this is an interesting issue because it involves many different factors.

There is obviously the issue of drugs, but then you also have to consider issues of decentralization, government spending, government regulations, and overall practicality.

Congressional Busybodies

This is even more complicated because it involves the District of Columbia, where there is something of a power struggle between Congress and the city council. This isn’t the same as if the House were telling New York City what to do. That would be blatantly unconstitutional (even though it happens often anyway).

In this case, Congress does allocate funds for the District of Columbia, so it is relevant to being their business. On the other hand, residents of D.C. do pay taxes, so it is not as if they are getting a relatively free ride from the rest of Americans.

When the politicians in D.C. talk about gun control, or fighting drugs, or fighting crime, it is a legitimate response to say that they should just try to clean up a few square miles of D.C. before they attempt their schemes on the whole country. And it is well known that Washington DC has a lot of poverty and crime.

In this case, maybe that is what Congress is trying to do. But we can be pretty sure that the motives behind this are simply control. It is an issue of trying to impose morality by law. Even though marijuana is far less dangerous than even alcohol, many politicians still see it as immoral, and thus their duty to enforce their own morality upon others.

Coming from another angle, you would think that the Congress critters in D.C. might have bigger things to worry about than how funds are allocated in the city. We are bogged down in wars, spending and the national debt are spiraling out of control, and the middle class is struggling. But let’s worry about the District of Columbia possibly spending money on marijuana regulation and sales, which would be a drop in the bucket (or maybe ocean).

But while there is a decentralization argument to be made here, there is also a problem that this spending would come somewhat from the American taxpayers. It may be a very tiny fraction, but you could say that about a lot of the spending coming from our tax dollars. Again, it is complicated though, because D.C. residents do pay local taxes.

And if the District of Columbia wants to legalize marijuana, they should be free to do so. Personally, I think it is good policy. But at the same time, why does the government need to spend money to make something legal? It just has to do nothing.

Why can’t we ever have a situation of total freedom where the government does not get involved at all? In this situation, we would be talking about going from marijuana being illegal, to marijuana being regulated and the government spending funds on its legalization.

In this sense, Congress may be right to stick its nose in this business. But then, we can be certain that there is much other wasteful spending where no attention is paid. So if Congress is right in this situation, it is probably for all the wrong reasons.

We need fewer laws. When something is legalized, it should mean less regulation and fewer laws than before. If that isn’t the case, then we are not moving far enough towards liberty.